Gidjie is an Anishinaabe girl who lives near the shore of Lake Superior. Her best friend is an opossum. Her grandmother is an expert baker, traveling animal medic, and part-time bird.
Join Gidjie as she embarks on a life-changing journey to uncover the whereabouts of her missing wolf aunt; prodded on by dancing foxes, a tiny man on a floating island, and unexpected friendships.
“Gidjie and the Wolves” is the first book in the Intermediaries, a middle grade series by Own Voices (Anishinaabe) author, Tashia Hart.
Plot: Hart offers a fresh and compelling storyline that offers lively imagery. While the individual stories within each chapter shine, the collective narrative may benefit from a greater sense of wholeness and harmony.
Prose/Style: The prose is capably written and immersive, although passages are at times overly detailed and clunky. Hart is often inconsistent in style, resulting in a reading experience that is not always smooth or organic.
Originality: Through the incorporation of alluring illustrations, the reader is brought into a world filled with magical creatures. The worldbuilding, while compelling and imaginative, doesn't always directly benefit the storyline. By drawing on Anishinaabe culture, the author provides a novel layer to the work, and one that may invite readers to research further.
Character Development: Hart integrates characters from Anishinaabe culture with ease and care. Gidjie is lovable, curious, and offers vivid insight into the world around her. While other characters sometimes blend together, and certain elements are underexplained - Gidjie is absolutely special and wholly memorable.
Date Submitted: April 16, 2020
In Gidjie and the Wolves (Intermediaries, volume 1) by Tashia Marie Hart, we discover a cast of characters with names that mean something. Some are human, like Gidjie, and some are talking animals, but ones that are familiar to us. Others are Intermediaries, basically, animals that can take human forms, such as Carver, an opossum and Gidjie’s best friend, and her grandmother, Nookomis, who can change into a bird. When her wolf aunt goes missing, Gidjie leaves on a journey in search of her. Along the way, she meets a literal menagerie of creatures, each of which has a story to tell or something to teach Gidjie. These experiences change Gidjie forever, but will she be able to find her aunt?
Gidjie and the Wolves by Tashia Marie Hart is an enthralling read. It is an intricate mix of some familiar fantastical themes, humans interacting with talking animals and beings that are a mix of both. This story, though, has a unique flavor because it is rooted in the traditional beliefs of the Anishinaabe, a group of interrelated cultural communities located in the northern United States and Southern Canada and known by several different names. The author, Tashia Marie Hart, as well as the illustrator, Jonathan Thunder, are members of two of these communities, and their abilities to bring this story to life through prose and art are admirable and give the book a solid authenticity. Besides sharing an entertaining adventure, with promised sequels, the author hopes that everyone, “children and the young at heart” might “speak words and commit to actions that uplift and free one another always.” What a worthy wish and what a good book to add to a personal library!
In aboriginal mythology, humans are not considered superior to animals. In fact, humans are to pay due reverence to animals and show respect. There are even unique animal connections between humans and animals. It all has to do with spirituality, respect for the natural world, and the animals who walk the earth. Gidjie is an Anishinaabe human girl who lives underground in a world hidden away from the human world, a world where animals and humans are either one or the other, or both, in a world run by what is known as Intermediaries, creatures who have a dual nature: animal and human. Gidjie’s adopted grandmother is a baker, animal medic, and sometimes a bird. Her best friend is an opossum.
Tashia Marie Hart, an Anishinaabe author, has written a series of stories about the Intermediaries. Her middle-grade novel, Gidjie and the Wolves (The Intermediaries), adopts the ancient art of storytelling and presents a wonderful tale full of action, family connections, friendships, and the powerful bond that exists between humans and animals (and those in between). The story is a journey, a coming of age epic tale of a young girl trying to find her place in differing worlds. The plot develops steadily with lots of descriptive narrative passages to help the reader understand the complexities of human-animal spiritual bonding. There are pen and ink drawings to help the plot develop. Characters are well described and the bonding between humans and animals, as well as between friends and family members, is well documented. The key message of this story is not merely understanding the connections but also understanding the need to respect one another (human, animal, or both), and how important it is to care for and respect the environment. This is the first book in a series.
“The type of wound an animal has determined the type of medicine they require, as well as the medicines they create in their own bloodstream as they heal. The medicines animals create themselves are then passed along in the bloodstream to any offspring they have. These medicines are like stories of survival, passed down to make the next generation more resilient.” - Tashia Marie Hart, “Gidjie and the WolvesHart has crafted a stunningly sweet, perfectly magic world of Intermediaries, beings that have both animal and human characteristics but who hide their ability to adapt to the human world from humans because of the fighting and misunderstanding their existence caused in the past. Gidjie is a human living with her adoptive Intermediary Nookoomis. Her parents were adopted after Nookoomis found them in an abandoned Boarding School - a genius, subtle but poignant way to introduce this piece of history to middle-grade readers. Gidjie’s best friend, Carver, spends his non-human time as an opossum, and the story explores Gidjie’s feelings of belonging and identity as a human in a non-human world. We get to venture into the underground Intermediary world, filled with shops and intricate systems of travel and communication. We see the power of youth as Gidjie, Carver, and others who have been called together after experiencing the same vivid, eery dreams, to form a council - group of adolescents who will be bound together as friends and teammates forever. They end up working together to uncover the mystery behind Gidjie’s missing aunt, and they learn about themselves, each other, and trusting their strengths and intuition along the way. Hart spends a good portion of the book world-building, allowing us to see into all corners of the magic world, Nookoomis and Gidjie’s daily experiences, some of their backgrounds, and enough context for us to develop a deep affinity for and investment in the characters. I think this world building will be captivating and important for this age group of readers. Hart also manages to call attention to the critical issues humans are creating for the world, including pesticide-ridden fields, roadkill, fuel consumption and emissions, and disrespect for animals. It’s done in a way that isn’t demeaning but is instead built into the perspectives of the much more enlightened Intermediaries and Gidjie as a member of Intermediary society. I loved everything about this and can’t wait for the next installment. We’ve gotten the background and a taste for the adventures and activism, really, if Gidjie, Carver, and their council, and I know that Hart will just take off from here. I’m so grateful to have read this magical novel. It’s the perfect kind of youth novel that makes you think and evaluate your own values and way of life without feeling weighed down and hopeless. This is exactly the kind of story our kiddos need to be immersed in! Congratulations on your first book in the Gidjie series, Tashia!
Gidjie and the Wolves is a work of fantasy fiction for middle grade aged children by author Tashia Marie Hart. Written as book one of The Intermediaries series, this enchanting chapter book demonstrates an authentic own voice author and takes children on a fascinating cultural adventure. The titular character Gidjie is an Anishinaabe girl who introduces her reading audience to her Native American roots, along with her charming animal friends and her family members. But when her wolf aunt goes missing, so begins an engrossing adventure to find out where she has gone, and make some new friends along the way.Author Tashia Marie Hart captures a slice of life like no other in this enchanting work of magical realism, fantasy and socio-cultural fiction. The development put into Gidjie as a central character lends much authenticity to the tale from the off, and I especially enjoyed the definition of her voice as our guiding figure through her presentation and dialogue. The animal concepts and spiritual beliefs are explained in a fascinating and engaging way, developing a fantasy atmosphere that is sure to make readers always wonder what will happen next. Structurally speaking, the chapter book format works really well for middle grade readers at the lower end of the age range to access easily, but the content is complex and interesting enough for all ages to really enjoy. I could easily see this becoming a book that families explore together, and overall I would highly recommend Gidjie and the Wolves to anyone seeking a fascinating adventure.