The Girl Who Swam with the Fish: An Athabascan Legend Reviews

UPDATE TIME: 2018-05-01 
Review Score: 5 out of 5 star From 2 user ratings

" When an Athabaskan girl wonders what it’s like to be a fish, she transforms into a salmon, journeying through the cycle of a salmon’s life and learning the respect her people should show the salmon. This exceptional odyssey teaches the reader to keep their knives sharp and their drying racks clean as a way to show respect to the salmon. The pale coloring contrasts superbly with the thick dark woodcuts, bringing the story to life. " said.

"During a summer trip with her family to an Alaskan riverbank, an unnamed girl wonders what it would be like to be a fish while she waits for the king salmon to make their annual appearance. She soon discovers the answer to her question when she is transformed into a salmon and swims with the “ocean kings” for years, quietly learning how the salmon wish to be respected. Eventually, she grows big enough to return to her human form and she shares what she learned with her family, who follow the directions and as a result, are forever able to catch plenty of salmon.

The Girl Who Swam with the Fish is an example of a culture aiming to explain a natural phenomenon, which in this case is the annual summer migration of king salmon. Although classified as a legend, in this way the story dips into the territory of myth. However, many legends blur the line of myth and folk tale, and like the Arthurian legends, this tale has stood the test of time, and it chronicles what happened in the past and preserves the culture’s accepted beliefs and values, including the deep respect Native Alaskans have for salmon and other animals as the sustenance that ensures the continuance of their cultural lifestyle.

Until reading this book, I had never heard this Alaskan legend. I connected with the quietness of the story and empathized with the girl’s extended, patient observations of the salmon and their ways. The woodcut illustrations, boxed in by picture-frame borders, enhanced the text by representing the thick lines, earth-tone colors, and cultural depiction of the ethnic, traditional setting.
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June 2018 New Book:

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