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Sunday, October 2, 2011

The Qalupalik, told by Elisha Kilabuk and illustrated by Joy Ang. Inhabit Media, 2011. $12.95 ages 5 and up

"The qalupaliit are magical beings.
They can turn into any kind of

It is said that if anyone strikes
a qalupalik with a harpoon and
says the name of an animal, the
qalupalik will immediately turn
into that animal."

From Inuit storytellers we learn of the qalupaliit. They are an important part of the oral tradition that elders pass from one generation to the next. The qalupaliit live beneath the water's surface and their magic allows them to come up out of the water and steal children. They take them back to the sea with them.

The first part of this story tells readers all about the Qalupaliit. They have amauti on their backs that are made of bird feathers. Once inside the amauti the children cannot escape...the feathers make them too slippery. The beasts don't often come on land, and they are not too smart. Thus, children can trick them if they are smart and brave.

Now that we know about these magical sea monsters, we are eager to hear one of the stories often told. Parents always warn their children to stay away from the water in the springtime as the ice is breaking up. As is customary with children, they do not heed those warnings. One of the children playing on the beach is an orphan, with no caregiver. His clothing is tattered and torn, his kamiik have holes in the toes. The children warn each other if they think the qalupalik is near.

When they see it rise from the water, they run. The orphan cannot run as fast as the others because of his worn kamiik. As he faces the qalupalik, his toes intrigue the monster and the boy sees his chance to escape.

Elisha Kilabuk is a 'celebrated cultural performer and storyteller'. He is the first to work on this new project from Inhabit Media. I'm sure it won't be the last time we hear from him. The story is told simply, with solid impact and great delight to the readers of this Inuit trickster tale. Joy Ang creates a memorable, and frightful, beast with a sad, eyeless face, webbed feet, and shiny, slimy skin. Oh, and those long, spiky claws!

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