Faced with two sons learning to read and no dual-language books at her disposal, Emilie Corbiere took matters into her own hands. She created Porcupine, a “grumpy sourpuss” who trots through the world having adventures and making friends.
“There just didn’t seem to be anything out there for my children,” she told the Canadian digital magazine MuchMoreCanada.com. “I looked in bookshops and in the library and couldn’t find what I was looking for. I made up my mind to create a character that children could relate to but that could also be written using the Ojibwe language.”
What sets the series apart is that each book contains four Ojibwe words that are repeated throughout the story, by way of teaching a bit of language as kids learn to read.
Corbiere, from Walpole Island First Nation, wanted to create a character along the lines of Bugs Bunny, Sponge-Bob SquarePants and Dora the Explorer, all of them cute but none of them aboriginal.
Five years later she is working on book number four of the English-Ojibwe series, and Porcupine is becoming a staple character of children’s reading lists.
Corbiere took time out from her successful business as a beadwork artisan and designer of jewelry and regalia to write Porcupine’s Bad Day, about an ornery porcupine who wakes up on the wrong side of the bed and gets angry at all of his forest friends. Then she progressed to Porcupine Goes to the City, in which he makes a wrong turn and ends up in unexpected places—and then to Porc and Beans, her latest offering. A fourth is forthcoming.
Besides teaching Ojibwe, Corbiere’s books help remote northern Quebec communities. She currently lives in Tottenham, Ontario, and donates a portion of the book’s proceeds to True North Aid, a nonprofit Canadian organization that delivers food, clothing, medical supplies and books to fly-in-only Northern Ontario First Nations communities.