PPBF – Encounter

Regular readers know I generally focus on stories about immigration or refugees and migrants, or on international folktales. But today’s Perfect PictureBook imagines a meeting of a European traveler and an indigenous person. As you read on, I hope you will understand why this story has captured my attention and why, I think, it sheds light on many of the themes I explore in the books I generally review. And as November is National Native American Heritage Month, this seems like the perfect time to feature this new Perfect Picture Book.

Title: Encounter

Written By: Brittany Luby

Illustrated By: Michaela Goade

Publisher/Date: Little, Brown and Company/2019

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes/Topics: Native Americans, exploration, differences, similarities, cultural interaction, #OwnVoices

Opening:

Sun rose to light all Creation. He woke Seagull and Mouse from their nests. He coaxed Mosquito from a long blade of grass. He chuckled as Crab retreated inside her shell. When the coastline buzzed with life, Sun woke the two-leggeds with a burst of light.

Brief Synopsis: When a European explorer and a native American meet, the two acknowledge their differences but also see their similarities.

Links to Resources:

  • With words or pictures show ways that you are the same or different from a sibling, friend, or school mate;
  • In an Historical Note, Luby reveals that Encounter is a work of fiction, but it is based on information found in the diaries of French explorer, Jacques Cartier. Learn more about Cartier and his exploration of Canada;
  • In an Author’s Reflection, Luby reveals that she is descended from native peoples but learned the history of Canada through the histories of settler-colonists. Why do you think it’s important to view history from the point of view of those who were in a place first? How do you think the story changes when the point of view is changed?
  • Read or listen to an NPR interview with Luby and Goade.

Why I Like this Book:

Encounter tells the story of an imagined meeting on one day between Sailor, a sailor on the first, or one of the first, European ships to enter North American waters in present day Canada, and Fisher, an indigenous fisherman. As the two men experience their differences, in looks, language, dress, mode of transportation, and diet, creatures from the natural world note their similarities. This juxtaposition and change in perspective, between what the two men see and think and the reality of their similarities, made me realize that, in fact, our similarities as people, regardless of skin tone, language, region, religion, background or any of the myriad features that make us unique, are greater than these differences. If, as the natural creatures do, we could step back from our differences and focus on these similarities, perhaps our encounters could lead to greater understanding and kindness in this world.

#OwnVoices illustrator Goade created the gorgeous artwork in watercolor, pen and ink, gouache, and digitally. View a book chat with Goade about her techniques and what she was trying to show.

A Note about Craft:

Looking above at the Opening, which includes all of the text from the first spread, you might wonder who are the main characters of this picture book. Luby mentions neither Fisher, who appears in the next spread, nor Sailor, who appears first in the third spread. Not only are these two protagonists not mentioned in the text of this initial spread, they don’t even appear in the illustrations. Instead, Luby and Goade introduce them one by one on the next spreads, and show both in small boats on the water in the fourth spread. I was surprised by this opening, but I think it makes sense if, as I think Luby wants the reader to do, you change perspective and view the encounter which ensues from the perspective of the noted creatures of the natural world. I’d even argue that Sun, whose rising and setting frames this one-day meeting, and the creatures, who opine about the similarities of the two “two-leggeds”, are, in a sense, characters in this story. By beginning with this people-less scene, I think Luby is inviting readers to step back and view our differences from the perspective of the natural world. Maybe we aren’t so different after all.

Interestingly, too, Luby chooses two adult males as the people who meet. But in the lack of familiarity with the other person’s culture, each man seems child-like. The inclusion of natural creatures who observe and speak is also very child-friendly, as, to me, this lends a fable-like aspect to this story.

Per the book jacket, Luby, of Anishinaabe descent, is a history professor at the University of Guelph, Canada. Goade, of Tlingit descent, is a designer and illustrator. Visit her website to view more of her work.

This Perfect Picture Book entry is being added to Susanna Hill’s Perfect Picture Book list. Check out the other great picture books featured there!

3 responses to “PPBF – Encounter

  1. Patricia, I love your analysis of this book! A complex topic covered in a very thoughtful way. Thank you for featuring. The SFPL has 18 copies in circulation. I’ve put my copy on hold. Cheers!

  2. What a beautiful book about Native Americans. The text is so lyrical and goregous. Love the theme, too. Understand why you chose this one. I love to review indigenous books too. Second Story Press has a lot of them about the First Nation.

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