CM Archive
CM Archive Book Review line

Michael Arvaarluk Kusugak
Illustrated by Vladyana Krykorka Toronto, Annick Press, 1993. 24pp, paper
ISBN 0-55037-338-2 (paper) $5.95, ISBN 1-55037-339-0 (cloth) $15.95. Distributed by Firefly Books. CIP

Subject Heading:
Inuit-Canada-Juvenile fiction.

Grades 3 and up / Ages 8 and up

Reviewed by Patricia Fry

Volume 22 Number 1
1994 Jan/Feb

The aurora borealis, or northern lights, occur when the weather is cold and the sky clear. Sometimes they are a milky white, sometimes they are all the colours of the rainbow. They are a phenomenon associated with the north and so it should be no surprise that the Inuit have a legend to explain them. Soccer is a traditional game of the Inuit. In early winter, the sea ice freezes to form a giant playing field that stretches for miles.

During winter, days become shorter, and so the Inuit play soccer at night by the light of the moon and the blazing northern lights. The Inuit legend explains that each strand of light represents one soul. So those dancing lights, which are the souls of the dead, like to play a lively game of soccer just as they did when they were living. The Inuit name for the northern lights means "the trail of those playing soccer On Baffin Island, the northern lights are known simply as "soccer trails."

This book opens with a young girl, Kataujaq, who is learning about her arctic home from her mother. Together they travel across the sea ice, pick flowers during the summer, and gather berries in the autumn. But those happy times end when her mother dies of tuberculosis. To ease Kataujaq's sorrow, her grandmother tells her the legend of the northern lights.

The artwork illustrating this story is exquisite with strong, bold colours and careful detail. It's very easy to become mesmerized by some of these pictures! A full-page painting accompanies each page of text. A nice touch is added to the text side of the page with the inclusion of a beaded replica of one of the designs traditionally used to decorate Inuit clothing. Many of these designs can be picked out on the clothing of Kataujaq's mother.

This book has many applications to the school curriculum, from an analysis of myths and legends to a study unit on native peoples. Other readers might choose this book because it deals with death and life after death. On the back cover, the author explains that his grandparents and father are dead and that it is a great consolation for him to go out on a clear moonlit night to watch them enjoying a game of soccer.


Patricia Fry is a teacher-librarian with the Peel Board of Education in Mississauga, Ontario

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