The air is cold, the nights are long, and Halloween is just around the corner. This is the time of year when pumpkins fly!
In the remote, fly-in community of Sanikiluaq, Nunavut, the last cargo flight of October brings some strange orange guests for the children. Seeing a pumpkin for the first time, the local kids eagerly carve and light their first jack-o-lantern.
But when everyone adjourns to the community hall for the Halloween dance, the pumpkin is left alone outside. The land around Sanikiluaq is home to many spirits who love to cause mischief, especially this time of year. But what would a land spirit do with a pumpkin? This adorable book gives young readers a window into how Halloween is celebrated in an Arctic Inuit community, incorporating contemporary celebrations and Inuit folklore.
In the narrator’s remote Arctic Inuit community, provisions are flown in via cargo plane; and one October, that cargo includes pumpkins. The child tells of their flight (these “passengers” don’t need seatbelts) and delivery to the school, where each class gets one to carve. Specific Halloween-tradition details follow: Elders trick-or-treat along with kids; afterward, there’s a dance and costume parade. The book ends with the narrator tucked up in bed, thinking about the tunnaat (ancient beings who live out on the land), and what use they might have for pumpkins. Brightly colored cartoony illustrations capture a snow-covered setting and close-knit community. Back matter provides notes on Inuktitut pronunciations.
[A] highly descriptive story with an original setting which deftly works in references to the lifestyle of the far north...The contents of When Pumpkins Fly will be a delightful experience for northern children who do not often see their communities depicted in books for young readers, and it will provide an introduction for southerners to a different way of life. There is a helpful note about Inuktitut pronunciation and a link to the publisher’s website for more language resources at the end of the book.
When Pumpkins Fly gives libraries and classrooms something new and unusual for the primary Halloween bookshelf.
This brief, upbeat Canadian import sets a familiar holiday against a cultural backdrop that rarely sees such fare in books. Young readers south of the Arctic will enjoy seeing how the holiday plays out in the far north, where pumpkins do not grow; those for whom Arctic Halloweens are commonplace will appreciate a story that includes their own customs in the celebration... Far from your everyday Halloween tale.
This simple account of how Halloween has been imported (or exported) into the Inuit community in Nunavut should give readers pause to wonder and ask questions about the manner and tenacity of other traditions. When Pumpkins Fly should be given its place on the shelf of books about celebrations.