MISSING NIMAMA – when a child grieves for a parent

by Nancy Bo Flood on January 29, 2017

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This picture book by Melanie Florence and illustrated by Francois Thisdale tells the story of Kateri, a young Cree girl who is motherless and being raised by her grandmother, Nohkom. Kateri’s story is based on the stories of the missing indigenous women of the U.S. and Canada. Told in alternating voices, the absent mother follows her daughter as she grows, enters school, and becomes a mother herself. The author’s lyrical, free-verse text and the illustrator’s watercolor images portray the emotional journey of children coping with the loss of a parent.

Talking and sharing suggestions. This is a book to read slowly with a child, maybe only a few pages at a time. Then… talk together.

Millions of children are without the most essential things they need– parents, family, a home, friends, safety, and the opportunity to attend school, to have a future. These children have lost what they love most because of discrimination, persecution, or violence.

What happens when a country’s legal system does not provide equal protection? In this picture book, a child’s mother “goes missing,” which in many countries is not uncommon, especially when women are not protected because of they are minorities, people of color, or of a minority religion. Related themes include the grief experienced by those children who have lost a parent.

After reading the books: Missing Nimama, Somos como las nubes/We are like the clouds, Two White Rabbits, and (for older readers) Bone Sparrow, talk with a young listener about the many types of political events that separate children and parents: civil war, terrorism, or being a refugee. Read Stepping Stones, a picture book that gently shows what it means to be a refugee.

Imagine this – you had to leave your home in five minutes before the bombs began to fall, what would you take with you? Think about living in a refugee camp for five years, maybe ten years. Again, imagine – what do you miss most about the home you left? What do you wish you could do one more time? What are the special foods you’d wish you could eat? Think about no longer seeing your friends, pets, family, teachers, books? Or hearing your own language!

What happens to child refugees if they survive the journey and make it to the U.S.? How can we help make them feel welcome?  How important a welcoming smile can be, or an invitation to join a soccer game, or asking a lonely child – “come sit with me during lunchtime at school.

This beautiful book can become the beginning of many important discussions.  MISSING NIMAMA  is an ILA Notable Book for a Global Society selection and also was awarded the winner of the Canadian Children’s Literature Award.

Related books:

Argueta, J. (2016) Somos como las nubes/We are like the clouds. Toronto, Canada: Groundwood Books.

Buitrago, Jairo. (2015). Two white rabbits. Toronto, ON, Canada: Groundwood Books.

Fraillon, Zana. (2016). The bone sparrow. Glendale, California: Disney-Hyperion.

Ruurs, M., illustrated by Nizar Ali Badr, (2016). Stepping Stones A Refugee Family’s Journey. Canada: Orca Book Publishers.

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