CM . . . . Volume XVIII Number 40 . . . . June 15, 2012
Rachel A. Qitsualik’s Under the Ice is a creative expression of a traditional Inuit story. Art director Babah Kalluk conceived this story in comic form. He wanted to help preserve the traditional tales that are a rich part of Inuit history while also making them more relatable to modern children.The story is about an old grandmother who lives alone with her young grandson. They are very poor and, although the Inuit community offers them food out of charity, at times the boy goes hungry.
On a day the boy is hungry, he asks his grandmother for food, but she replies that they have none. With the boy’s continued, persistent requests, his grandmother loses her temper and wishes the qallupiluq monster that lives under the ice would come and take him from her forever. As per her request, the qallupiluq monster emerges from the ice and takes her grandson away.
As time passes and prosperity follows, the grandmother regrets her harsh words and desires to reclaim her grandson. She eventually convinces some hunters to help her find him. When the hunters find the boy, they discover he does not want to return to his grandmother, and every time they approach, he returns to the icy depths. With perseverance, the hunters finally outsmart the boy and catch him.
When caught, the boy refuses to return to his grandmother. He grows into a great, successful hunter, due to the trials of his youth; however, his relationships with the qallupiluq, the hunters, and his grandmother conclude without resolution. The audience is left to decide the outcome of the relationships between the boy and these characters.
In addition to sharing traditional stories of the Inuit people, Under the Ice incorporates a dual-language component, sharing traditional Inuit words and their meaning.
Under the Ice is an interesting hybrid between a comic and an illustrated book. Although the illustrations resemble a graphic novel art style — including page segmentation — no text bubbles accompany the illustrations. All illustrations are on one page with the text on the adjacent page. Jae Korim’s art, which utilizes sharp angles, thick lines, and an earth tone palate to add drama, brings this traditional Inuit story to life.
I would recommend Under the Ice for children ages 8-10 as it is a unique format for sharing traditional Inuit stories with both Inuit and non-Inuit children.
Rachel Yaroshuk is a Master of Library and Information Studies student at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, BC.
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