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The First Blade of Sweetgrass

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Musquon must overcome her impatience while learning to distinguish sweetgrass from other salt marsh grasses, but slowly the spirit and peace of her surroundings speak to her, and she gathers sweetgrass as her ancestors have done for centuries, leaving the first blade she sees to grow for future generations. This sweet, authentic story from a Maliseet mother and her Passama Musquon must overcome her impatience while learning to distinguish sweetgrass from other salt marsh grasses, but slowly the spirit and peace of her surroundings speak to her, and she gathers sweetgrass as her ancestors have done for centuries, leaving the first blade she sees to grow for future generations. This sweet, authentic story from a Maliseet mother and her Passamaquoddy husband includes backmatter about traditional basket making and a Wabanaki glossary.


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Musquon must overcome her impatience while learning to distinguish sweetgrass from other salt marsh grasses, but slowly the spirit and peace of her surroundings speak to her, and she gathers sweetgrass as her ancestors have done for centuries, leaving the first blade she sees to grow for future generations. This sweet, authentic story from a Maliseet mother and her Passama Musquon must overcome her impatience while learning to distinguish sweetgrass from other salt marsh grasses, but slowly the spirit and peace of her surroundings speak to her, and she gathers sweetgrass as her ancestors have done for centuries, leaving the first blade she sees to grow for future generations. This sweet, authentic story from a Maliseet mother and her Passamaquoddy husband includes backmatter about traditional basket making and a Wabanaki glossary.

30 review for The First Blade of Sweetgrass

  1. 5 out of 5

    Bookishrealm

    I heard of the book Braiding Sweetgrass last year through a few people that I follow on Booktube. While I haven't had the opportunity to read that book yet, I was instantaneously drawn to this title because I thought it would cover the importance of sweetgrass to First Nations in a way that is accessible to children. I was right, yet this book was so peaceful and calming on a spiritual level that I did not anticipate. It focuses on Musquon who travels with her grandmother to pick her very first I heard of the book Braiding Sweetgrass last year through a few people that I follow on Booktube. While I haven't had the opportunity to read that book yet, I was instantaneously drawn to this title because I thought it would cover the importance of sweetgrass to First Nations in a way that is accessible to children. I was right, yet this book was so peaceful and calming on a spiritual level that I did not anticipate. It focuses on Musquon who travels with her grandmother to pick her very first blades of sweetgrass. Because sweetgrass is not cultivated, Musquon has to learn how to identify it from the rest of the marsh grasses. She quickly grows impatient and frustrated at her inability to do so, but finds solace when she stills/quiets her body and connects with her ancestors. As Musquon did this I felt my own inner peace and calm. There were a variety of lessons in this picture book that tied back to the traditions of the Wabanaki Confederacy. I not only learned a lot, but appreciated the simplicity with which this story was told. Traditionally, I wouldn't have been a fan of the art which was crafted with what appears to be pastels or maybe colored pencils; however, the simplicity of the art matched the feel of the story and the scenes that captured the marsh as well as the creatures in the marsh were beautiful. There are even illustrations that indicate the difference between the sweetgrass and the other grasses. I highly recommend checking this picture book out or adding it to your collection.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Dave Schaafsma

    A soothingly and gently illustrated and told story of Musquon, who goes with her grandmother to the salt marsh to pick her very first blades of sweetgrass. Written by a citizen of the Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians and a citizen of the Passamaquoddy Nation, this picture book is about the centuries-old Native or First Nations traditions regarding sweetgrass passed down to a new generation. I like the inclusion of the native language in the text, and I liked learning about the process of finding A soothingly and gently illustrated and told story of Musquon, who goes with her grandmother to the salt marsh to pick her very first blades of sweetgrass. Written by a citizen of the Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians and a citizen of the Passamaquoddy Nation, this picture book is about the centuries-old Native or First Nations traditions regarding sweetgrass passed down to a new generation. I like the inclusion of the native language in the text, and I liked learning about the process of finding and braiding and sharing sweetgrass. I like it when Musquon finally figures out how to gather sweetgrass when she makes a connection with her ancestors. Useful appendices for educating kids on traditions and sweetgrass ceremonies in particular.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Tasha

    Musqon accompanies her grandmother to the salt marsh where they are going to pick sweetgrass. The salt marsh is where the river meets the ocean. Her grandmother explains that she helped her own grandmother pick sweetgrass as a girl to weave into baskets and use in ceremonies. To Musqon, all of the grasses look the same, so her grandmother shows her what to look for to find sweetgrass among all the other grasses. She explains that they never pick the first blade of sweetgrass that they see, to ma Musqon accompanies her grandmother to the salt marsh where they are going to pick sweetgrass. The salt marsh is where the river meets the ocean. Her grandmother explains that she helped her own grandmother pick sweetgrass as a girl to weave into baskets and use in ceremonies. To Musqon, all of the grasses look the same, so her grandmother shows her what to look for to find sweetgrass among all the other grasses. She explains that they never pick the first blade of sweetgrass that they see, to make sure that sweetgrass continues to the next generation. When her grandmother tells her that sweetgrass has a shiny green tassel and blades with a purple stem and that it is easy to pick, Musqon is confident she can find it on her own. It isn’t until Musqon takes her time, thinks about what she is there to do, and really sees the salt marsh that she can find sweetgrass herself. Written by a citizen of the Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians and a citizen of the Passamaquoddy Nation, this picture book is a gentle story of Native traditions shared with a new generation. The text of the book shares Passamaquoddy-Maliseet words in the dialogue of the characters. It takes the time, slowing us all down, to explain the importance of sweetgrass and how to find it. The moment when Musqon takes her own time and gives herself space is beautifully created. Baker learned about sweetgrass for this book also the landscape in which it grows. She shows a delicacy with both in her illustrations, celebrating sweetgrass itself and also showing the beautiful landscape where the river meets the ocean. A rich and vital look at sweetgrass and heritage. Appropriate for ages 4-7.

  4. 5 out of 5

    The Silvan Reverie | Sarah Street

    I will first admit that I am a huge fan of Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants and was so pleased to see Robin Wall Kimmerer quoted on the back of the book, emphasizing this story's depiction of the connections between people, plants, and place. I feel that this story of The First Blade of Sweetgrass is important on many levels. First, I welcome any and all #OwnVoices Native American books--it's an important and much-needed contribution to ch I will first admit that I am a huge fan of Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants and was so pleased to see Robin Wall Kimmerer quoted on the back of the book, emphasizing this story's depiction of the connections between people, plants, and place. I feel that this story of The First Blade of Sweetgrass is important on many levels. First, I welcome any and all #OwnVoices Native American books--it's an important and much-needed contribution to children's picture books. Second, I love the inter-generational story depicted here, connecting a grandmother and her granddaughter Musqon through a meaningful activity (picking sweetgrass) that connects Musqon not just to her grandmother but to all of her ancestors. Third, the tangible and heartfelt depiction of the concept of the Honorable Harvest cannot be understated. The Honorable Harvest, which applies to any human-and-Earth exchange, is described at length in Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer: Ask permission of the ones whose lives you seek. Abide by the answer. Never take the first. Never take the last. Harvest in a way that minimizes harm. Take only what you need and leave some for others. Use everything that you take. Take only that which is given to you. Share it, as the Earth has shared with you. Be grateful. Reciprocate the gift. Sustain the ones who sustain you, and the Earth will last forever. Musqon learns the value of the Honorable Harvest both from her grandmother's instructions but also through her own trail-and-error experience. One can hope that the children reading this story will be inspired to do the same. Last, the illustrations, with their muted and natural hues, do a lovely job of inviting you in to the experience of Musqon and the beauty of the act of picking sweetgrass. It seems like such a simple thing, but it's not. The act of reading and listening to stories like these will hopefully open our hearts to something rich and lasting: gratitude, harmony, and love. ***Note: I was given a review copy of this book via Publisher's Spotlight. Opinions are my own.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Barbara

    This picture book is a 3.5 for me. Softly-colored illustrations created with oils and pastels accompany simple but meaningful text that gently tells a story of how a tradition is passed down from one generation to the next one. Musqon eagerly accompanies her grandmother to the salt marsh where they will harvest sweetgrass for baskets, but what might seem to be a simple task requires skill and patience. As often happens in such situations, Grandmother shares stories about the sweetgrass and how h This picture book is a 3.5 for me. Softly-colored illustrations created with oils and pastels accompany simple but meaningful text that gently tells a story of how a tradition is passed down from one generation to the next one. Musqon eagerly accompanies her grandmother to the salt marsh where they will harvest sweetgrass for baskets, but what might seem to be a simple task requires skill and patience. As often happens in such situations, Grandmother shares stories about the sweetgrass and how her own grandmother taught her how to choose the grasses and then demonstrates how to identify which grass to pick. Musqon is sure that it can't be that hard to distinguish among the various grasses in the marsh, but as it turns out, she is unsuccessful in picking sweetgrass. Her patient grandmother demonstrates again and urges her to spend time getting to know each plant before choosing the grass she wants to pick. Attuned with nature and also thinking about her ancestors and this tradition she is honoring, Musqon is able to find the sweetgrass she seeks. One important point stressed by her grandmother was that she not pick the first blade she sees but leave it for another time and another year, an excellent lesson in generosity and sustainability. The text offers much upon which to reflect. Back matter includes notes from the authors as well as a glossary of Passamaquoddy-Maliseet words.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Laura

    A young indigenous girl is taught by her grandmother how to pick sweetgrass. Since it is a wild plant, not cultivated, she must learnt o spot it in the wild where it grows. The title comes from the saying that when you find your first blade of sweetgrass, you must leave it, so there is at least one blade untouched. The girl, at first, can't tell the sweet grass from the other native grasses, but her grandmother shows her, and then she sees the sprits of her ancestors, and the sweet grass shows it A young indigenous girl is taught by her grandmother how to pick sweetgrass. Since it is a wild plant, not cultivated, she must learnt o spot it in the wild where it grows. The title comes from the saying that when you find your first blade of sweetgrass, you must leave it, so there is at least one blade untouched. The girl, at first, can't tell the sweet grass from the other native grasses, but her grandmother shows her, and then she sees the sprits of her ancestors, and the sweet grass shows itself to her. The illustrations are wonderful, as well, and show what the different grasses look like. The Illustrator said she went to where the grasses grew, so she could get a sense of how to draw the story. A wonderful story about passing down traditions. The authors are Maliseet and Passamaquoddy. They have included common words used in the story in the back of the book, as well as more information about Sweet Grass, and the baskets that were made with it. Thanks to Edelweiss for making this book available for an honest review.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Erin

    A soft and beautiful tale of a young girl learning to pick and braid sweetgrass. Her grandmother gently guides her to recognize the plant, and how best to steward the resource so there is always sweetgrass to pick. Toward the end, they talk about learning how to braid the sweetgrass into baskets. There's a lovely connection between grandparent and grandchild, and a nice reminder throughout that the cultural presence of environmental responsibility and the creation of beautiful things is still go A soft and beautiful tale of a young girl learning to pick and braid sweetgrass. Her grandmother gently guides her to recognize the plant, and how best to steward the resource so there is always sweetgrass to pick. Toward the end, they talk about learning how to braid the sweetgrass into baskets. There's a lovely connection between grandparent and grandchild, and a nice reminder throughout that the cultural presence of environmental responsibility and the creation of beautiful things is still going strong.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Lynn

    Lovely and thoughtful tribute to an important tradition. A grandmother teaches her granddaughter how to find and pick sweetgrass for basket making. Illustrations are done in soothing earth tones. Back matter includes more information on the Wabanaki Confederacy and people and the tradition of using sweetgrass for basket making. Also includes a short glossary of Passamaquoddy and Maliseet words.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Tara

    Nice book to read aloud with your child. It shows passing of traditions from one generation to another. Of interest to those who like to read about Native Americans (Own Voices), generational love and learning, and basket makers. It's too long for me to use in a preschool storytime, my main interest in children's literature, but would be a perfect personal one for those children who want to hear a story from their caregiver or adult. Nice book to read aloud with your child. It shows passing of traditions from one generation to another. Of interest to those who like to read about Native Americans (Own Voices), generational love and learning, and basket makers. It's too long for me to use in a preschool storytime, my main interest in children's literature, but would be a perfect personal one for those children who want to hear a story from their caregiver or adult.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Anthony

    Musqon accompanies her grandmother to participate in a tribal tradition of picking sweetgrass to weave baskets as is the tradition of the Wabanaki Confederacy - the People of First Light. Musqon must show patience and not be in a rush to pick the wrong grasses. Musqon soon finds her way to select the correct grasses, and make her grandmother and ancestors proud.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Erin

    A lovely, quite, intergenerational book with important cultural significance. The main character comes to her lesson gently and with admirable intentions. I would have liked more illustrations of what happens to the sweetgrass after being picked--beyond the few illustrations of baskets that are in the book--more the community of weaving or the process of preparing the materials for the baskets.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Erin Buhr

    This gentle Native American story is about a girl learning how to pick sweetgrass for basket weaving. It is a wonderful childhood moment of a grandparent teaching a skill that has been passed down through generations. It is warm and patient just like the relationship in the story. A wonderful window into a different culture that is highly accessible and readable.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Peacegal

    This is a peaceful and culturally rich story. A child learns to harvest sweetgrass, and also learns a bit about patience, mindfulness, and history in the process. We learn more about sweetgrass and its importance in art, spirituality, and commerce at the book's conclusion. This is a peaceful and culturally rich story. A child learns to harvest sweetgrass, and also learns a bit about patience, mindfulness, and history in the process. We learn more about sweetgrass and its importance in art, spirituality, and commerce at the book's conclusion.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Sara A

    The illustrations are beautiful in this book. The story of a young girl and her grandmother heading out to pick sweetgrass to make into baskets is a gentle look at the connections between the Peoples and the land. It is beautiful in its simplicity.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Beth P

    Pair with Watercress

  16. 4 out of 5

    Michele Knott

    A story about patience and continuing traditions of a family's culture. A story about patience and continuing traditions of a family's culture.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Cathy Ogren

    A beautiful story of patience, understanding, and native traditions passed on to a new generation.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Andréa

    Note: I accessed a digital review copy of this book through Edelweiss.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Y.Poston

    beautiful cultural exploration of sweetgrass

  20. 5 out of 5

    Alice

    stars for this book that honors tradition and ecology

  21. 4 out of 5

    Josie Stewart

  22. 4 out of 5

    Molly

  23. 4 out of 5

    Hilary

  24. 5 out of 5

    Em

  25. 4 out of 5

    Book Hippie

  26. 4 out of 5

    Ruthbc

  27. 5 out of 5

    Julie

  28. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer

  29. 4 out of 5

    Katherine Humboldt

  30. 5 out of 5

    Ed

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