________________ CM . . . . Volume XVI Number 14 . . . . December 4, 2009


I is for Inuksuk: An Arctic Celebration.

Mary Wallace.
Toronto, ON: Owlkids Books, 2009.
32 pp., hardcover, $19.95.
ISBN 978-1-897349-57-1.

Subject Headings:
Inuksuit-Juvenile literature.
Inuit-Canada-Juvenile literature.
Inuit-Canada-Pictorial works.
Inuit-Canada-Social life and customs-Juvenile literature.

Grades 2-4 / Ages 7-9.

Review by Gregory Bryan.

*** /4


I is for Inuksuk, the stone messenger that stands at the top of the world.


The inuksuk has been selected as the official symbol of the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympic Games. For thousands of years, these stone piles have guided, aided and informed northern People (the Inuits' name for themselves). Whether directing travellers toward good hunting or fishing spots, serving as a place to store meat, or merely as a means of expressing joy, inuksuit have traditionally served a variety of purposes (inuksuit is the plural form for inuksuk). Mary Wallace's new book, I is for Inuksuk: An Arctic Celebration, does what the title suggests—it celebrates the Arctic way of life and the role that inuksuit have long played in that life.

     The primary text for the book is an acrostic poem, with each of the letters from the word inuksuk used as the first letter in another word depicting a facet of traditional Inuit life. For instance, the "n" from inuksuk, represents Nanuq—the Inuktitut word for the polar bear. Inuktitut is one of the official languages of Nunavut, and Inuktitut symbols are also used in the book, adding an extra element of information and enjoyment to Wallace's work. Given there is also an Inuktitut pronunciation guide at the end of the book, Wallace repeatedly demonstrates her respect for the People of the Arctic and their language and customs.

     Wallace's full colour illustrations are eye-catching. Her predominantly cool colour choices reflect the Arctic environment, with liberal use of blues and purples and, occasionally, soft greens. The compositions are visually interesting, featuring swirling lines filled with movement. The paintings appear to have been rendered on canvas and are strongly textured. The paintings represent an interesting blend of realism and stylistic interpretation that young readers will enjoy.

     With the Winter Olympics fast approaching, I is for Inuksuk is a worthwhile addition to family library collections. The Olympic inuksuk is likely to have people across the world wondering about these noble symbols of Canada, and so Canadian families are going to enjoy discussing I is for Inuksuk and Wallace's evocative artwork.


Gregory Bryan lives in Winnipeg, MB, where he teaches children's literature at the University of Manitoba.

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

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The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364
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