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MAATA’S JOURNAL by Paul Sullivan

MAATA’S JOURNAL

By Paul Sullivan

Age Range: 14 & up

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 2003
ISBN: 0-689-83463-2
Publisher: Atheneum

Maata, a young Inuit girl tells a powerfully moving tale set in diary form. She begins by recounting her wait for the ship that will come through the breaking spring ice to rescue Morgan, the last of the four white explorers on the island of Tumak in the Arctic in 1924. Her tale spins back to how her people, accustomed to living off the land, were rounded up by the Canadian government in Ottawa, and kept from their traditional nomadic life. Maata’s mother, seeing their future in the ways of the Qallunaat—the whites—encourages her daughter to learn English first from an elder and then from the schoolmaster. Maata is drunk on words, loves to use them to hold and capture what she thinks and how she feels. Her journal vividly reflects what she learns from her family and what she learns from the boarding school in Quebec, where she’s sent when her parents die in an accident caused by a well-meaning cleric. It also reflects how carefully she reads the ice and vegetation and wildlife around her. The story of the four explorers, one of whom dies in the fire that grievously injures Morgan, two of whom choose to try to go over the ice in winter and are lost, illuminates the tangled effects of culture, liquor, and class on Inuit/Qallunaat relations. Maata’s voice is redolent with a precise, natural lyricism. The only false note is the complete lack of any sexual tension between her late adolescent self and the men she serves as guide and companion. Teen readers, however, will eagerly devour her story, with its dramatic shifts in locale and its depiction of a very alien culture and time. (bibliography, author’s note) (Fiction. YA)