by Jean Rogers ‧ RELEASE DATE: April 18, 1983
Readers expecting a story may be disappointed at first by this first-person account of Eskimo life on a small island 90 miles from Nome. The opening pages read like a typical social studies setup, with Esther's friend Marie telling her about winter in Nome and Esther and her brother Roger explaining King Island ways to Dixon, the teacher's nephew who has come from Wisconsin to spend the school year with them. But Rogers picks on details that would interest children--Dixon asks, for example, why the doors are all half way up the walls, and learns how this arrangement keeps out the cold-and once Esther gets down to straight reporting these is much appeal in her fond descriptions of the closely knit community's last year on King's Island. She begins with the people's return, together, from their customary summer in Nome, where they sell their year's carvings to tourists. At their celebration at the school house, where Dixon is introduced to beluga stew and bread spread with crisco, they learn that because of their dwindling numbers the BIA has decided to close the island's store and school. This will be the people's last year on their beloved island. And so there is a special poignance to what follows: the Christmas party at which the men of King's Island show their strength in one-to-one contests and Dixon is stunned when the much-touted ice cream turns out to be whipped fat with seal off; the blackboard drawing juxtaposing Christmases in King's Island and Wisconsin; the males' hunting sessions which Lewis insists will ""always be"" (""How else will there be meat to eat and skins to make oomiaks and boots and fur for the parkas?""); the annual cold that sweeps the village after the navy ship comes through to give medical check-ups (still, most of the people dismiss the teachers' germ theory as far-fetched); and, at the school year's end, the last sad departure for Nome. A sadder afterword by the author explains that this closing of King's Island actually occurred in 1964 and that the people's subsequent history has not been a happy one. The story also draws on illustrator Munoz's experience teaching on the island in the year 1951-52; Rogers has projected the first-hand observations and personal feeling affectingly.
Pub Date: April 18, 1983
Page Count: -
Review Posted Online: N/A
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 1983
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