Braiding Sweetgrass for Young Adults
Robin Wall Kimmerer
Illustrated by Nicole Neidhardt
Adapted by Monique Gray Smith
Published November 1, 2022
About Braiding Sweetgrass
Drawing from her experiences as an Indigenous scientist, botanist Robin Wall Kimmerer demonstrated how all living things–from strawberries and witch hazel to water lilies and lichen–provide us with gifts and lessons every day in her best-selling book BRAIDING SWEETGRASS. Adapted for young adults by Monique Gray Smith, this new edition reinforces how wider ecological understanding stems from listening to the earth’s oldest teachers: the plants around us.
With informative sidebars, reflection questions, and art from illustrator Nicole Neidhardt, BRAIDING SWEETGRASS FOR YOUNG ADULTS brings Indigenous wisdom, scientific knowledge, and the lessons of plant life to a new generation.
I first heard of BRAIDING SWEETGRASS when a book club that I technically joined but am terrible at participating in read the book for one of its selections. I followed some of the discussion about the book, and I had it on my reading list, but hadn’t managed to read it by the club deadline. So when I saw that there was a YA version coming out, I figured that would actually be perfect to read and review here.
One of my favorite things about the book is how thoughtful it is. The author shares stories and traditions, inviting readers into a greater understanding of the way that North American Indigenous people see the world around us. Instead of thinking of ourselves as the most important or only important creatures, she invites us to think of all of nature as fellow creatures, or kin. I like the inherent respect and the way that changes the connection with the natural world when I think of it like that.
She also shares the idea that we approach nature with gratitude, appreciating her gifts. Asking before we take. Taking only what we need. Using everything we take.
The book is broken into short sections that explore tradition and the science underlying those methods. Do they work? Why? How? I loved the connection between those two things. I think it really resonates with me that spiritual truth and science are hand in hand, not oppositional forces. So I loved that exploration.
She also continually invites readers to think about how we interact with the natural world. In what ways are we connected to nature? How can we connect? Or show gratitude? How can the traditions she shares (and cautions against appropriating) influence how we see and act in nature.
So I feel like she gave me a lot to think about, and a lot to look forward to experimenting with.
I think BRAIDING SWEETGRASS is a great book for anyone interested in conservation or plants or nature. It’s also a welcoming read to any who want to learn more about Indigenous people, their history, and their beliefs.
Recommended for Ages 12 up.
The author shares her own and other Indigenous tribes’ traditions and stories (with permission). She is herself a member of the Potawatomi tribe.
Profanity/Crude Language Content
Includes creation stories, ceremonies, and traditions of Indigenous people.
References to the Trail of Death (forced relocation of tribes which resulted in the deaths of many). References to residential schools and the harm they have done.
Tobacco is sprinkled on the ground as a ceremonial gift.
Note: This post contains affiliate links, which do not cost you anything to use, but which help support this blog. I received a free copy of BRAIDING SWEETGRASS FOR YOUNG ADULTS in exchange for my honest review.