Elisha Kilabuk, illustrated by Joy Ang,
Inhabit Media, 2011.
The Qalupalik is a picture book about a mythical Inuit creature (pronounced ka-loo-pa-lick) who lives under the arctic ice and preys on unsuspecting children. Illustrated by Joy Ang, the book contains rather comical and slightly hideous pictures of the qualupalik, whose skin is said to be “wet and slimy like fish scales” and who also wears the Inuit cloak known as amauti made of eider duck skins. This figure was probably used by storytellers to warn children from going too close to the edge of the ice.
After an introduction is given to the reader about the creature, a story about one is told, called “Qalupalik and the Orphan.” In this tale, an orphan child defeats the creature by outwitting it. The child is poor and wears tattered kamik from out of which his toes appear. When the curious qalupalik sees the toes and asks them what they are, the orphan comes up with a quick-witted and imaginative answer that saves him from the qalupalik’s clutches.
Presenting stories of monsters to young children can be troubling for some parents, but this story clearly makes fun of the qalupalik in a way that is both instructive and entertaining for young readers. And it’s just plain fun for kids to hear about new kinds of monsters! Sometimes an imaginative way of telling children how to avoid danger or overcome their fear can be the best instruction of all. Joy Ang’s lush illustrations are nicely done presenting a comically grotesque qalupalik alongside laughing round-faced Inuit children.
This book is in pioneer terrain insofar as it is creating text out of the work of storytellers; in this case, the story comes from Inuit storyteller Elisha Kilabuk and serves an important purpose in preserving the tales of indigenous people of the far north. The Qalupalik is the first of a proposed series by Inhabit Media called the Unikkakaluit Series. This debut title makes for an auspicious start and I look forward to reading more tales in the future.