________________ CM . . . . Volume XV Number 7 . . . . November 21, 2008

cover The Littlest Sled Dog.

Michael Kusugak. Illustrated by Vladyana Krykorka.
Victoria, BC: Orca, 2008.
32 pp., hardcover, $19.95.
ISBN 978-1-554143-752-1.

Preschool-grade 2 / Ages 4-7.

Review by Ellen Heaney.

**** /4

Reviewed from f&g's.

Michael Kusugak and Vladyana Krykorka have teamed up again here as they have eight times before (Hide and Sneak and Baseball Bats for Christmas for example), with the same satisfactory results.

     What do dogs hear stories about? A little terrier born in Red Deer, AB, is told by her mother about dogs all over the world. She dreams of growing up to be a brave St. Bernard or a speedy wolf hound. But the best future she can envision is becoming a sled dog and being able to "pull big sleds over deep snow all day long" — and to hear the driver calling out "Mush!" and using her new name, Fang.

     The little dog is taken from Red Deer to Rankin Inlet to live with a storyteller (yes, this storyteller, as we can tell from a sly picture of a mustached man riding an ATV and wearing a toque monogrammed MICHAEL). Her name is now Iqvillu, an Inuit translation of her southern name, You-Too, and she finds life wonderful, but frightening once the harsh Arctic winter settles in. And is she really cut out to be a sled dog?

One day, when she was out walking with her master,

she saw them, real sled dogs. They were huge. They had thick

scruffy fur. There were black ones, brown ones,

spotted ones and others of many colors. The lead

dog was big and gray. Eskimo dogs, they are called.

They had harnesses on, and they were pulling a

huge sled with runners.

Their master did not yell "Mush!" He only said, in a

low voice, "Auva ih, uai, uai, hut, hut, hut, hut."

internal art

     After watching the real sled dogs at work and facing their fierce growls, Iqvillu is content to go back into the warmth of the storyteller's house and watch a favourite movie. The film has a yellow brick road and a girl who sings beautifully and a little black dog. Iqvillu thinks, "I am not going to be a sled dog after all. I'm going to be a movie star."

     The Littlest Sled Dog is a charming story that meshes the reality of life in the north and the imaginary world of a dreamy little pet. Kusugak writes fluently but manages to retain some of the cadence of a traditional storyteller. Krykorka's stunning illustrations evoke a world of the tundra in both summer and winter. Bright pages dashed with clouds or a show of the Northern Lights face pages of text bordered by black-and white images in wood black style incorporating Inuit motifs. An afterword by Krykorka gives details of the author-illustrator collaboration and tells us that Iqvillu is modeled on one of the artist's own Cairn terriers. Recommended for all school and public library picture book collections.

Highly Recommended.

Ellen Heaney is Head of Children's Services at the New Westminster Public Library, New Westminster, BC.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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