Quick Things You Need To Know:
- This collection references to the experience & stories of the Inuit – Indigenous people with heritage mainly in what is currently called northern Canada.
- The best resource I’ve found for Inuit stories – both retellings of origin stories and normalizing modern Inuit families, is Inhabit Media.
- Inuit stories are DARK. Like, beyond-death-metal brutally dark. Read these with caution, as they are designed to give you nightmares (and keep kids from wandering off alone to die of exposure, I guess.)
- “Inuit” means “people.” So just say “The Inuit” rather than “the Inuit people” which just means “the people people” and sounds silly.
Rough Book Notes
- The raven and the loon – qitsaulik-tinsley – great illustrations, sort and simple folktale. neurodiverse – Raven codes as ADHD, validatest hat sitting still and being quiet is hard. ends up getting into a fight with loon. picks up charm of oral storytelling – tells the reader not to judge, after we weren’t there and this might just be gossip – demands kids use critical thinking. #OwnVoices inuit maker (Rachel), multiracial makers (Sean), arctic animals. cute & appropriate for 4+
- Lesson For The Wolf – qitsualik-tinsley – this was LOVELY with layers to unpack. wolf isn’t like the others – misfits- but unlike other misfit stories, it goes in a new direction. he’s a gentle trickster who loves to study other animals. covets their beautiful antlers, feathers, tails. appropriates their attributes and calls on strength of the land (Inuit religion/faith) to become a mixture of all the animals he admires and envies. his pack laughs, but then pities him, and his new form makes it hard to be a wolf. they try to reassure him, but he feels like a misfit and runs away. he’s so worried about what they think he won’t be with them, even though thy love him and try to give him food. talking with his mother, he points out he wanted to be beautiful, and she points out yhat wolves cry to the moon because they admire its beauty, “but you cannot admire beauty by becoming it. Then you will miss the greatest beauty that a wolf can know.” kind of another side of cultural appropriation and accepting yourself as you are. but could be problematic if applied through a gender lens (which it doesn’t really look like its trying to do.) together his pack sang to the land in love for him, which turned him back into a wolf. this would be SPECTACULAR to have for teenagers wrestling with forming an identity outside the family, understanding they are accepted and loved unconditionally, envy, adolescence, unconditional acceptance and love, #OwnVoices Inuit makers, 4.5+ assimilating into whiteness
- Grandmother Ptarmigan – mikkigak – tame, but standard inuit folktale with an unhappy ending. baby won’t go to sleep, grandmother tells him a scary story and he flies off and she weeps. getting lost and running off by yourself. story feels like it’s missing an ending because i expect closure, but Inuit stories aren’t really into closure. #OwnVoices Inuit elder maker (Qaunaq)
- Sukaq and the raven – mccluskey – Inuit creation story. dry and boring and the text is hard to read (didn’t create a contrasting background with bright spots and lines) and it’s kind of a dream but doesn’t make any sense. works for religion creation stories, but we’re skipping it. raven breathed into some sticks or whatever and created a woman and then turned into a man – here is the universe ta-daaa! What.
- The Walrus Who escaped – qitsualik-tinsley – stories on the strength of the land. this one is the most spiritual/religious, so it’s worth including in a religion collection. how both animals use the brutal strength of the land to tap into power for both naughty/selfish and self-protection uses. a little violent, as raven calls on animals in the sea to bite and pick at walrus and torture him. Walrus ends up in a rage, with some kind of scary images. both characters are flawed (one is envious & selfish and petty, the ther holds a grudge), with the standard non-closure that refuse neat happy endings of european tales.
Brutal & Violent Origin Stories – Inuit Horror
- Legend of Lightning And Thunder (Ikuutaq Rumbolt) – This is more sad than violent, as abandoned orphans basically starve to death and are rejected by people who could take them in (which likely feeds into and is scaffolded by the importance of Inuit Custom Adoption practices). I have this on the bookshelf waiting for Q to screen it, so I’ll come back and let you know how it goes.
- Spirit of the sea – hainnu – prepared Q for this story by telling him it orally on a walk, asking if he’s ready for non- whitewashed stories with unhappy endings. Q is most interests in the terrible parenting dynamic – how the father goes from loving to selfish, starting to identify what he considers a good father/parent and not. sophisticated story has flawed woman (vain, picky, but not so much that she deserves abuse), flawed father (loving, indulgent, cares about himself more than his daughter, living with shame). domestic abuse, trauma, Inuit religion & goddess Sedna (worked perfect reading right after ‘My Wounded Island’, which references Sedna and the kids asked about her.) origin story. violence (dad cuts off her fingers as she begs him to save her), unhappy endings. LOVED at 6.5
- Kaugjagjuk – lewis – proceed with caution, could be empowering or triggering, depending on the kid. hard but spectacular. separated from parents never to see them again, sister wanders off and dies, abused and neglected by adults, puts faith into Taqqiq, the man of the moon. (Inuit god, religion). Q and i discussed how good the story is in showing how enduring hardship without complaining has made him stronger, but how we disagree with using his words to admit he’s in pain and discuss whether it’s okay for someone to whip another person (even if they are a god.) how we would change it, but ultimately how his endurance underlines why we go through hard things, and why I tell Q to withstand things he finds difficult, so he can grow stronger. not for everyone, needs full screening first/ perfect way to channel the inclinations of 6+ to fantasize about violence, but way too scary and dark for 4.i Storyteller did a good job foreashadowing, which allows us to be prepared for what’s coming next (and in fact, they allude to such awfulness that we’re actually “well i guess that’s not as bad as I thought it would be.”
- The Shadows That Run Past – qitsualik – spooky, creepy, terrifying images and stories, NOT for age 6 for Q. As an adult, i loved it, mostly because the writing is conversational, and feels like it’s being told orally by a skilled storyteller. Rachel is an Inuit activist and authority, “Iuit cosmology of the pre-contact period” colonialism. Amautalik (child abduction by a feminine monster, tricked with help from a bunting (bird) sent by his shaman (Anhakkuq) grandmother), Akhla – took dead bodies to his family to eat them. man pretends to be dead body, kills it, tricks its wife, escapes. Nanurluk – giant polar bear. Conceited flawed hero isn’t that smart, doesn’t listen to others, runs full speed at polar bear, cuts it up from the inside, mostly by accident. is later killed by giant monster instincts because he continued not to listen to other people’s warnings. Mahaha is creepy ice thing that steals the warmth from your body with tickling. hunter’s wife is killed, hunter tricks it and throws it into an ice crack and drowns it. horror. inuit folktales 8+ minimum, would be perfect for kids who are into horror stories.
- a promise is a promise – munsch, kusugak – boogeyman story cautionary tale about walking on the ice without an adult. library copy had an eskimo snow dictionary and pronunciation key taped to the inside – not sure if that comes with the book or a librarian found that somewhere else. allashua wants to go fishing on the ice and her mom is like go fish in a lake, the ice is dangerous because the Qallupilluit will grab you. the girl lies to her mother and says she’ll go to a lake but goes on the ice on the ocean. then she taunts the Qallupilluit, fishes, and the Q (there are multiple). they drag her down (and there is no way I’m showing this to Q at 5 because he will have nightmares forever). she promises to bring them her brothers and sisters if they let her go. mom and dad trick the Q into distraction while the girl fulfills the promise of bringing her siblings down to the ice but they don’t get back in time to grab them. Q are actually imaginary inquit creatures, like a troll., living in what we currently call hudson bay. folktale told to inuit children to keep them away from dangerous crevices. migth work for lost & found, but yikes, so scary. also warning: uses the word “dumb” to mean not smart, which is standard for Munsch.
- Blind boy and the loon – Traditional story, problematic, plays into the evil crip anti-disability trope as well as the magical cure trope. Abusive mother, even I found this story too unsettling. The video short is much better than the book, but I wouldn’t show it to my kids.
Modern Inuit Families
How Nivi Got Her names – deal – similar to ‘Alma And how she got her name’. family narrative, indigenous girls of color – faith, reincarnation, elders, religion, normalizing adoptive families (see foreword, it’s amazing), family constellations (open adoption, surrogates), very cute, but also a little passive and didacic and i don’t expect a 4 & 6yo to sit through it, so it migh tb best used for validating at 5y+ or destigmatizing with older kids. inuit kinship naming (Tuqlurausiit). Atsiag (person named after you, where your name soul finds a home afer you die), death, interesting note about how she was named after one woman who did not want the sexism that oppressed her to follow to her namesake, so they used her last name instead. white accomplices: Baabi (Rober G. Wilson), Irma was a single mother, LGBTQ (lesbian 2-mother family). this is NOT an ownvoices – the author is white (with an inuit daughter and presumably partner) and the illustrator is AAPI maker of color. given the way kids inherit spouses, grandchildren, etc. from their namesakes, this makes kumak’s stories extra strange given that the women have no names.
Nala’s Magical Mitsiaq – Noah – Inuit, first nations, indigenous, adoption. ‘Inuit custom adoption’ touches of importance of adoption within indigenous communities, can’t get my hands on this grrrrr. family constellations
What’s My Superpower? – this is already all over the BFL website for normalizing girls of color, single mothers, and being a great book about self-acceptance. It’s adorable.
Kamik: An inuit puppy story – qin leng – adapted from teh memories of an inuit man. book is not particularly engaging, but i’d like to see if the others turn into real stoies. grandfather recounts the relationships he’s had with previous sled dogs when he meets Jake’s new puppy indigenous (inuit) culture, pets, dogs, boys of color, normalizing diversity, modern indigenous, makers of color
Kamik’s first sled – sulurayok – i want to like this SO much, but like many books, it’s forced as a device to teach kids about inuit life, and the story gts buried in facts and walls of text. we have no way to connect with the narrator and kamik (unless we’r assumign we’r reading it within a wek f the prequel, which was also completely forgettable). tries too hard to be both validating and destigmatizing, and ends up alienating. so packed with factoids and story moves so slow it doesn’ work for outsiders unlss they are alrady motivatd to lar about inuit life and sled dogs. the overall message is great: train new puppies with play, then about jumping into sled riding before thy knw the basics – rally just ried to cover too many lessons and topic in one book. canadian asian illustrator, indigenous maker (born in Nunavut)
Kamik Joins the pack – baker – like others in this series, too many details bogs down book for kids outside the cuture, so i’d keep this for validating or even an actually decent intro to kids who are training their dogs for dog sledding. mostly the character learns that he has to start slow and learn as he goes (and it will take a while) befor his puppy can become a fully competant runner, and he has to learn how to care for his dog and maintain quipment. feels ovrwhlmed, but dude reassures him learning is a process.. indigenous inuit maker, pets, from arviat, nunavut
- Families – unaapik mike – validating family constellations for Inuit families. So much role name dropping it’s hard for us to follow. Vocabulary at the end is helpful, but it’s didactic with no story so I won’t bother. Less interesting that zero fads club but similar in importance. Single mothers, gay dads, lesbian moms with first mother still in the picture, blenddd families, grandmother as primary. inuit First Nations indigenous makers. Lgbtq makers , family constellations
- Alego – ningeokuluk Teevee – (inuit), bilingual (english and Inuktitut). girl goes clamming with grandma. illustrations are not great and story is boring. similar to ‘wild eggs’ in plot, but less interesting, food culture
- Wild Eggs – Slightly more engaging than Alego, still a little too didactic. napayok-short – illustrations are juuuust this side of creepy and uncanney valley that I’m okay showing the images to the kids before bedtime, but the story drags and takes a looong time to get to the point (actually I’m not sure there even is a point, other than exposing us to modern Inuit culture). I need to spark interest in it before detailing all those things – and that book doesn’t do that. instead, they load the book with details and there is no exciting story – they literally just go collect some wild eggs and cook them, and the images are somewhat descriptive but not engaging.Written by an #OwnVoices Inuit author who did egg hunts with her father, attended a residential school. really boring read for those of us not living that life. food culture
- Nessa’s Fish – luenn – cute and sweet, inuit girl goes fishing with grandmother, who gets sick. Nessa has to protect them and the fish they caught from animals. remembers what her parents told her about the animals, embarrasses a bear in a really cute preschool style, singing a silly song about it. indigenous girls of color, AAP maker, does not appear to be indigenous herself
- Leah’s Mustache party – mike – cute but like… why is this book here? she likes mustaches, as a decoration, has a mustache themed party. not really breaking gender constructs either. not helpful for gender. meh.
Traditional Inuit Life (also transitional time at time of initial European colonization)
- Akilak’s adventure – webster – beautiful – “not so long about, when the Inuit lived a traditional, nomadic life on the barren lands of the arctic” indigenous girl of color is tenacious in making her way to uncle’s camp to get help for her grandmother. meets a friendly cariboo on th way (which is a little weird since she’s eating meat – probably made of cariboo) when she does. they talk about animals in the area,a nd really seemed more like an introduction to arctic animals. notbad, but not worth reading more than once. normalizing indigenous girls of color, family constellations (raised by grandmother, parents dead), AAPI makers
- I is for Inuksuk – Mary Wallace – Didactic nonfiction. Simple intro focusing on just a few items (like Inuksuk scultures that help mark spaces and signify directions, food, etc), animals, and apparel for tradition inuit people of the north. i like that it doesn’t try to do too much, but also wish there were options to read more in depth – for instance, WHY do girls wear large hood and parkas are only for boys? What kind of bones are the boats made of? what is a real example of what a inuksuk could signify or mark? illustrations are colorful and engaging. engagementis meh. Ages 3+
- Una Huna? What is this? ( aglukark) – this is WIERD. See photo of end notes, which I didn’t get to read. Story about Indigenous First Nations Inuit girl who learns about western flatware. Oddly formal (eating utensils) writing, not engaging and goes from a story about naming a dog to discovering utensils like this to talking about how colonization has brought gifts to Inuit and whaaaat? Am I missing something?
- Kumak’s fish – bania – Written by a white settler. 6yo got a kick out of this for one read, whole village bands together to help kumak pull huge fish out of water, turns out to be a bunch of fish banding together to help each other get the bait. which is a little sad, when you think about it, as they ate a community of fish who ended up dying. also i’m not fan of the intro, where veryone is described in relation to Kumak – is it a patriartical society? That’s the opposite of hte impression I’m getting from stories by Inuit authors. “Kumak packed his fishing gar on his sled. He packed his wife on the sled. He packed his wife’s mother on the sled. He packed his sons and daughters on he sled. And then, in the safest place of all, Kumak packed his Uncle Aglu’s amazing hooking stick.” Aside from being objects to pack – his wife and ‘wife’s mother’ never get names (particularly odd given naming traditions). his uncle Aglu does though, and he plays a super minor part in the story. “Wife! Help me pull this fish!”
- mama do you love me – 3+ I vaguely remember this book’s illustrations being drawn by an outsider who used a sloppy pan-arctic application of random blibs and bloops of Inuit & first nations stuff slapped together.