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Grand Chief Salamoo Cook is Coming to Town!

by Tomson Highway and Delphine Renon (ill.); Jimmy Blais (narr.)

Tomson Highway (Credit: Sean Howard)

Grand Chief Salamoo Cook is Coming to Town! is a raucous picture book by author and playwright Tomson Highway. Highway weaves songs – written in Cree, with translations into English – throughout the story, and the book includes a QR code that directs readers to recordings of the songs and full audio version. The book is slapstick funny and the songs add to the story’s humour without feeling out of place.

The story itself centres on a town of Cree-speaking rabbits. When the titular Grand Chief visits, he announces a contest – the big rabbits will throw the little rabbits, and the team that throws the farthest will win waaskee-choos (spruce cone) juice. French artist Delphine Renon’s illustrations are whimsical and rich with engaging details that help pull readers in. For example, while the rabbits gear up for the Grand Chief’s visit, mice swim and picnic in the foreground.

Although overall a fun – and funny – story, elements of Grand Chief Salamoo Cook is Coming to Town! may give some readers pause. Not all the little rabbits are comfortable with being thrown, understandably. When some object, the Grand Chief dismisses their concerns and emphasizes that they’ll be paid $10 for participating. A rabbit tells us that $10 is a life-changing fortune for some of them – and so, it’s implied, even if they don’t want to be thrown, little rabbits may volunteer for the dangerous game to get the money for their families. When a fight breaks out, some of the brawlers are arrested, and all objections to the contest rules are dropped. While this plot point can certainly be used to introduce a discussion about power dynamics, many of the characters ultimately declare that the contest should be an annual event because they had such fun.

The waaskee-choos is said to be a cure/treatment for cancer, so it’s also worth flagging that this story might not be the best choice for families dealing with the disease, especially since the Grand Chief initially doesn’t allow the family members of a rabbit with cancer to compete in the game.

Despite these cautions, Grand Chief Salamoo Cook is Coming to Town! is an engaging read-aloud with catchy musical numbers. The back matter includes a large glossary of Cree words – character names are largely Cree – and the availability of audio recordings makes practising pronunciation simple. This is a good fit for both language learners and anyone who wants to incorporate some dance breaks into story time.


Reviewer: Allison Mills

Publisher: The Secret Mountain


Price: $19.95

Page Count: 48 pp

Format: Cloth

ISBN: 978-2-89836-042-8

Released: September

Issue Date: August 2023

Categories: Kids’ Books, Picture Books

Age Range: 7–9