A Deninu Kue First Nation author has won a national award for a beautifully-illustrated and tenderly-written children’s book about death.

Last month, Lisa Boivin was named a winner of the annual First Nations Communities READ program for her children’s book, We Dream Medicine Dreams.

The award, which honours some of the best Indigenous literature in the country, is run by the Ontario First Nations public library community under the Ontario Library Service (OLS) and sponsored by Periodical Marketers of Canada.

Boivin’s book is about a little girl, her grandfather, and their shared discovery of how dreams – that feature animal guardians including bear, hawk, caribou and wolf – connect them to their ancestors.

Later, the little girl must call on this knowledge as she learns to say goodbye when her grandfather gets sick and passes away.

Nancy Cooper, a First Nation consultant with the Ontario Library Service who spoke to the Hub on Boivin’s behalf, called it, “a beautifully illustrated intergenerational story about death.”

“It follows the story of an unfortunate passing but this little girl in the book remembers all the teachings that they received from their grandparent, and all the teachings we receive on a daily basis from animals in the world around us,” she said.

“I’m a big fan of it,” she continued. “I’m a big fan of Lisa. She’s doing some really important work.”

Lisa Boivin’s latest book, We Dream Medicine Dreams, was named a winner of the annual First Nations Communities READ program. Photo courtesy CNW Group/Periodical Marketers of Canada

Boivin is both author and illustrator of We Dream Medicine Dreams. Her previous works include, I Will See You Again, another award-winning book aimed at helping children process difficult emotions and heal from loss.

In addition to her work as an author and interdisciplinary artist, Boivin is also a PhD candidate at the Rehabilitation Sciences Institute at the University of Toronto Faculty of Medicine where she studies bioethics.

Cooper noted how her academic work and her writing share common themes, as they both draw on Indigenous knowledge to tackle the subject of death in a very practical way.

“She’s teaching institutions about the process of death in Indigenous communities and the importance of certain ceremonies and decisions,” she said. “She’s bringing death to the forefront and making it easy to have a discussion about it, which I think is really important because you don’t read many books about death in children’s literature.”

The PMC Indigenous Literature Award comes with a cash prize for each author. Winners are chosen by a jury of Indigenous librarians from across Ontario.

Over 75 selected works were entered into this year’s competition. The number of entries speaks to the depth of quality in Indigenous literature across the province, said Cooper.

“There was a lot of amazing literature that the jury had to get through,” she said.

After two “very adamant” jury members came to an impasse, two winners were declared in the children’s category — the first tie in the competition’s history, according to Cooper.

Little Bear in Foster Care by Anishinaabe Algonquin author S.P. Joseph Lyons was also a winner in the children’s category.

Carol Anne Hilton, of Nuu-chah-nulth descent from the Hesquiaht Nation, authored the winning title in the adult category for her book, Indigenomics, a non-fiction book about how an emerging Indigenous economy, built around relationships and multigenerational stewardship of the land, is laying the groundwork for economic reconciliation.

Correction: A previous version of this story displayed the incorrect photo. NNSL Media apologizes for the error and any confusion or embarrassment it may have caused.

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