CM . . . . Volume XVIII Number 11 . . . . November 11, 2011
The Qalupalik. (The Unikkaakuluit Series).
Elisha Kilabuk. Illustrated by Joy Ang.
Iqaluit, NU: Inhabit Media (Distributed in Canada by Fitzhenry & Whiteside), 2011.
32 pp., hardcover, $12.95.
Grades 1-3 / Ages 6-8.
Review by Harriet Zaidman.
In the Arctic there are strange beings that live in the ocean, under the ice. They are called qalupaliit. They each have an amauti made of eider duck skins. These beings kidnap children by putting them in their amauti.
Kids love to scare themselves; monster books are in constant demand in libraries, especially around Hallowe’en.
It’s nice to have new monsters to learn about, and it’s especially pleasing to have a Canadian version to offer children. Qalupaliks are mythical creatures in Inuit culture, and they emerge from cracks in Arctic sea ice, looking for young children to capture. Elisha Kilabuk’s story and Joy Ang’s creepy looking representation will delight young children and set their spines tingling.
The “Preface” informs young readers about qualities of the unhappy creatures whose evil objectives can be foiled because they lack higher intelligence. The story tells how a little orphan boy is nearly captured by a qalupalik. However, the boy’s toes, sticking through his threadbare kamik (boots), frighten the monster. It has never before seen bare feet. The boy tells the monster (it can speak) that toes have the ability to eat people up, and the qalupalik beats a hasty retreat to the safety of the waters, proving that even monsters are afraid of the unknown.
The story is likely one invented by Inuit parents to keep curious and adventurous children away from the edge of the water. The supposed beings have slimy fish-like skin, and deep amauti (hoods) to secret away the children they kidnap.
Performer and storyteller Kilabuk learned the story of the Qalupalik from his mother in Iqaluit. This book is one volume in the “Unikkakuluit Series” created by Inhabit Media to retell traditional stories. It’s a great story to tell aloud, as is the tradition, but it will evoke fear in the paper version as well. Joy Ang draws a green, web-footed and slimy creature whose empty eyes evoke fear and pathos. The Arctic whites and blues look cold and crisp, and the little orphan boy looks like a fun-loving kid who uses his wits to escape a terrible fate.
Forget Frankenstein. The Qalupalik is closer to home, and it’s looking for the young children who could be reading this book. Beware!
Harriet Zaidman is a teacher-librarian in Winnipeg, MB.
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