CM . . .
. Volume XXIV Number 23. . . .February 16, 2018
The Gnawer of Rocks.
Louise Flaherty. Illustrated by Jim Nelson.
Iqaluit, NU: Inhabit Media, 2017.
60 pp., hardcover, $22.95.
Grades 5 and up / Ages 10 and up.
Review by Reesa Cohen.
It was late summer. Everyone was starting to sense the coming of winter. At their seasonal camp, hunters were working hard to gather as much food as they could before winter made hunting more difficult. Everyone was busy at the camp. Two girls decided to go for a walk to quiet the younger children in their care. They walked along the shoreline of a nearby river. The rhythm of their steps and the sound of the river seemed to soothe the children. As they were walking, one of the girls found an unusually smooth and shiny stone.
In their quest to find more of these lovely stones referred to in the above excerpt, the excited girls wander further away and find themselves near an unfamiliar cave, a cave where more gleaming stones await them, and danger! After they enter the cave, they discover they are trapped there. Coming across human bones and a collection of human skulls, the girls realize the skeletal remains must belong to the children who have disappeared from their area. Suddenly the girls are confronted by an ancient land spirit, Mangittatuarjuk – the Gnawer of Rocks. Using their quick wit, trickery, ingenuity, as well as their knowledge of the history of their people, the two girls are able to escape and seek help from their tribe’s elders to deal with the fearsome spirit in a very grisly way, finally vanquishing him.
It is wise that an author’s note precedes the story, itself, warning of the “gory details” of this Inuit tale. The note includes some interesting information on the originator of this dark and disturbing Arctic legend and Flaherty’s wish to retell this myth. This note might serve as a warning for educators as well on how and with whom to share this unsettling book. In the author’s afterword, she laments how true storytelling is rare in this world and that stories from long ago were used to educate, entertain, warn of dangers and even protect the listener. The Gnawer of Rocks is based on a cautionary Inuit tale about a monster with a taste for children.
Jim Nelson’s illustrations are simply stunning! They capture the mysterious dark content of the tale and feature sweeping majestic but somber landscapes. The depiction of the fearsome ogress is truly spectacular. The artwork is so intricate and effective in this graphic novel/picture book that the results give the reader a cinematic experience.
A Glossary of the Inuit terms is included.
Inhabit Media is the publisher of The Gnawer of Rocks. It is an Inuit owned publishing company that is focused on “promoting and preserving the stories, knowledge and talent of Inuit and Northern Canada”. The author, Louise Flaherty is a co-founder of Inhabit Media.
Reesa Cohen is a retired Instructor of Children’s Literature and Information Literacy at the Faculty of Education, University of Manitoba in Winnipeg, MB.
© CM Association
University of Manitoba
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