BASEBALL BATS FOR CHRISTMAS
Michael Kusugak. Illustrated by Vladyana
Volume 19 Number 2
Seven-year-old Arvaarluk was an asthmatic Inuit boy who loved baseball. He lived in Repulse Bay on the Arctic Circle, where there were no "standingups" (trees) in 1955. Rocky Parsons, the bush pilot, inadvertently leaves six Christmas trees at the Hudson's Bay store. No one knows what they are for until Arvaarluk's friend Yvo takes an axe to one and fashions a baseball bat. All the kids in Repulse Bay learn to play baseball, and even Arvaarluk can enjoy the game.
The telling of this tale is woven through a web of details, each of which would make a story in itself. For instance, while some space is devoted to the Inuit custom of giving your best friend your most treasured possession as a Christmas gift, it is incidental to the story at hand and deserves to be told as a tale in itself. The flow of language in the book is that of a story-teller who is more comfortable in the oral tradition, where details can more easily be introduced and expanded upon, rather than the printed word.
This is the same team that produced A Promise Is a Promise ¹, with Robert Munsch, although the only hint in this printing is the illustrator holding the book in the back cover photograph.
Both books contain an original story by Kusugak, as opposed to the retelling of an Inuit tale. The subdued water-colour illustrations are similar to A Promise Is a Promise and show the many guises of an arctic sky. The real difference between the two books is the telling of the tale in a far more individual, fresh, and likely more authentic voice.
Patricia L.M. Butler, Scarborough, ON.
¹ Reviewed vol. XVI/6 November 1988, p. 228.
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