One of my jobs at the bookstore is to process our special orders. When I saw someone had ordered A Girl Called Echo V01 Pemmican Wars, I was intrigued. I had never heard of it. I did not know the author, Katherena Vermette, or the illustrator, Scott B. Henderson. That was not unusual, as I am not familiar with most graphic novel authors and/or illustrators, but one would have thought this book might have come up in searches for minority characters, characters who are gay, or people who are abled different. Perhaps this is because of how much of a minority the character of Echo is. She is of the Metis people. A quick google search brought up this definition: (especially in western Canada) a person of mixed indigenous and Euro-American ancestry, one of a group of such people who in the 19th century constituted the so-called Métis nation in the areas around the Red and Saskatchewan rivers.
With that background behind me, I located a copy. Not only was I going to get my “First in a Series” block, I was going to learn about something I had no knowledge of. My knowledge of Canadian history is minimal at best, but my knowledge of the Pemmican Wars nonexistent.
Sadly, my knowledge is still limited. This first edition is just the first of an unknown number of books. I would have loved the whole series (or at least most of the story) in one collection. This first volume ends on an awkward note, but that is not a surprise as the whole story was awkward. There is no background about Echo. You are just thrown into her world. Perhaps that is a symbol of Echo herself (we learn she is in a foster home and she is Metis, but both seemed forced introductions). What was not as forced was the introduction of some of the other characters. One of her foster brothers is in a wheel chair with limited communication skills, but the teacher who is of the GLBTQ+ community is a little forced (this is a new school for Echo and her teacher tells her to look for the rainbow flags), but they are both just there.
The story itself could be fantastic. It is a piece of history I think many do not know about. The interesting way the history/past is introduced is Echo has daydreams/has dreams in school/home about being sent back to the 19th century and the sees the two factions that would make up the Pemmican Wars. She befriends a girl of the time (that does not find it weird that Echo is wearing a t-shirt that says Weird or ripped pants) who tells her about their shared community.
Perhaps the best part of the story is the fact that there is not a lot of text. You mostly are moved through the story by the illustrations. You see the rainbow flags of the teacher’s room; you see Echo and how she tries to blend in; you see the special needs foster brother and the other foster brother who watches television; and finally, the very end you meet Echo’s mother. She was my favorite character simply because of her image: Life is etched on that woman’s face in an almost defeated expression. She looks old, tired, and maybe an explanation to why Echo is as so solitary.
The thing is, I did like this book. I am just disappointed it did not give me everything I hoped for. There is an afterwards to help tie in a few things. Research shows at least two others in this series which I will be trying to locate, and I also want to find the poetry of Vermette and learn more about them.
If you are looking for a short read for these categories: Illustrated, Own Voices, History/Schmistory or And So it Begins, I recommend finding a copy.