CM . . .
. Volume XXIII Number 35. . . May 19, 2017
The People of the Sea is a simple story suitable for Kindergarten through grade 2, but it has many additional elements that can be used with older grades as well. The story, as stated on the front cover, is “told by” Donald Uluadluak but has been turned into a book by his daughter, Elizabeth, and Neil Christopher after Uluadluak’s passing. The People of the Sea recounts an incident that happened to Uluadluak and two friends in 1940 near Arviat, Nunavut. While playing down at the beach, he and his friends noticed a beautiful woman in the water watching them play. When Uluadluak called out to the woman, she did not respond and continued to stare at the boys. They became scared and ran back to camp to tell their families what had happened. However, on the way back to camp, they forgot what they were so frightened about and did not remember to tell their families about their experience until one year later. The boys then learned that the woman was called an “arnajuinnaq”, also known as one of the people of the sea.
The text in this book is somewhat awkward and hard to read aloud. This is due to the fact that this was obviously meant to be told orally, and some of the oral elements of storytelling have been lost in putting Uluadluak’s first person narrative down on paper. The story, itself, is also somewhat ‘simplistic’ in that it tells the bare bones of Uluadluak’s experience and leaves the readers with many unanswered questions. However, neither of these elements overly detract from the appeal of the book and may prompt readers to seek out answers to the questions they may have. The first person narrative, as well as the inclusion of the informational introduction and preface pages and Uluadluak’s short biography, would be a wonderful introduction into oral storytelling or comparing oral stories and written stories. This book could also be used as an introduction to students telling their own stories, either written or oral.
People of the Sea has some interesting additions, including the aforementioned biography, as well as an introduction and preface explaining the process involved in writing a book based on someone’s experiences who is not involved in the writing process. There is also a pronunciation and definition guide at the beginning of the book for the Inuktitut words. An especially interesting addition to the story is a picture, drawn by Uluadluak himself, of the woman he spied in the water that day. The rest of the book’s illustrations, done by Mike Motz, show both the beauty and isolation of this small northern community. The story and characters are brought to life with wonderful facial expressions and glimpses into community life, and the people of the sea are cloaked with loveliness and mystery. This book would be a wonderful introduction to aboriginal myths and legends or to the northern/Inuit community. Inhabit Media, an Inuit owned publishing company, has wonderfully and subtly represented the Inuit culture.
Dawn Opheim, an avid reader with a Masters degree in teacher-librarianship, works at two elementary school libraries in Saskatoon, SK.
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