Reviewed by Patricia Fry
Reviewed by Patricia Fry
Volume 22 Number 3
This novel examines the changing way of life for the Inuit people as they move from a nomadic way of life to one lived in settlements. It is an easy and interesting book for the Junior level (grades 4 to 6) reader.
A young Inuit girl, Liak, spends the first ten years of her life wandering as part of a nomadic tribe following the caribou and existing in the harsh arctic climate. The reader learns many details about this way of life, including the fact that fresh raw liver was eaten as a source of strength by the hunters and that caribou eyeballs were considered a delicacy, especially by Inuit children. It is interesting to see the concept of an extended family and of how a child might be given away to grandparents by the parents to lessen the burden on the immediate family and as a help and comfort to the grandparents.
The nomadic tribes have many myths to guide them and, in order to survive, the lessons preserved by these beliefs are strictly enforced. It is around one such myth that the plot of this novel hinges. Because her grandfather is too old to hunt with the men, he and his granddaughter go fishing together. They have the good luck and skill to kill a seal, and Liak immediately adopts the pup so suddenly orphaned. She names the pup "Yuit," which is the Inuit word for people, because she has the feeling that this seal pup is somehow as special as a person and perhaps because the pup is an albino and its pink eyes make it appear to have been crying for its dead mother
Her grandfather warns her that she will have to return the seal to the sea in order to avoid the bad luck that would accompany anyone who stole an albino pup from the sea goddess, Nuliajuk. He also reminds his granddaughter that the leader of the tribe will also abide by these superstitious beliefs.
Of course, Liak cannot part with the pup. She teaches it all kinds of tricks and it becomes the darling of all the children in the camp. The inevitable confrontation occurs when the men return from the main caribou hunt and the tribe's leader banishes Liak for daring to keep an albino seal pup.
Liak has learned many survival skills from her grandfather. She travels to the nearest settlement where a new life awaits her, living with her cousins and attending the government school with them. Her seal pup, Yuit, becomes an important part of a scientific study on polar mammals.
This novel is a useful addition to an elementary school collection for a number of reasons. It gives a good deal of information in a palatable way about a life-style very different from that experienced by most Canadian students. It also presents a young girl as a competent courageous and caring individual. She makes her own decisions and she is capable when it comes down to it of surviving in a harsh climate. Liak is a role model that many pre-teen girls need to have. Recommended for the Junior level reader.
Patricia Fry is a teacher-librarian with the Peel Board of Education in Mississauga, Ontario
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