Notes from a Children's Librarian: Books from the North

Book Cover Hide and Sneak

Our children's librarian columnist, Julie Booker, brings us a new view from the stacks every month.

*****

In Hide and Sneak, by Michael Kusuguk, illustrated by Vladyana Krykorka, Allashua isn't very good at hide-and-seek. She's too distracted by the native creatures of her homeland: butterflies, baby birds, and pond-dwellers. But when playing the game, Allashua falls prey to the Ijirak, a ptarmigan-like critter who hides children, and must use her acumen to find her way home. This one is about listening to parents, based on a myth told briefly in the preface. The border illustrations are of symbols of the north. Age 5+.

Book Cover A Promise is a Promise

Allashua appears again in A Promise is a Promise, by Robert Munsch and Michael Kusuguk, illustrated by Vladyana Krykorka. Her mom makes her promise not to fish on the sea ice for fear of the Qallupilluit waiting to pull her under. Allashua again disobeys her mother, and the Qallupilluit nabs her, making her promise to bring her brothers and sisters back to the sea with her before she lets her go. "A promise is a promise," her mother says when daughter tells her of the dilemma. Together, they devise a trick so the Qallupiluit will leave Allashua alone forever. Age 5+.

Book Cover Northern Lights

Another book by Kusuguk and Krykorka, Northern Lights: The Soccer Trails, is both a comforting tale of death and a snapshot of life in the North. When Kataujaq's mother dies, seasonal activities, like berry-picking and dog-sledding on Baffin Island, remind her of her memory. As the community plays night soccer on the sea ice, her grandmother tells how their people believe the souls of the dead continue the great game in the sky: the Northern Lights represent the players chasing after the head of a walrus. Age 6+.

Book Cover Baseball Bats for Christmas

Kusuguk and Krykorka's Baseball Bats for Christmas is set in 1955, in Repulse Bay on the Arctic Circle. Arvaarluk lives there along with fewer than 100 people residing in igloos and sod huts, where the land is "as bald as the belly of a dog with puppies," and the Union Jack flag flies—when Ricky Parsons' aeroplane arrives with supplies from the south, including “standing ups” (Christmas trees), which the children eventually find a use for. This book captures the sounds and sights of an isolated community, where the Christmas custom is to give your favourite possession to your best friend. Age 6+.

Book Cover Arctic Stories

And their Arctic Stories is made up of three stories with distinctive watercolour pictures all about a young girl called Agatha. The first is based on a real-life sighting of a helium-filled airship that passed over Repulse Bay in 1958 with scientists mapping northern Canada inside it. The second is about a raven that follows Agatha's grandmother everywhere. At first Agatha thinks the bird is ugly but as she observes its flips and tricks, she notices a whole host of intriguing birds preparing for winter. In the third, six-year-old Agatha takes a seaplane to a Catholic residential school where she isn't treated very nicely. She is, however, introduced to skiing and skating. There's a preface and afterward which provides context for these stories, as well as a glossary of Inuktitut words. Age 6+.

Book Cover The Polar Bear Son

Snow-filled landscapes are the backdrop for The Polar Bear Son, by Lydia Dabcovich, in which an old woman adopts a bear cub and raises it as her own. She's forced to save the bear from angry villagers who become threatened by it. The author's note tells us there are many versions of this tale told all over the Arctic. Age 5+.

Tiktala, by Margaret Shaw-MacKinnon, illustrated by Laszlo Gal, is a tale of northern soapstone carvers worried about their trade fading with each generation. Tiktala says she wants to carry on the trade, but for all the wrong reasons. As her test, she must find her spirit guide, who turns out to be a lowly seal, not a powerful bear, as she'd expected. Tulimak, the seal, is similarly unhappy to be paired with Tiktala, one of the same species that killed her pup. By encountering the adversities of seal life together, they gain mutual appreciation. Age 6+.

Book Cover Polar Bear's Gift

In The Polar Bear's Gift, by Jeanne Bushey, Pani lives with her grandmother after her parents die. She longs to hunt polar bear but her grandmother teaches her to fish instead. When she finds a wounded cub on the ice, instead of killing it, Pani nurses it back to life with fish caught with a lure that belonged to her mom. In return, the cub's mother rewards her with food and fur for life. Age 5+.

The following two titles are non-fiction, for grades 4–6.

The Inuksuk Book, by Mary Wallace, with its archival photos and water colour illustrations, is a great resource for research projects. Short chapters address the many uses of an Inukshuk, such as marking safe routes, good hunting/fishing areas, and corralling caribou. The book includes information about Arctic life—the long dark days, Northern lights, as well as a guide to building an Inukshuk and writing Inuktitut words. (Check out a gallery of Wallace's art from her latest book, An Inuksuk Means Welcome.)

Book Cover Nunavut Land and People

In Bill MacDonald's fun activity book, Nunavut Land and People, each page is reproducible. It includes fill-in-the-blanks, maps, and informative paragraphs with accompanying follow-up activities, such as diagrams, quizzes and word puzzles. Topics addressed consist of Iqaluit animals, clothing, seasons, vegetation, explorers, and natural resources.

January 19, 2016
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