Each of the four stories in Arctic Adventures – Tales from the Lives of Inuit Artists, retold by Raquel Rivera and illustrated by Jirina Marton (Groundwood Books/ House of Anansi Press, 2007), makes a perfect bedtime story – but be ready to count in some extra time to look at the short biography of the artist protagonist in each one, along with an example of the art. This corelation between each story and an artist makes this a very special book. Older Brother read it on his own for the PaperTigers Reading Challenge in 2008 and you can read his reaction to it here.
All the stories describe events in the artists’ lives before their move away from the traditional Inuit way of life, through circumstances that are explained in each case. In “Pudlo and Kapik Go Hunting”, a hunting trip nearly ends in disaster when artist Pudlo Pudlat’s nephew Kapiq is stranded on an ice floe; “Kenojuak and the Goddess of the Sea”, describes Kenojuak Ashevak’s childhood encounter with Talelayu, Goddess of the Sea; in “Oonark’s Arctic Adventure” we join Jessie Oonark on her perilous journey “in off the land” in the Back River Area to Baker Lane; and Lazarusie Ishulutak shared his experiences with the author of two very different encounters with polar bears, for “Lazarusie and the Polar Bears”. Through the narrative young readers/listeners (and indeed adult readers) will absorb many details of Inuit culture – and there’s a map and a good glossary at the end too, as well as suggested further reading and an author’s note giving details of her sources for each story.
Marton’s atmospheric and expressive pastel illustrations transport readers to the Frozen North and provide a coherence between the stories – and the photograph of the artist that follows each story in a double-page spread, along with biographical details and discussion of their artwork, adds a very special dimension to the book that will intrigue young listeners/readers. And this is where sharing the book comes into its own, as the realisation that these stories happened to real, identifable people is something young people will want to talk through. And, of course, there are some interesting anecdotes too – like the following:
“When Pudlo was a child, he liked to draw on the walls of his family’s iglus, especially on the ice windows. But mothers discourage their children from doing this.
“Don’t carve up the wall, ” Pudlo’s mother would tell him.
Pudlo didn’t begin drawing on paper until the 1960s, when he was in his mid forties.”
So next time your small person gets creative on your walls…
And in the meantime, do seek out this beautiful book.