Grandma tries to help her little one fall asleep.
The baby bird asks for a story, but Grandma says she has none to tell. The baby keeps asking, however, so finally Grandma obliges. In her story, lemmings want to join them to get warm. “They want to crawl up your back, / under your armpits, / around your neck. / They want to crawl inside.” Clearly the little ptarmigan is uneasy, but Grandma tickles him all over anyway. Frightened, he flies for the first time—away from Grandma. Bereft, Grandma cries, “nauk, nauk.” This is no ordinary bedtime tale but a pourquoi tale that explains why baby ptarmigans fly at a very young age and females cry. Children who are accustomed to cuddling at bedtime may find this storytelling experience a bit unsettling, but in the harsh natural world of the Arctic, it provides an explanation for observed behavior. Co-author Mikkigak is an Inuit elder, storyteller and performer, and the Canadian publisher is Inuit-owned. Non-Inuit readers will probably wish for notes and a pronunciation guide, but as a cultural expression, the book has its own integrity. Leng’s art in browns and blues is lovely, employing short brush strokes that animate both feathers and flight.
A brief, illuminating glimpse into Inuit storytelling. (Picture book/folk tale. 4-7)