Brissenden's book honoured

Nov 28, 2002, vol. 25, no. 7

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Constance Brissenden (right) is one of SFU bookstore's authors of the month in November for a new children's book, As Long as the Rivers Flow, that she co-wrote with Cree writer and playwright Larry Loyie (left).

The 44-page book, with 34 watercolour illustrations, is based on Loyie's memories of his traditional Cree childhood in the forests of Slave Lake, Alberta.

It recounts his family's life and adventures during their last summer together. The story ends with Loyie, aged 10, and his siblings deported in a truck to residential school.

“Dozens of adults have told us they cried when they read the book,” says Brissenden who, with Loyie, has held workshops and readings throughout B.C. and Alberta to promote the book. “It's a way of starting to understand the whole residential school issue,” Loyie adds.

The story is all the more evocative for its realistic depiction and illustration of Loyie's relatives, who are all featured. “For every person in the book, we collected a historic photo for the illustrator Heather Holmlund to base her illustrations on,” says Loyie. It took two years to track down a photo of his petite grandmother, renowned for shooting North America's biggest grizzly bear with a single bullet from a rabbit gun.

The book, suitable for readers eight years old and up, is published by Groundwood Books, one of Canada's foremost children's publishers. It is available in the SFU bookstore.

Brissendon, a Vancouver writer, has taught in SFU's writing and publishing program for 15 years.

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