A young and carefree Anishnaabe girl sets off into the forest to seek adventure. As she peers into the river, she sees not only her reflection but also the reflection of her ancestors clothed in red dresses. They give her strength and love, as well as a warning that hard times lie ahead. Soon after, the girl comes across a monster called Hate, which begins to suffocate her within its cloud of darkness. Thankfully, a thunderbird emerges and forces the monster to flee. Her ancestral matriarchs also arrive and start to drum, reviving the girl’s strength, which is when she remembers her nokomis (grandmother) telling her that, even in spirit, her people are always connected. And it is in remembering that connection, warmth, and love for her ancestors that their “hearts beat as one” and the girl is able to overcome the monster, allowing beautiful things to unfold around her.
The full-page illustrations by Chief Lady Bird, who is Anishnaabe from Rama First Nation, are a definite highlight of Together We Drum, Our Hearts Beat as One. From the lovely florals to the thunderbird and ribbon skirts, the stunning artwork speaks to Anishnaabe culture throughout.
Métis author Willie Poll’s rhyming text offers a story of empowerment and confidence to children dealing with monsters in their own lives. The girl comes to know that she is not alone and becomes a strong matriarch in her own right. This is a wonderful read for children and their families that demonstrates the power of ancestral connection, strength, resistance, and resilience.