CM . . .
. Volume XXIII Number 23. . . .February 24, 2017
The Owl and the Lemming is a charming fable by Roselynn Akulukjuk. Based on a traditional Inuit story, this is the print version of Akulukjuk’s film adaptation of the tale. Perhaps best suited as a read aloud for three to five year olds, the book will also appeal to those keen on broadening their repertoire of traditional tales from various cultures—and it will charm everyone who appreciates “the moral of the story”.
This Inuit twist on the classic clever underdog story keeps readers guessing about how the small, but savvy, lemming will outsmart the bigger, stronger owl hoping to turn her into lunch. It’s impossible to resist lemming’s perseverance, let alone her mischievous problem solving skills. The Owl and the Lemming could be read allegorically on several levels—although the mockingly didactic ending—“Don’t play with your food”—complicates a clear postcolonial interpretation.
In particular, Amanda Sandland’s unique illustrations are captivating. A combination of photography and cartoons, the film imagery translates to the book more successfully than the narration. The beautiful scenery provides a glimpse into a true Arctic setting while the adorable animals draw readers in—who could resist the lemming’s chubby cheeks or the owl’s huge, expressive eyes?
The clunky prose and direct message mark The Owl and the Lemming as a text best suited to storytelling. While the film version of The Owl and the Lemming might tell the tale more smoothly, the written version does have its own naïve charm.
All in all, The Owl and the Lemming accomplishes precisely what Inhabit Media, “the first independent publishing company in Nunuavut,” hopes to do: “bring Arctic stories and wisdom to the world.” Between this noble goal, the scarcity of Inuit children’s literature being distributed in Canada, and the book’s many charming qualities, The Owl and the Lemming deserves a place in all Canadian library collections.
Michelle Superle is an Assistant Professor at the University of the Fraser Valley where she teaches children’s literature and creative writing courses. She has served twice as a judge for the TD Canadian Children’s Literature Award and is the author of Black Dog, Dream Dog and Contemporary, English language Indian Children’s Literature (Routledge, 2011).
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Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.