Recommended Age, Grade, and Reading Levels
- Age: 9 to 12
- Grade: 4 to 8
- Reading age: 9 to 12
Inspired by award-winning Inuk director Zacharias Kunuk’s short film of the same name, The Shaman’s Apprentice tells the story of a young shaman in training who must face her first test—a trip to the underground to visit Kannaaluk, The One Below, who holds the answers to why a community member has become ill.
Facing dark spirits and physical challenges, the young shaman must learn to stifle her fear and listen to what Kannaaluk has to tell her.
About the authors
Born in 1957 in a sod house on Baffin Island, Zacharias Kunuk was a carver in 1981 when he sold three sculptures in Montreal to buy a home video camera and 27” TV to bring back to Igloolik, a settlement of 500 Inuit who had voted twice to refuse access to outside television. After working six years for Inuit Broadcasting Corporation as producer and station manager, Kunuk co-founded Igloolik Isuma Productions Inc. in 1990 with Paul Apak Angilirq, Pauloosie Qulitalik, and Norman Cohn, and Kunuk Cohn Productions Inc. in 2004 with Norman Cohn. In 2001, Kunuk’s first feature, Atanarjuat The Fast Runner, won the Camera d’or at the Cannes Film Festival and was shown around the world. Kunuk has directed more than 30 films and videos screened in film festivals and theatres, museums and art galleries, and on TV. He has honorary doctorates from Trent University and Wilfred Laurier University; is the winner of the Cannes Camera d’or, three Genie Awards including Best Director and Best Picture, a National Arts Award, and the National Aboriginal Achievement Award, and the 2017 Technicolor Clyde Gilmour Award from the Toronto Film Critics Association. Zacharias Kunuk was named an Officer of the Order of Canada in 2015.
Megan Kyak-Monteith is an Inuk illustrator and painter born in Pond Inlet, Nunavut. She is currently living in Halifax, Nova Scotia, and studying interdisciplinary arts at NSCAD University with a focus on painting. When she is not working on illustrations, she can be found watching movies with her friends, shopping, or working in her studio on her large-scale oil paintings.
- Winner, Indigenous Voices Award
- Unknown, American Folklore Society's Aesop Accolade.
"The Shaman’s Apprentice is a lovely and engaging book, one which provides a window into traditional Inuit practice and relationships, situating the importance and centrality of the elder female in a position of knowledge and authority within the community. Despite both the dramatic and magical or supernatural elements of the story, it’s a surprisingly quiet and calm tale, complemented by the visual style of the artist. The use of many Inuit words adds to the richness of the atmosphere of the book."—CM Magazine
"This traditional Inuit story is rich with culture, language and an inter-generational relationship blended with subtle lessons about facing fears and karma...Zacharias Kunuk embeds us in a traditional setting of the Inuit and honours this story with its messages of customs and beliefs...As with all traditional storytelling that is destined to teach and carry forward culture, The Shaman's Apprentice does so admirably in words and art, informing those outside of the culture and preserving it for those within."—CanLit for Little Canadians
"The Shaman’s Apprentice is an excellent addition to a growing number of Indigenous authored and illustrated picture books."—Quill & Quire
"The folkloric and magical elements of the story will intrigue...Kyak-Monteith's detailed illustrations help to bring the Nunavut setting to life. Her arresting artwork draws readers into the story with detailed landscapes, dwellings, and furnishings; supernatural elements; and authentic belongings. A thought-provoking tale with an appended glossary."—Booklist
"The Inuk filmmaker’s book looks at young Supijaq, a shaman in training who follows her grandmother underground to heal a sick man. Is Supijaq brave enough to face this important test in her training and meet Kannaaluk, the One Below, who can tell them why the man’s sick? Kyak-Monteith’s illustrations beautifully capture the power and darkness of this folktale."—The Globe and Mail