”Sad and beautiful, My Bison is a book to fall in love with, a book to share, a book to help smooth over the sting of loss after investing so much time, energy, and love into something special. It is a wonderful glimpse into the world of uncomfortable or difficult emotions that everyone can appreciate.”
My Bison is a tender story about the gradual making of a life-long friendship through deep emotional connection.
Little by little a young girl earns the trust of a wild bison. She goes from admiring him from afar as he returns to her field year after year, to sharing a fireside story with him, to snuggling into his warm fur in a cozy corner nook doing nothing but just being together. She comes to appreciate his cold nose and his breath. The love she feels for him is real and pure, and, all the more important, appears to be mutual.
As she grows up she reminisces with the bison about her mother, who we assume has passed away at some point. She shares her precious memories with the bison and is comforted by his presence. When the bison was gone, she misses him as thoroughly as she misses her mother. But relationships never stand still and neither does this one. With age comes a loss and one winter, the bison does not return. The girl shares her grief with the reader, expressing the ways she will always remember him and hold him close to her heart.
Using only charcoal with a speckle of blue ink wash, the pictures are hauntingly nostalgic, carrying a dreamlike old-fashioned quality. The bittersweet lessons of life are played out with emotion and melancholy in each illustration. A hint of a time long gone lingers, like one would sense looking at aged sepia photographs that hold a smudge, a blur, and a touch of mystery. This is a story of fond reflection and the beauty of pondered memories.
There is a wonderful play and tension between reality and fantasy as the story meanders from plausible to unlikely. Seeing a bison across the field is a highly likely occurrence in some parts of the country. We can even believe that a young girl would be bold enough to approach such a massive creature and hold out an edible peace offering. The friendship has longevity and consistency as we recognize the high probability of the bison’s natural migratory habits to come and go year after year.
A shift in reality occurs when the bison enters human territory and is having tea by the fireplace as the girl sits in a wing-back chair, and later when they are cuddled up together in a built-in sleeping cove. Clearly the young girl has a sensitive and vivid imagination, and the reader can suspend reality and buy in to the extraordinary relationship that has developed. Perhaps this is a grown-up sharing a part of her childhood fantasy, telling her story the way she wished it had happened. Memory, with time, has the ability to play tricks on us.
Sad and beautiful, My Bison is a book to fall in love with, a book to share, a book to help smooth over the sting of loss after investing so much time, energy, and love into something special. It is a wonderful glimpse into the world of uncomfortable or difficult emotions that everyone can appreciate.