This year’s Manitoba Book Award nominees were recently announced. I was pleased to see Brenda Wastasecoot‘s Granny’s Giant Bannock (illustrated by Kimberley McKay-Fleming; Pemmican, 2008) nominated for the McNally Robinson Young People’s Book award. My kids and I attended the launch of this book at Aqua Books in Winnipeg in December. We all took delight in this wonderful story narrated by Wastasecoot herself.
Granny comes to visit her grandson Larf who is studying at university in Brandon, Manitoba. It is Granny’s first trip to the big city and Larf shows her around. Granny does not know English; she speaks Cree and must rely on Larf who understands only some of Granny’s words. Until now, this has not been a problem but when Granny decides to make bannock, Larf has trouble finding the ingredients to make the delicious treat. Instead of buying baking powder as Granny tells him in Cree, Larf buys yeast. The result? A giant bannock that grows so big it rolls out of the house and into the city of Brandon.
My children loved this story with its hilarious build-up and ending. Bannock is a much beloved food of the aboriginal people of the prairies. As Wastasecoot notes in her prologue:
Bannock was an important supplement to our soups and stews of caribou, moose and fish. It was also a favorite snack and could easily be whipped up for visitors and their children.
More importantly though was the message of the story which was summed up in the form of a question posed to the reader. “What do you think Larf should do next time? What could Granny do to help him?” The answer? As Wastasecoot said at the launch, “Teach him Cree!” Granny’s giant bannock, the result of a misunderstanding, turns out to be a lesson in the importance of maintaining one’s language and customs.