Awards and Nominations:Winner of the Silver Birch AwardWinner of the Geoffrey Bilson Award for Historical Fiction2005 Snow Willow Award NomineeShortlisted for the 2004 Sunburst AwardKiriyama Prize Not
I am prey, caught in a spider's web. Every time the spider creeps, he makes me whirl around and around. My life is spinning without me. I cling to the web with my hands and feet.
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I look for a place to leap.
Nana's future is certain, and she dreads it. Daughter of a proud Kwakiutl
chief, she will become a weaver, marry the son of a chief from another tribe, and leave
her beloved home forever. Nanolatch, Nana's twin brother, will be chief one day, and he
welcomes it. He will be a warrior and a strong leader, just like his father. Together, the twins will enter their initiation to adulthood, and fulfill the roles that have been determined for them since the day they were born.
But when the chief leads a warring party to destroy another tribe's village and capture a slave, the fortunes of the Kwakiutl tribe begin to turn. Convinced that they must make amends, the chief casts about for a way to undo the curse that has descended on their people.
The young slave, Noh, has been mute since the day she was torn from her village. Daughter of a shaman, she has already seen visions of the twins. Only gradually does she understand that her own emergence as a shaman is inextricably linked with the twins and their approaching initiation. Through her sympathy for Nana and her growing love for Nanolatch, she understands that she must help them fulfill their true destiny. But can she save them, knowing that it will take a terrible sacrifice to restore them all to their rightful place?
Set on the West Coast of North America during the fifteenth century, Initiation is a powerful story of a proud tribe, the Spirit World that guides them, and the universal struggle of three extraordinary young people on the brink of adulthood.
Cover design and vignettes by Paul Morin.
Awards and Nominations:
- Winner of the Silver Birch Award
- Winner of the Geoffrey Bilson Award for Historical Fiction
- UNESCO International Youth Library - White Raven Award special mention, 2004
- Shortlist for the 2004 Canadian Library Association Young Adult Book Award
- 2005 Snow Willow Award Nominee
- Shortlisted for the 2004 Sunburst Award
- Kiriyama Prize Notable
- Red Cedar Award shortlist
- Stellar Award nominee
- Manitoba Young Readers' Choice Award Nominee 2005
View Review text
"...a dramatic, compelling story with appealing characters."
-- HI-RISE newspaper
"The novel is based on a Kwakiutl transformation myth which centered on the belief that, when the salmon were scarce, a warrior could call them back by diving into the water and turning into a salmon. Well researched, the novel transmits a powerful sense of ancient native culture and values and an understanding of aboriginal life before European contact. The award-winning author of If I Just Had Two Wings, Virginia Frances Schwartz evokes a strong reverence for the natural world and makes a plea for conservation to save the endangered migrating salmon. Young readers will relate to the challenges of the three remarkable protagonists on the threshold of maturity who question the traditional roles their society expected them to fulfill."
-- CM Magazine
"Grounded in the myths and legends of the Northwest Indians, Schwartz's story contains lots of details of daily life infused with reverence for the natural world."
-- School Library Journal
"At its best Schwartz's prose is lyrical, concrete and sensual in a way that evokes the salty, watery life of B.C.'s coast and conveys vividly the longings of her characters...plays beautifully with the metaphor of female transformation, of a freedom that comes through joining the animal world...there's something potent and haunting about this imagining."
-- The Toronto Star
"Beautiful language and a strong sense of place and history combine to make Initiation a vivid and memorable book. Grounded in pre-contact Kwakiutl culture, this powerful novel centres on three young people whose passage into adulthood will change the fate of their tribes. Virginia Frances Schwartz has crafted a superb fantasy novel, resonant with the strength of myth and timeless in its examination of the human heart."
-- Sunburst Award jury
View Biographical note
Virginia Frances Schwartz is the author of three historical novels, including Messenger and Send One Angel Down, an American Library Association Best Book for Young Adults and winner of a Parent's Choice Gold Award. Born in Ontario, Canada, Virginia now lives in New York City, where she teaches writing to elementary school children.
Paul Morin, an accomplished painter, sculptor and musician is also the illustrator of a number of children's books. He has also received 25 international awards for his book illustrations. In addition, Paul has won many accolades for his work, including ten awards from the Canadian Association of Photographers and Illustrators, and a nomination for the Kate Greenaway Medal. Originally from Calgary, Alberta, Mr. Morin now lives near Rockwood, Ontario.