Hiawatha’s Childhood

by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow; illustrated by Errol Le Cain, published 1994

“By the shores of Gitche-Gumee,
By the shining Big-Sea-Water,
Stood the Wigwam of Nokomis,
Daughter of the moon, Nokomis”

Children's Book - Hiawatha's ChildhoodIn general, I have avoided selecting an illustrated children’s book for review, because I have been more interested in reviewing language rather than art.  I didn’t know when I ordered this children’s book version of Hiawatha that it was illustrated. However, I’m including it because it strikes me as an essential part of children’s reading experience. It is so important for children to read and hear stories that have rhythm, repetition, and unusual words. Hiawatha is a great example of this. I especially love the addition of the native American words (though they may be fictitious) as a wonderful way to continue to help children learn to decode using the sounds. For example, the word  “Nokomis” is such a good example of the basic  rules of decoding English.

After reading this small excerpt of Hiawatha, I listened to the entire poem on Libravox. I loved listening to the whole thing but there is a great deal of killing of animals in the story that keep me from recommending the entire classic poem to young ones. Therefore this single chapter excerpt is a perfect introduction to a classic literary form that I think children will love to read and hear. I would definitely recommend reading this aloud with children, so that they understand the power of the rhythm in the words, and hear the sound of the repetition of phrases. In the end, it’s hard not to admire the genius of Longfellow in creating this kind of epic tale, which in its style resembles the  Finish epic, the Kalevale.