Title: Om-kas-toeOm-kas-toe
Author: Kenneth Thomasma
Illustrator: Jack Brouwer
Pages: 215
Recommended Ages: 9-12
Star Rating: ★★★★

From the author of Doe Sia and Naya Nuki comes the story of Om-kas-toe!

The Story.

When Tall Woman gave birth to the twins, it was the will of the tribe leaders that only one be allowed to live –the boy. Men, warriors, are more important than squaws, and it should not be that Tall Woman’s attention is divided between the boy and the girl twins. But Tall Woman pleaded for the right to keep both of her children. She said that she could nourish and care for both of them. Finally, the elders agreed to let her try – but if the boy suffered, the girl must go.

Tall Woman labored hard, and the twins grew up in good health and fine spirit. As their tribe struggles to maintain its position of power amongst the Indians, Twin Boy and Twin Girl prove their importance to the tribe – in more ways than one!

Discussion.

Doesn’t that premise just intrigue you? It was such a riveting moment when Tall Woman stood before the council, begging for the life of her child, pleading that she be allowed to keep her daughter. It seems like such a bizarre scenario, yet there you have it – young girls were often killed or left to die so that their brothers could enjoy more parental attention. Tall Woman keeps her word, maintaining the good health of both Twin Boy and Twin Girl as they become young adults and add to the wealth of their tribe by capturing the tribe’s first horse!

There are quite a few references to ‘the Great Spirit’, but no actual description of that spirit is given. Parents could use this as an opportunity to talk about false gods and to point out that it was in fact God who intervened on behalf of the children on multiple occasions. A legend about a raven is mentioned, and the medicine man prays to the “powers of the beaver” to help them find a lost child. The child is found, but it is through the twins, rather than through some supernatural occurrence.

Om-kas-toe witnesses a wolf pack killing a deer, but it is not really described. Later, Om-kas-toe finds an elk trapped in a bush and kills it with a spear.

“The great elk made its last frantic fight to free itself and stood still in total exhaustion. Instantly Om ran forward with his spear. Before the terrified animal could move, the boy used all his strength to strike a mighty blow with the spear. His aim was perfect. The spear hit a vital artery, and the huge bull struggled for only a few seconds, collapsed, and died.” [pg. 89]

Conclusion. A good story about the Blackfeet Indians at the beginning of the 1800s.

Review © 2014 Laura Verret

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