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At the Mountains Base

by Traci Sorell.

Book list A group of women gather in a cabin to sing and pray for the safe return of one of their kin, a pilot who is away at war. As their song reaches her, she too prays for the safety of her loved ones the women in the cabin at the base of the mountain. The well-crafted brevity of Sorell's poem belies the weight of the women's emotions and the significance of the topic being honored. We learn from the author's note that Native women have always held military roles: in intertribal conflicts, against European colonialism, and in the U.S. Armed Forces. With illustrations by award-winning comic artist Alvitre, a more powerful pairing of art and text is difficult to imagine. At the core of the poem is a grandma who is weaving. / And worrying. The strands of her weaving spin across the pages, framing panels of stunningly detailed and realistic renderings of the mountain, the cabin, and the women's faces. Sorell and Alvitre invite readers to think about intergenerational connections, the power of love, and the juxtaposition of vulnerability and strength that the women embody. With a message that is universal while also centering on Native women, this blend of fiction and nonfiction, the human and the divine, is simply brilliant.--Amina Chaudhri Copyright 2019 Booklist

From Booklist, Copyright American Library Association. Used with permission.

Kirkus The engaging tale of a Native woman in the military during World War II.A Cherokee family sits around a hearth in a cabin in the woods. They are weaving and thinking of their female family member who is enlisted in the military. She flies a support plane, exhibiting courage as she hopes for safety and a return to peace. The text is simple and circular: As the family prays for their warrior, she is depicted in her plane, remembering and praying for them. With her colorful illustrations, Alvitre (Tongva/Scots-Gaelic) introduces an effective visual theme, depicting the connection between weaving and meditation as threads loop and twine through the artwork. The author is Cherokee, which may be the reason she makes the family in her story the same, but it makes for a bit of a disconnect when the author's note informs readers that the story is based on that of Oglala Lakota pilot Ola Mildred Rexroat, "the only Native woman among 1,074 Women Air Force Service Pilots in World War II." Still, the meditative text is lovely, and the artwork brings the small Cherokee abode to life with warmth and love. Children will find comfort in the story's repetition as well as its message of prayer and peace.A Cherokee family's worry for their loved one at war reminds readers of the sacrifices made by Natives in our military. (Picture book. 5-10) Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Publishers Weekly In an author’s note, Sorell (We Are Grateful: Otsaliheliga), who is an enrolled citizen of the Cherokee Nation, explains that Native women have served in the U.S. Armed Forces “at proportionately higher rates than all other Active Duty, Reserve, and National Guard Servicemembers.” In this lullaby-like poem, she imagines the Cherokee family of one such woman. The lines join with an incantatory rhythm: “At the mountain’s base/ grows a hickory tree. Beneath this sits a cabin./ In that cabin” a grandmother weaves with help from younger women and a small girl. The women, “tending and singing,” praise a missing family member: a WWII military pilot flying a combat mission. Alvitre (Little Nemo: Dream Another Dream), who is Tongva/Scots-Gaelic, paints her in her cockpit above the clouds as her thoughts circle back to her family: “Within that pilot/ forms a prayer,/ pleading for peace./ Because at the mountain’s base,/ beneath the hickory tree” awaits her beloved family. High above, with flowing hair and outstretched arms, the figure of a larger-than-life entity watches over the family and the pilot. Sorell honors an Oglala Lakota pilot and holds up her courage in this expansive, intimate picture book. Ages 4–8. (Sept.)

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

School Library Journal K-Gr 3—A military family awaits the return of their loved one in this lyrical tribute to modern warrior women. At the mountain's base, beneath a hickory tree, sits a cabin, and inside, next to a cozy stove, a grandmother weaves and prays, surrounded by family members singing. Within their song, a pilot flies into danger seeking peace, and Sorell's simple yet poetic text circles back to the family in the cabin, huddled together, "waiting for her return." Individual color strands woven throughout Alvitre's watercolor and ink illustrations come together to form a striking tapestry encircling the cabin, linking its inhabitants to the pilot. Generous white space and colorful frames focus attention on the connections between the human figures. An afterword summarizes the achievements of Indigenous women in the armed forces and briefly mentions the career of Ola Mildred Rexroat, an Oglala Lakota pilot and member of the WASPs in World War II. VERDICT Accessible to a wide range of young audiences and military families, this picture book is also a unique and specific recognition of the strength and courage of Indigenous women. A first-purchase for any library.—Chelsea Couillard-Smith, Hennepin County Library, MN

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