________________ CM . . . . Volume VI Number 3 . . . . October 1, 1999

cover Arctic Stories.

Michael Avaarluk Kusugak. Illustrated by Vladyana Langer Krykorka.
Willowdale, ON: Annick Press, 1998.
40 pp., cloth, $18.95.
ISBN 1-55037-453-2.

Subject Headings:
Inuit-Northwest Territories-Repulse Bay-Juvenile fiction.
Children's stories, Canadian (English).

Kindergarten - grade 4 / Ages 5 - 9.
Review by Valerie Nielsen.

*** /4

image This collection of three tales, set in Repulse Bay, features an endearing 10-year-old heroine, named Agatha, through whose eyes the reader experiences life in the high Arctic. Arctic Stories is another picture-book collaboration by acclaimed Inuit storyteller Michael Kusugak and talented artist Vladyana Krykorka. The author weaves a tapestry of simply told stories, each of which, by skilful use of detail, manages to bring to life the experience of growing up in a small Inuit community. The first of Agatha's stories is based on one of Kusugak's real-life experiences. In 1958, the sky above Agatha's igloo is invaded by a black airship that "...looked like a giant avataq, a sealskin float, with fins on the back." Agatha yells at the monstrous flying object to go away so she can resume sleeping. To everyone's surprise, the ugly black thing turns around and flies off, and Agatha is declared a hero. The second story, again based on an incident from the author's childhood, features Agatha's encounter with that ugly but amazingly clever bird, the raven, who stays in the far north all winter long. In the last narrative, Agatha is sent off to school in Chesterfield Inlet, an English speaking community many miles from her home. Here she wrestles with home-sickness and having her knuckles hit if she doesn't kneel and hold her hands "just so". However, despite the bad things that happen at school, there are good things too, like skiing and skating. In this story, Agatha becomes a real hero, using her skis to rescue Father Fafard who has fallen through the ice while showing off his ice-skating skills.
      Vladyana Krykorka's paintings give the reader a beautifully detailed rendition of the Arctic landscape in every season. Her depictions of Kusugak's human and animal characters are wonderfully satisfying, full of life and humour. As in the team's other collaborations, such as Baseball Bats for Christmas (1990), Hide and Sneak (1992), and Northern Lights: The Soccer Trails (1993), the illustrations complement the text brilliantly.
      The pace of each story is gentle, with not much drama to engage young listeners hoping for excitement. The beauty of Kusugak's work lies in his ability to evoke for his southern readers a vivid picture of a way of life that is fast disappearing. Arctic Tales will be a welcome addition to the resources that teachers and librarians look for as they plan their units on the Arctic and the Inuit. The book's Grade three reading level should guarantee its popularity among young students doing projects on Inuit life.


Valerie Nielsen is a retired teacher-librarian who lives in Winnipeg, MB.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364