CM . . . . Volume XXIV Number 21 . . . . February 2, 2018
Stories of a child's friendship with a wild creature can hit a sentimental note, but here is a tale that avoids that trap. It seems particularly realistic because of the rural Arctic setting, but it manages to retain some story magic in developing the relationship between the girl and the bird.
An engaging baby seagull is adopted by Elisapee when her father, Livee, brings it home with him. It seems this is not the first foundling to come into Elisapee's care. She names this one Naujaaraq, which translates as "baby seagull"!*. She calls it Nau for short.
This is only one of the passages in the book to unobtrusively introduce a cultural or geographical reference.
As babies do, Nau grows. She still allows herself to be taken for walks through the settlement with Elisapee and plays with the other children, all the while staying close to home. Then Elisapee realizes that Nau, as a bird, should be able to take to the air.
Several attempts later, Nau is gliding through the sky. Days pass, and she still comes back to roost on the shed behind Elisapee's house. Elisapee tags her leg with a pink ribbon so that she will be distinguishable Nau from among all the other birds in the area.
Eventually Nau truly finds her wings, flying away and not returning. Elisapee knows that is unlikely to change, but she continues to watch for a bird with a pink bow.
First time author Nancy Mike has written a down to earth story which captures the feeling of life in a small northern community as well as the spirit of this little girl who loves birds. Singaporean artist Chua has done a good job of depicting cozy interiors, bright and bare landscapes and the northern lights, which get several riveting spreads. The human figures, more Nickelodeon than naturalism in their style, seem often to be bigger than life size, with large bright eyes that enhance their facial expressions.
Elisapee and Her Baby Seagull is a worthy addition to picture book collections in schools and public libraries.
Ellen Heaney is a retired children's librarian living in Coquitlam, BC.