NICKOMMOH! Atheneum Books,
Illustrated by Marcia Sewall
Long before the Pilgrims celebrated their first Thanksgiving at Plymouth, the Native Americans of the
area celebrated the harvest during a feast called Nickommoh, meaning "give away" or "exchange." The
pilgrims' Thanksgiving was actually more similar to this traditional Native American celebration than to the
holiday we celebrate today. Jackie French Koller's festive prose poem brings to life the rhythms of this
harvest celebration as the People come together from villages far and near to construct sweat lodges,
eat turkey and sweet cakes, play games, and dance beneath the star blanket that Moon Sister has
drawn across the sky. Marcia Sewall uses her considerable knowledge of the Narragansett people to
portray in striking pictures the ancient patterns of our first purely American holiday.
Publisher's Weekly Starred Review!
From Publishers Weekly
In prose with the cadence of a drumbeat, the author reveals the rhythms of Narragansett life, devoted to
the Creator, Kautantawwitt, and punctuated by praise: "They come together, together to give thanks.
Nickommoh!" In marked contrast to her usual style, Sewall's (The Pilgrims of Plimoth) scratchboard and
gouache illustrations convey both simplicity and complexity. Even as she portrays individualsAmen cutting
poles for the great lodge, women covering the poles with bark, children playing tug-of-warAher
compositions build a unity among the characters. Almost hypnotic in their power, art and text are infused
with the communal spirit of Thanksgiving. Ages 6-9. (Oct.)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.
From School Library Journal
PreSchool-Grade 4-"It is Taqountikeeswush, the Moon of the Falling Leaves. Time for the People to come
together, together to give thanks. NICKOMMOH!" Koller's poetic narrative builds a sequence of activities:
coming together, building a shelter, feasting, playing games, entering a sweat lodge, and dancing. Each
double-page spread ends with the exclamation, "NICKOMMOH!," a word defined in the glossary as "a
celebrational gathering." An author's note explains that "Long before the first Pilgrim set foot in the New
World, Native Americans were celebrating rites of thanksgiving ." Sewall's strongly composed,
impressionistic illustrations have black outlines and rich earth tones to anchor and solidify the poetic text.
Vivid descriptions draw readers into the life of the Narragansett Indian tribe who once lived in present-day
Rhode Island. The writing is studded with words from the Narragansett language, which are all defined in
an informative glossary. This engaging partnership of art and text will be a natural read-aloud in the
weeks before Thanksgiving.
Margaret A. Chang, Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, North Adams
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.
From Kirkus Reviews
Koller portrays a Narragansett nickommoh, or celebratory gathering, from which it is very likely the
tradition of Thanksgiving was drawn. As explained in an exemplary notebrief, clear, interestingat the end
of the book, these gatherings occurred 13 times a year, once each lunar month. The harvest gathering is
one of the larger gatherings: a great lodge was built, copious food was prepared, and music and dance
extended deep into the night. Koller laces the text with a good selection of Narragansett words, found in
the glossary (although there is no key to pronunciation, even for words such as Taqountikeeswush and
Puttuckquapuonck). The text is written as a chanted prose poem, with much repetition, which can be both
incantatory and hackneyed, as when ``frost lies thick on the fields at dawn, and the winged ones pass
overhead in great numbers.'' Mostly the phrases are stirringas are Sewall's scratchboard evocationsand
often inspirationalfor this nickommoh puts to shame what has become known as the day before the
launch of the holiday shopping season.
(Picture book. 6-9) -- Copyright ©1999, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved
Long before the days of microwavable turkey, cranberry sauce from a can, and digestion in front of TV
football, the Pilgrims celebrated their first Thanksgiving at Plymouth. And long before this, the Native
Americans of the area celebrated the harvest during a feast called Nickommoh, which means "give away"
or "exchange." This handsome book depicts the Nickommoh festivities of the Narragansett people of what
is now Rhode Island. Every autumn they would have a giveaway dance during which the sachem (leader)
distributed gifts such as donated food, clothing, and furs among widows, orphans, or anyone in need. But
this was only one part of the festival. People feasted, played games, danced, prayed, sang, sweated in
sweat lodges, and generally had a grand old time.
Jackie French Koller's solemn, rhythmic, almost chant-like writing is accompanied by the earthy browns,
reds, and yellows of Marcia Sewall's striking illustrations to create a mood that feels just right for the
subject. Koller first explored early New England history in The Primrose Way, and is well established as
author of over two dozen books for children and young adults, including the delightful One Monkey Too
Many. A glossary of the Narragansett words used in the book is included. (Ages 5 to 9) --Emilie Coulter