When Beaver Was Very Great – Small Press Month Book Recommendation #4

Here’s another great indie-press book to celebrate Small Press Month.

Yes, according to one of the traditional Native (Ojibwe) tales here, Beaver used to be much bigger! (Sort of like the giant beavers we saw in the closing ceremonies of the 2010 Olympics, come to think of it.)

This is a project I was directly involved more than a decade ago, and is still one I think of when giving gifts to new friends. It’s a wonderful book of traditional tales and lovely original writings, by an Ojibwe elder, Anne M. Dunn.

Anne is a gifted storyteller, and she mixes old tales with her own experiences growing up in the Leech Lake area of northern Minnesota and Minneapolis. This collection mixes ancient legends and modern experiences in a way that is Native. Likewise, it talks to a wide range of ages, unlike non-Native approaches that to often want to categorize more sharply and distinctly.

When Beaver Was Very Great: Stories To Live By
by Anne M. Dunn
Midwest Traditions (1995)
paperback, $13.95 list price

“The stories offer a sense of the deep relationship between Anishinabe, the First People, and the natural world.” – Winds of Change

From the catalog description:

“It happened in the long ago. . . .” This traditional beginning launches many tales in this wonderful collection of traditional legends and original writings by Ojibwe elder storyteller Anne Dunn.

The short pieces range from Native American origin myths – the antics of Beaver, Rabbit, Otter, Bear, and others – to nature writing and contemporary stories of peace, justice, and environmental concern.

Brimming with insight, vibrant with strength and beauty, these are stories to live by, for all ages. Divided into the four seasons of the year, many of the stories are perfect to be read aloud to children, while holding wisdom for adults as well.

The book was short-listed for the Minnesota Book Award (short stories category).

When Beaver Was Very Great is published by Midwest Traditions / Blue Horse Books, a small nonprofit indie press.

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