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I'm a Medicine Woman, Too! Review

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'I'm a Medicine Woman, Too!'

By Jesse Wolf Hardin

© Hops Press 2009
8.5x11” Hardcover, 48 pages
ISBN 978-1-892784-31-5

One of my favorite children’s books of all time has been Thomas J. Elpel’s ‘Shanleya’s Quest.’ In this book Elpel has taken his unique approach to plant identification (the ubiquitous ‘Botany in a Day’) and simplified it to help children learn basic plant families through an engaging story. Perhaps the greatest aspect of ‘Shanleya’s Quest’ is the fact that the main character is a strong, intelligent female who bravely explores uncharted territory. ‘Shanleya’s Quest’ raised the bar for the literature that is necessary if we are to create a new culture. To craft a book of similar quality was always going to be very tough endeavor, but Jesse Wolf Hardin accomplishes just that with ‘I’m a Medicine Woman Too!’
    Like ‘Shanleya’s Quest,’ IMWT! also has a strong young female as it’s protagonist. In this case it is Rhiannon, an eight year old who desires to be a Medicine Woman, but is frustrated by her young age and perceived lack of knowledge. The story is laid out in the form of a dialogue between Rhiannon and her father, who is also the narrator. The story begins by recounting her early years spent scaling the cliffs and canyons of the Southwest, following the tracks of her animal relations, and accompanying her mother on Wildcrafting excursions. As her father explains to her, it is precisely this early immersion in wilderness which laid out the foundations of her hidden knowledge.
    “A Medicine Woman is not something you wait to become,” he points out, “it’s what you do with your life, starting right now!”
    Her father goes on to help her see her own beauty and ability and it is here that IMWT!’s strength lies; Rhiannon is not talked down to and told of her ability, but rather she is encouraged to look within to discover for herself. This leads to IMWT! being a very empowering book for young children, which is needed now more than ever. Hardin also manages to avoid the urban/rural divide that many parents have wrestled with over time, when he describes that the Medicine Woman tradition of ancient times can still be found, “...in the trees, in the yard, or the shadowy far ends of a neighborhood park.” This will effectively help children who live among concrete and power lines to feel included and encouraged to explore their own urban surrounding for edible and medicinal plants.
    Along the way, we meet other Medicine Women of various cultures; from the Apache reservation, a Mexican curandera, and a folk healer from the Ozark mountains. These individuals help remedy the stereotype that Herbalism is either a New Age trend or an antiquated European practice.
    In the end, Rhiannon learns that everything a Medicine Woman needs - such as Compassion, Truth, and Curiosity - is already present within her, and that no matter what she does with her life, whether she becomes a farmer, artist, or teacher her unique abilities and skills will be a blessing. Kids can take this powerful lesson with them as they go out into the world to save, defend, heal, and nurture the Earth and all her relations.
    Throughout IMWT! readers will meet their plant allies both within the text (“...climbing high into a mullberry tree, gathering leaves for a lung tonic and berries for a pie”) as well as the drawings (every page has Herbal and botanical illustrations incorporated into the picture).
    Like the story itself, the illustrations of IMWT! were also done by Hardin. Children will find these soft, colorful hand-drawn sketches calming and pleasant to the eye. Also, Hardin has included many items which parents and children will find familiar such as the excellent Wildcraft! board game lying by Rhiannon’s bare feet, or the bookshelf with titles like ‘Where the Wild Things Are,’ Rosemary Gladstar’s ‘A Family Herbal’ and Juliette de Bairacli Levy’s ‘Nature’s Children.’ This helps to reinforce the connection between the reader and Rhiannon.
    As a bonus, at the end of the book there is a Name the Herb Game where readers can test their memory and Herbal knowledge.  Example: “Page 32 - The plant and root below this Medicine Woman is a kind of wild licorice used for the lungs by Herbalists in China and elsewhere. Another classic lung Herb is the tall plant growing next to her, with soft fuzzy leaves and a tall seed stalk. What is its name?”
    ‘I’m a Medicine Woman, Too!’ is a beautiful work of art. A truly magical story that is essential if we are to realize our wildest dreams of a more healthy and beautiful world.


for personally signed copies send $15 + $8 Priority Mail to:
IMWT!, PO Box 688, Reserve, NM 87830
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