The Range Eternal

The Range Eternal cover
The Range Eternal by Louise Erdrich. Illustrated by Steve Johnson and Lou Fancher

by Louise Erdrich
Illustrated by Steve Johnson and Lou Fancher
University of Minnesota Press, 2020
32 pages

Ages 6-9

“On cold winter days in the Turtle Mountains, I helped Mama cook soup on our woodstove, The Range Eternal.” On the blue enamel stove in the Anishinaabe narrator’s childhood home, her mother deftly feeds wood into the fire even as she stirs. In winter, the stove is also comfort from the cold, and protection from the Windigo ice monster. But when the narrator looks through the stove’s mica window, the range of this story expands. In the flames, she sees the deer and bear, buffalo and badger that once roamed North Dakota. “I flew the sky, the range of herons, of cranes, hawks, and eagles. I saw The Range Eternal.” After her family gets electricity, The Range Eternal stove is replaced by a modern stove that doesn’t require tending, but clearly something is lost, too, in story that ends with the now-adult adult narrator finding the stove of her childhood in a thrift store and bringing it home to share the vision and history found in its flames, and the warmth of its heart with her family. This substantial picture book narrative is graced by vivid, beautifully rendered details (“The breath of my sister in the rollaway was a feather standing above her lips.”) It feels immediate rather than nostalgic, set against illustrations full of their own warmth. In a note the author explains the stove is based on stories her mother shared about her own childhood.  ©2021 Cooperative Children’s Book Center