Wab Kinew – a high-profile politician, honourary witness for the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and hip-hop musician – has turned his attention to picture books with Go Show the World, which is built around the refrain: “You are people who matter. / Yes, it’s true. / Now go show the world what people who matter can do.” The 40-page book features 14 Indigenous heroes, from Sacagawea, who led Lewis and Clark on their westerly expedition, to Waneek Horn-Miller, captain of Canada’s 2000 Olympic water polo team. The subjects are not listed chronologically; they begin and end with female leaders from the 18th century. Nearly half of those featured were born in the latter half of the 20th century, including Dr. Evan Adams, a two-spirited doctor and actor, and Shannen Koostachin, a Cree teenager who advocated for a new school in Attawapiskat, Ontario.
Joe Morse’s digitally coloured, watercolour, and collage pictures are richly textured and captivating. They anchor the book with proud portraits of Indigenous people. Scenes range from historical to modern day and showcase lakes, mountains, forests, and the night sky.
Kinew uses the lyrics from his rap song “Heroes” as the basis for this picture book’s text. But without the accompanying beat, the metre falls flat. The successive mini-biographies are scant, with just two to nine lines describing, often awkwardly, each figure. The profiles omit key details, and phrases obscure, rather than illuminate. For example: “In a foster home / Beatrice’s heart reigned free, / wrote a book about her life / and called it April Raintree.” Readers must wait until the endnotes to encounter the important details about each subject’s unique contribution.
The penultimate spread features a call to action. It shows Indigenous peoples of all ages peacefully demonstrating, while the narrative urges readers to “do right,” “be positive,” “forgive,” and “take a stand.” The story concludes with the refrain, “We are people who matter,” featuring a jubilant First Nations boy looking up at the northern lights.
The author’s note, which follows the story, eloquently explains the impact of Indigenous cultures and the importance of learning about Indigenous role models. It’s here, in this short essay, that Kinew’s writing prowess shines through.