CM . . .
. Volume XXII Number 35. . . .May 13, 2016
Jake is eager to begin training his new puppy Kamik to be a sled dog, but he can’t do it alone. Jake relies on the advice of his grandmother Anaanatsiaq and the instincts of his puppy to get him safely through an Arctic storm and to learn the basics of mushing in Arviat, NU.
The watercolour illustrations evoke modern life in northern Canada, and I enjoyed the perspective Qin Leng used – Jake and Kamik are seen from above, behind and in front, depending on the feeling she is conveying to the reader. Leng has a talent for evoking movement in her illustrations, and readers feel they are mushing with Jake, and they shiver in the storm as the snow pelts down.
The story, itself, moves along effortlessly as readers are drawn into the world of a sled dog in training and his boy. Unfamiliar words are explained within the text as part of the story, rather than necessitating a glossary which often interrupts the flow of a wonderful story. Kamik’s First Sled is an excellent addition to Northern Canadian stories, and, although the oral tradition is important in northern cultures, it is also important that memories are written to be shared by generations of children. Kamik’s First Sled is inspired by the life memories of Arviat, NU, elder Matilda Sulurayok. Stories like this would make a wonderful series for children, and I hope there will be more memories of life and adventures in Nunavut translated into the written word.
A word about the print. The font that was chosen for this title is small and difficult to read, even for an adult. I would suggest it was chosen because the story was to be a picture book, but it ended up being quite long, and so the print was reduced. I think it works well as a picture book, but the small, whimsical font hinders, rather than helps, the story as the reader struggles to make out the words. Many of the words are in the Inuktitut language and, combined with the small print size, make it difficult for readers who are not familiar with the language to understand.
Kamik’s First Sled, a first-rate read-aloud, is also a valuable addition to curricular studies of Northern Canada.
Jill Griffith is the Youth Services Manager at Red Deer Public Library in Red Deer, AB.
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