The Gathering Tree Reviews

The Gathering TreeThe Gathering Tree

By Larry Loyie with Constance Brissenden
Illustrations by Heather D. Holmlund
Published by Theytus
Reviewed by Sheila Staats, Six Nations of the Grand River Territory

Review Highlight:

“As an HIV/AIDS awareness and prevention resource, The Gathering Tree contains suggestions for teachers and educators who want to share this story and its message with students. While the content is aimed at First Nations children, the book is suitable for readers from all cultural backgrounds. Effective acrylic paintings by Heather D. Holmlund add to the understanding and awareness of this disease.”

Review:

The Gathering Tree is the most recent children’s book by award-winning authors Larry Loyie and Constance Brissenden. The authors tackle the difficult issue of HIV/AIDS in this picture book set in a First Nations community in British Columbia. A special cousin is returning home for a community ceremony. Robert is a 21-year-old First Nations man who went to the city for his education. His younger cousins, Tyler and Shay-Lyn, look up to him as a role model for his marathon running ability.

But on this visit something has changed. Shay-Lyn’s best friend explains that she can’t visit during Robert’s stay. Shay-Lyn learns that her special cousin is sick and her friend’s mother forbids visiting. Brother and sister are troubled because the last time they saw their cousin Robert was in good health.

With their parents gentle explana ions Shay-Lyn and Tyler learn that Robert has a virus called HIV. When Robert arrives in the community for the spiritual gathering he looks just as healthy as he did on the previous visit. During the homecoming, Robert explains to his family and Elders that he wants his community to understand HIV.

Elders provide spiritual guidance and request that Robert speak to the gathering. The community acceptance Robert receives is heartwarming. Friends, family and Elders join him in a special Honour Dance. Robert shares his understanding of HIV to his community and explains that his goal is to tell other First Nations people that the disease is preventable. One day Robert hopes to return to his running career. The story ends with Shay-Lyn’s friend joining her friend in the Honour Dance reminding readers that understanding is possible.

As an HIV/AIDS awareness and prevention resource, The Gathering Tree contains suggestions for teachers and educators who want to share this story and its message with students. The book was initiated by Chee Mamuk, the Aboriginal HIV education program of the BC Centre for Disease Control.

While the content is aimed at First Nations children, the book is suitable for readers from all cultural backgrounds. Effective acrylic paintings by Heather D. Holmlund add to the understanding and awareness of this disease.


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