Braiding Sweetgrass for Young Adults: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants
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About the Author
Monique Gray Smith is an award-winning, bestselling author and public speaker. Her books cover a broad spectrum of ages, topics and emotions. Woven into all of Monique's writing and her speaking engagements is the teaching that Love is Medicine. Her books include Speaking Our Truth: A Journey of Reconciliation, My Heart Fills With Happiness, You Hold Me Up, Lucy and Lola, Tilly: A Story of Hope and Resilience, Tilly and the Crazy Eights, When We Are Kind and I Hope. She has also created the young adult adaptation of Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer. Monique is Cree and Scottish. She lives with her family on the Traditional Territories of the Lək̓ʷəŋən and WSÁNEĆ Peoples.
Nicole Neidhardt is Diné (Navajo) of Kiiyaa'áanii clan. She grew up and now lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico, on Tewa territory. She has a Master of Fine Arts and works in a variety of media, including book illustration, mylar stenciling, installation, and mural painting and design.
"In this young readers adaptation of the 2013 adult bestseller of the same name by Potawatomi botanist Kimmerer, Smith (I Hope), who is Cree and Lakota, breaks down myriad Indigenous nations' relationships with nature. The creators detail how humankind's reciprocity with the earth is integral to many Native peoples' mindsets and often stems from a gifting economy, in which plants and animals make a gift of themselves and humans, in turn, care for them. This is the foundation of the Honorable Harvest, the narrative's key concept and a core Native practice that 'governs our taking, shapes our relationships with the natural world, and reins in our tendency to consume.' These guidelines also encourage sustainability in hunting and gathering etiquette, and in further developing clean energy procedures. Smith smartly streamlines language while staying true to the narrative's core concepts by adding brief sidebars that explain featured terminology, pose reflection questions, and highlight important passages, inviting collaborative discussion and acting as a call to action. Crisp pen and ink wash illustrations by Navajo artist Neidhardt (When We Are Kind) provide visual interest; by depicting Skywoman's creation in comics spreads, Neidhardt both complements and elevates Smith's approachable prose."--starred, Publishers Weekly-- (10/3/2022 12:00:00 AM)
"This unique offering from an Indigenous botanist pulls together elements of science, lore, history, and ecology. It seeks to show how humans need to be mindful of their connections to the planet. Kimmerer, of Anishinaabe heritage, crafts her musings and teachings around the life cycle of sweetgrass. This common plant is considered sacred to many Native American cultures and is used not only for braiding baskets but also for medicine and as an important element in rituals. The book evolves around six sweetgrass categories: 'Meeting, ' 'Planting, ' 'Tending, ' 'Picking, ' 'Braiding, ' and 'Burning, ' and each chapter evokes an aspect of modern Western society in light of how so many people have gotten so far away from the old ways of cherishing the earth. Pages are filled with legends, reminiscences, bits of history, sidebars, drawings, and gentle challenges to readers, encouraging them to consider making changes in their actions, beliefs, and values. The text is engaging and goes down easy; notes and a bibliography round things off. Truly, a lovely, calming addition for collections."--Booklist-- (11/1/2022 12:00:00 AM)
"In 2013, Indigenous botanist Robin Wall Kimmerer released the bestselling Braiding Sweetgrass, a blend of scientific study and memoir that proposed complementing Western ecological ideas with Indigenous ideologies and practices. Monique Gray Smith adapted this pivotal text for younger readers in Braiding Sweetgrass for Young Adults. Knowing that climate change has become one of the foremost concerns for younger generations, this adaptation speaks to those discouraged by the acceleration of the climate crisis and the inaction of those empowered to curb it. It offers a new perspective and renewed hope. Gray Smith retains much of the original content from Wall Kimmerer's text, but with the addition of digital, sketchlike illustrations and colored text boxes that pull out definitions or quotes for added emphasis and easier at-a-glance comprehension. These adaptations, along with prompts for discussion questions and resources for further reading, make the text ideal for the classroom. The Indigenous lore and rituals described are among the most compelling aspects of the text; Nicole Neidhardt's beautiful illustrations, particularly those accompanying a story of the formation of Turtle Island and the Haudenosaunee Thanksgiving Address, enhance these elements. There are recountings of basket weaving, salmon ceremonies, and the experiences of young adults at a remote biological station, where the bemoaning of lost cell service gradually gives way to an appreciation for simpler subsistence. Wall Kimmerer's personal essays are moving in their reverence for the land and its offerings. Her prose is lyrical, as in her description of the scent of sweetgrass: 'the melancholy smell of summer slipping into fall or the smell of a memory that makes you close your eyes for a moment and then a moment longer.' Urging a look toward history and tradition to teach us how to answer the questions of the future, Gray Smith adapts Wall Kimmerer's wisdom for a new, hungry audience."--Foreword Reviews-- (9/26/2022 12:00:00 AM)
"Monique Gray Smith has exquisitely captured the tone of Robin Wall Kimmerer's voice in this masterful adaptation for young readers of Braiding Sweetgrass. It has all the power, poetry and passion of the adult edition but there is a delightful intimacy that will make YA readers feel as if Kimmerer is holding an intimate conversation with them about Indigenous knowledge and it's connection to the well-being of the planet. Gray Smith's adaptation makes this visionary exploration of Indigenous connections to the land, to plants and to storytelling and story-making accessible to a whole new readership and hopefully will inspire young people to rise to the challenges of the Climate Crisis." -Jeffrey Canton, Children's Book Columnist, The Globe and Mail-- (5/31/2022 12:00:00 AM)
"Braiding Sweetgrass for Young Adults is my new favorite book! What a great way for young people (and anyone, really) to learn about our healing medicines. So many teachings within the pages. I love the mix of photos, illustrations, and text boxes filled with reflective questions and translations. I will be purchasing boxes of this incredible book to share with loved ones! Chii miigwech!"--Angeline Boulley, #1 NYT Bestselling author of Firekeeper's Daughter-- (5/10/2022 12:00:00 AM)
"This adaptation of Kimmerer's (Potawatomi) adult book by the same name is filled with nuggets of wisdom, a wealth of information about plants, and a call to embrace the kinship between plants and humans. In her exploration of the properties of sweetgrass, the botanist discusses the plant through the lens of the scientific method, with terms like germinate and xylem, and Indigenous traditions. She admits the sometimes conflicting perspectives of these methods. However, she succeeds in creating a cohesive whole within this wondrous work, while also giving context to the many struggles that Native Americans have faced. Smith's (Cree and Lakota) adaptation doesn't talk down to teens but honors them as people who might remember the connection between plants and humans more than their adult counterparts. Sweetgrass, or Wiingaashk, is one of the first plants to grow on the Earth, according to Potawatomi tradition, and is held sacred by them and many other Native American nations. The design elements enhance the narrative, making the whole volume accessible and distinctive. This meditative work also features illustrations by Neidhardt (Diné) that are both delicate and powerful and range from spot art to full spreads. Green and white callouts define unfamiliar terms and present discussion questions. These elements combine to emphasize the importance and need to protect the environment and take care of our kin. VERDICT A book that is entirely in a class of its own, this belongs in every collection for teens."--starred, School Library Journal-- (12/1/2022 12:00:00 AM)
"An Indigenous botanist offers powerful guidance and inspiration for a sustainable--and sustaining--future in this young readers' adaptation of her 2015 adult bestseller.
Sweetgrass--its planting, tending, picking, braiding, and burning--forms the organizing structure for this work in which scientific discovery and traditional wisdom form a harmonious, interconnected whole. Sweetgrass is important to many Indigenous nations as well as a potent example of the limitations of traditional Western notions of people existing in opposition to the natural world, as evidenced by the fascinating results of the graduate research project Kimmerer (Potawatomi) oversaw. Rather than humans' presence inherently threatening nonhuman living beings, the Indigenous worldview persuasively and vividly offered is one in which we live by the guiding principles of the Honorable Harvest, enumerated here as: never take the first, ask permission, listen for the answer, take only what you need, minimize harm, use everything you take, share, be grateful, and reciprocate the gift. Smith (Cree, Lakota) skillfully adapts the original, including text boxes with definitions, thoughtful prompts for reflection and discussion, and pithy quotes featured within exquisite images of a circle of braided sweetgrass by illustrator Neidhardt (Diné). Additional art beautifully enhances teachings and tales from many nations, personal reminiscences, fascinating natural history, and other enriching content. Readers will feel as if they are in conversation with a caring, respected expert guide who offers a hopeful, nourishing vision.
Both an urgent, essential call to action and an uplifting love letter." -starred, Kirkus Reviews
"Just as the original Braiding Sweetgrass offers a lifeline back to Indigenous teachings, this adaptation augments these stories with exquisite visuals such as Skywoman Falling and the Haudenosaunee Thanksgiving Address as an epic gathering of all beings, and it wraps key concepts and questions within a braid of sweetgrass. This beautiful, imaginative revisioning is a gift to our children that teaches them how to follow the path of our ancestors."--Diane Wilson, author of The Seed Keeper-- (5/31/2022 12:00:00 AM)
"What an open-armed invitation for youth to enter into relationship with the ideas, the stories and the teachings from Robin Wall Kimmerer's phenomenal and deserved bestseller Braiding Sweetgrass! This adaptation by Monique Gray Smith, the renowned and beloved writer for children and young adults, allows young readers to take into their lives the offerings and guidance of Robin's stories, no matter what their experience is, no matter where they come from, no matter who they are. In language that respects the love for all living things that young people are born with, accompanied by powerful illustrations that are works of heart, this book is itself a beautiful braid of three women, dare I say Three Sisters--Robin Wall Kimmerer, Monique Gray Smith and Nicole Neidhardt, brilliant storytellers, story-tenders and storykeepers.
Braiding Sweetgrass for Young Adults is a book to grow up with and grow into. It is both medicine and a loud and urgent call to honour the gifts of the earth and the responsibility to give gifts to the earth in return. Imagine growing up guided by the questions "How can we make our relations with the world sacred again?" and "What will your offering be?" This book will plant a garden in young hearts and then, oh, what a world!"--Shelagh Rogers, OC, host and producer of CBC Radio One's The Next Chapter, and former chancellor of the University of Victoria