CM . . . . Volume XXIV Number 1 . . . . September 8, 2017
Imarvaluk, whose name means "the song of the waves", is a young girl living on the island of Sarichef between Alaska and Russia. She tells of the mysterious sea creature that is "slowly devouring our island". Imarvaluk explains some of her traditional life on the island and how life is now different because of this sea creature. The illustrations complement the story; for example, the sea creature is depicted as a frightening anthropomorphic jellyfish about to eat boats in the sea and houses on land. At about the midpoint of the book, Imarvaluk reveals that outsiders have studied this creature, and that the sea creature is climate change. The narrative then switches from the scary and mystical to the pensive. Imarvaluk explains that her house will be moved and, through the eyes of her grandfather, she wonders what will ultimately happen to her people and way of life.
The topics of the book, climate change and climate refugees, are very timely and significant. My Wounded Island helps put a face on how climate change is impacting people and not just the environment. While I would deem this book a valuable contribution for environmental children's literature, I would not recommend reading the book to young children (the publisher suggests an age range of 5-8). The first half of the book, which includes the chilling illustrations and the imagination of Imarvaluk, could be terrifying for children. But I do understand that the fear is real. And that, I believe, is the point of the book. Climate change is scary. It is devastating for communities and individuals to have to relocate because of climate change. While more mature younger readers may be able to handle the book, My Wounded Island is better suited for older readers and students who can really grasp the idea of climate change and its implications; I would suggest ages 8+. For older readers, this would be a poignant picture book to explore. The narrative is dense and lyrical, and the illustrations are thoroughly engaging. Publishers need to embrace that picture books are for older children too.
Recommended with Reservations.
Dr. Kristen Ferguson teaches literacy education at the Schulich School of Education at Nipissing University in North Bay, ON.