A young boy overcomes his anxiety about taking a celebratory flip in this brief but immersive look at modern Inupiat village culture.
Though Charlie’s feelings about the toss—a traditional activity of the Nalukataq, or Summer Whaling Festival—are mixed, he looks forward to much of the rest of the celebration. He loves the drumming, the dancing, the proud sharing out of the bowhead whale that his father and other whalers have harvested, and particularly the uqsrukuaqtaq (doughnuts), mikigaq (“fermented whale meat with blubber and tongue”), akutuq (“ice cream” made with caribou fat) and other delectable foods that have been laid out on tables behind a tall windbreak of plastic sheets. Brown supplies pronunciation guides and definitions either in context or in the appended glossary for the many Inupiaq words in her short narrative. Though very thinly applied colors give the illustrations a diaphanous look, Martinsen provides plenty of culturally specific visual details as well as lots of smiling, round faces. Buoyed by his grandmother’s tale of her own grandfather’s blanket toss as well as memories of his older brother’s, Charlie decides he’s ready. A wordless spread with Charlie flying high over the curve of the Earth, a whale spouting in the background and the community holding the blanket tight says it all.
Cultural details rather than a strong storyline dominate, but this informative glimpse of Native Americans' successfully blending new and old lifeways is valuable nevertheless. (afterword) (Picture book. 6-9)