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The First Blade of Sweetgrass

Picture books and novels by Indigenous authors ABOUT Indigenous people are some of my favorite books to share with students all year long.  The First Blade of Sweetgrass: A Native American Story by Suzanne Greenlaw, citizen of the Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians and her husband, Gabriel Frey, citizen of the Passamaquoddy Nation, is one of my new favorites. The illustrations by  Nancy Baker are beautiful.   It is an intergenerational story about ancestors, traditions and artistry that resonates with many readers.  It was exciting for my students to read a picture book about the Wabanaki Confederacy, as they live relatively close to these nations. Setting matters! Some students have shared what it is like to visit Acadia National Park and several students became inspired to plan a trip to Maine for next summer with their families!  The most striking element of the story is the relationship between Musqon and her grandmother.  Students connected with the special relationship between these characters and recognized the wisdom in the many things that Grandmother had to say.  Students felt that there were many lessons in the story with one of the most important being , “don’t pick the first so we don’t pick the last.”  They discussed many ways this idea could be applied to their own lives and how this wisdom can help them grow as human beings. The author’s notes at the end of the book were important and meaningful to the students. There was so much information on these two pages that students have new areas of research to pursue and they are EXCITED!! I can not wait to get back to Maine myself to visit the Abbe Museum to learn more about the Wabanaki Nation and hopefully see some sweetgrass baskets too.

We are EXCITED to see what Suzanne Greenlaw and Gabriel Frey have ready to share with the world next; it is sure to be WONDERFUL!!

What students had to say:

I liked how her ancestors were picking sweet grass.

I learned that you can make a basket with sweet grass.

I would like to learn how to make a basket with sweet grass

Why did she close her eyes after she saw her ancestors?

There are a lot of rules for picking sweet grass.

I like the way she remembered her ancestors picking sweet grass.

I like the message, “don’t pick the first so we don’t pick the last.”

I liked all of the things the grandmother says, she sounds wise.

It must be fun to pick sweet grass.

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