Sunday, August 9, 2009

Remember Me,: Tomah Joseph's Gift to Franklin Roosevelt

Soctomah, Donald and Jean Flahive. 2009. Remember Me: Tomah Joseph's Gift to Franklin Roosevelt. Gardiner, ME: Tilbury House.
(Reviewed from a galley proof supplied by Tilbury House through LibraryThing)

The inspiration for Remember Me: Tomah Joseph's Gift to Franklin Roosevelt is a birchbark canoe (see photo) given by a Passamaquoddy Elder, Tomah Joseph to the future president of the United States, Franklin Roosevelt.

Although the relationship between young Franklin and Tomah Joseph is imagined by the authors, Remember Me (Mikwid Hamin) is based in fact. Franklin's family did spend summers at Campobello Island in Maine and Franklin did receive the canoe from Tomah Joseph.

In the course of their time spent together, Franklin learns about canoeing, but more importantly, Tomah Joseph teaches Franklin about Passamaquoddy culture - their beliefs, their art, their history, their lifestyle. Franklin is an avid learner and Tomah Joseph is a willing teacher.

Watercolor and pen illustrations in soft, natural colors depict Tomah Joseph and Franklin Roosevelt in a variety of outdoor scenes, as they enjoy nature and each other's company. A page of etchings shows a map of the area, and the book's final pages show a portrait of Franklin Roosevelt as president and a depiction of Tomah Joseph and selections of his artwork.

Remember Me fills in an area of history that seldom appears in children's literature. While it hints at stories of "the Old Time," the story takes place long after the Europeans and later Americans first came into contact with America's native people. Rather than telling the story of "the Old Time" or the many wrongs committed against the Passamaquody, Remember Me focuses on a different aspect of history. A formal tribal chief, and an artist, Tomah Joseph chose to stay in his native lands and interact with the new settlers. In addition to creating baskets and birchbark etchings, he worked as a hunting and fishing guide. In this way, he was able to interact with the settlers and share with them his love and knowledge of nature as well as the culture of his clan.

According to the story, Tomah Joseph recognized young Franklin Roosevelt's potential as an influential leader and, as Tomah Joseph aged and Roosevelt became a young man, Tomah Joseph encouraged him, "Mikwid hamin, Franklin. Always remember me."

This book would be particularly appropriate for classroom use. Unique, informative, and written by a member of the Passamaquoddy tribe.

The publisher's website offers link to many useful links for educators and those interested in further exploration of this story.
Photo of Franklin in the canoe made by Tomah Joseph is from the official website of the the Roosevelt Campobello International Park Commission .

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