Owls See Clearly at Night “is a small glimpse, from A to Z, of some of the sights and sounds of the Michif language and its speakers. The language of the Metis, Michif is a combination of French and Cree with a trace of other regional languages. Once spoken by thousands of people across the prairies of Canada and the northern United States, Michif is now so little spoken that it might disappear within a generation. This alphabet book is part of a resurgence to celebrate and preserve the traditions of the Metis people. Here Michif and English words combine with images from Metis culture to introduce all generations to the unique Michif language. The book even includes a brief introduction to the language’s history, a pronunciation guide, and a list of references for those interested in learning more about Michif.
–from Indiebound’s book description.
Owls See Clearly at Night/Lii Yiiboo Nayaapiwak lii Swer
A Michif Alphabet/L’Alfabet Di Michif by Julie Flett
Simply Read Books, 2010. Hardcover Picture book,
Owls See Clearly at Night could work for a small child’s alphabet primer, but I enjoyed how mindful it is of its older readers/learners. Flett’s work in contrasts, whether stark or soft; the depth of the colors, blue, red, black; the swoop of lines, is striking.
“A Atayookee! Tell a Story!” and that is what each letter does, and I’m intrigued enough to want to know more. What story does that letter and its image tell of the culture that speaks this language? It would be lovely if there was a spin-off, of Metis readers relating their reactions to the pages as they encountered them. I’m thinking of what was done with Chris Van Allsburg’s Harris Burdick.
If you read the Introduction, entries like J (“La jig/Jig”) and V (“Li Vyalon/Fiddle”) will not be unexpected. Owls See Clearly at Night accounts for a dynamic history; one of intersections and inclusion. Note, too, how Flett doesn’t default to a he or she “is picking berries” or “goes” and doesn’t signal gender via illustration either.
“Z Lii Zyeu/Eyes” will return us to the image of the owl, but it is also a reminder that language involves all the senses. A language engages the listener/reader and reveals something about its culture: images, impressions… Once seen it cannot go unseen.
Owls See Clearly at Night is a treasure. Flett’s artwork is delightful and any lover of languages needs to have this book.