Sometimes I feel like a turtle,
slow and quiet.
I retreat into my shell
and find peace and solitude.
According to Anishinaabe tradition, which spans thousands of years of history, the word totem, or doodem, means clan. Each Anishinaabe individual belongs to a clan, which is represented by a different traditional animal. Different animals represent different skills, knowledge and abilities, and the tradition reinforces the idea of the interconnectedness of all living things.
Sometimes I Feel Like a Fox gently encourages readers young and old to explore and experience the Anishinaabe tradition of totem animals in a poetic celebration of aboriginal culture. From the a strong and confident bear to the sensitive and kind deer, twelve children explain why they connect with different traditional animals, and share what that animal means to them. The text is simple and elegant, and creates a series of gentle, evocative poems.
Danielle Daniel’s soft, colourful illustrations depict each child with a mask of their chosen animal, almost becoming one with their animal. This reinforces the Anishinaabe tradition of the totem animal a part of each person – not simply a mask, but a very real aspect of their spirit and identity.
While tradition holds that each person has one predominant animal totem that acts as their guide through life, children may associate with different animal guides at different times. Like the children in the poems, they might sometimes feel like bear, or a wolf, or a deer. All animals are connected, both within the animal kingdom and to all living things, and we all have aspects of different animals within us.
Writer and mixed-media artist Danielle Daniel wanted to help her young son connect with his Aboriginal roots, and was inspired to create this accessible introduction to the totem tradition. As she writes in her author’s note,
In my book, a selection of totems act as guides to help children identify with the positive character traits of animals that might be familiar to them…Totem animals remind us that all living organisms are interconnected. We are all part of the same cycle of life.
Sometimes I Feel Like a Fox is a beautiful addition to any library collection, and especially to a First Nations or Aboriginal collection.