The Poet: Pauline Johnson is one book in the Tales from Big Spirit series from Highwater Press. Tales from Big Spirit is a unique six-book graphic novel series that delves into the stories of six great Indigenous heroes from Aboriginal peoples and Canadian history—some already well known and others who deserve to be. Designed to correspond to grades 4–6 social studies curriculums across Canada, these full colour graphic novels could be used in literature circles, novel studies, and book clubs to facilitate discussion of social studies topics. These books will help students make historical connections while promoting important literacy skills. Swampy Cree writer David Alexander Robertson is the author of all six titles. The illustrator for The Poet is Scott Henderson.
The Poet captures the life and times of Emily Pauline Johnson (1861-1913), who was born on Six Nations Grand River Territory and was buried in Stanley Park, Vancouver. The author and illustrator engage readers by setting the graphic novel in a present-day classroom. Kathy finds public speaking in front of her classmates a daunting task when her teacher introduces a unit on poetry. Each student is required to write an original poem on a topic of their choosing. As Kathy thinks about the challenge her mind goes back to the story of Pauline Johnson. The remainder of the 30-page novel traces Pauline's career groundbreaking as a poet and entertainer beginning with her first challenge and stage fright at a recital in 1892. Pauline rises to this challenge and overcomes her fear by her dramatic reading of a Cry from an Indian Wife. The audience was spell-bound. Pauline Johnson's contribution to Canadian nationalism and literature is presented in this story. The final page takes the reader back to present day with Kathy receiving applause from her classmates after reciting her poem. Connections between Kathy and her hero Pauline Johnson are emphasized in the artwork. Both characters share the same pixie hairstyle. Unfortunately Pauline Johnson did not have her hair styled in this manner. A minor point in an otherwise important resource for elementary students. Excellent resource for Ontario Social Studies (SSHG) grades 6 and 8.