Cels from an animated film illustrate this abbreviated retelling of an Inuit folk tale.
Aranaquq-Baril opens the book with an introduction to “Lumaajuuq,” a lengthy epic that is “one of the most ancient and commonly told in Inuit history.” From there, readers meet “a cruel mother” and her daughter and son, who is blind. The daughter she raises with love, warmth and bear meat; the son she forces to live outside and feeds only dog meat. In spring, when the ice is melted, he seeks out a loon—they are known for their keen eyesight. The loon tells the boy it was his own mother who blinded him and then restores his vision, diving with him into the depths of the lake three times until he “can see as well as a loon.” Now “blinded by revenge,” the young man tricks his mother into a whale hunt, allowing the beast to drag her into the sea—where she becomes a narwhal, forever “a reminder that every act of revenge is a link in a chain that can only be broken by forgiveness.” The moody illustrations employ a palette of grays and blues, the stark white faces of human characters and the loon’s red eyes startling in contrast.
It’s a tantalizing glimpse into a harsh climate and the culture it nurtures, one that will prompt discussion and may well send readers searching for the full story. (Picture book/folk tale. 5-8)