________________ CM . . . . Volume XIV Number 8 . . . . December 7, 2007


The Inuit Thought of It: Amazing Arctic Innovations.

Alootook Ipellie with David MacDonald.
Toronto, ON: Annick Press, 2007.
32 pp., pbk. & hc., $8.95 (pbk.), $19.95 (hc.).
ISBN 978-1-55451-087-2 (pbk.), ISBN 978-1-55451-088-7 (hc.).

Subject Headings:
Inuit-Material culture-Juvenile literature.
Inuit-Intellectual life-Juvenile literature.
Inventions-Arctic regions-Juvenile literature.

Grades 4-6 / Ages 9-11.

Review by Marilynne V. Black.

***½ /4


Seal-Oil Lamp.

In some places, Inuit were able to find soapstone. This soft stone was easy to carve into a bowl that could be used for a seal-oil lamp (qulliq).

One end of a wick made from moss was dipped into the bowl of seal oil.

When the other end was lit, the lamp provided light and heat inside an igloo or skin tent.

Traditional Inuit used a bow-drill (see page 13), with the drill bit removed, or other similar inventions to produce fire. The drill stick was rotated quickly while it was pushed down upon. This created friction, which produced enough heat to start a flame.

While a lit qulliq could not be placed too close to a snow wall, its heat actually helped to strengthen an igloo. The heat from the qulliq and the body heat of the Inuit in the igloo created a thin layer of melted snow on the inside wall. When the Inuit extinguished the lamp and went to sleep, this layer would freeze, making the walls even stronger.

We learn about other cultures from their stories, their history, and their life styles. The introduction, "The Inuit, My People," gives a brief history of Inuit immigration and migration as they adapted to the changes in the Arctic climate. Most double spread pages feature one aspect of how the Inuit have adapted. For instance, sections on dog sleds, kayaks, medicine and healing, and shelter are liberally sprinkled with appropriate photos. Each topic has a brief introductory paragraph followed by clearly and concisely written segments under subheadings. The icy blue background on the pages reinforce the cold Arctic setting of the book while the Inuit language symbols emphasize the multicultural ambiance.

     In addition, a timeline and several maps add important information. Inuit words are italicized and well explained with the written segment. Furthermore, the plural of the word is often given in brackets. Another useful addition, such as in the section on clothing, gives details of how the Inuit parka has been adapted for the modern public. The final two pages tell about the Inuit today and how they combine traditions and modern innovations:

For Inuit today, life is quite different. Instead of living in igloos and tents, we have modern heated homes with electricity. Old and  young alike enjoy many of the forms of entertainment that are probably in your home, such as TVs, MP3 players, CD and DVD players, and computer and video games.

     This 32 page book is chock-a-block full of interesting information and pictures. Written in an upbeat and positive style, it will appeal to children and social studies teachers alike. The only slight omission I found is that it does not directly address the impact civilization, such as disease and global warming, has had on these hardy folks.

     Archival photos, a timeline, recent coloured photos, Table of Contents, an Index, Credits, Further reading, and chart of Inuit language symbols make this a valuable resource. Several books reviewed by CM, such as Arctic Adventures: Tales from the Lives of Inuit Artists and Canada's Arctic Animals would make useful adjuncts.

Highly Recommended.

Marilynne V. Black is a former B.C. elementary teacher-librarian who completed her Master of Arts in Children's Literature (UBC) in the spring of 2005. She is now working as an independent children's literature consultant with a web site at www.heartofthestory.ca.

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

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