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Friday, May 4, 2012

Under The Ice, retold by Rachel A. Qitsualik, illustrated by Jae Korim and art direction by Babah Kalluk. Inhabit Media, 2012. $9.95 ages 6 and up

"Then, leaving the child in tears, she entered her cold, dark iglu. There she sat with poisonous thoughts swirling round her head, until her mind at last cleared. But before she could so much as think over what she had said to her grandson, there came a dreadful squeal from outside."

I have truly enjoyed every publication received from Inhabit Media. I think that they are doing a superb job of bringing Inuit traditional stories to a new generation, one that has been influenced by movies, cartoons and comic books.

In telling this tale from traditional lore, the art director chose to use images inspired by comic books as they would be familiar to the intended audience. They will definitely find fans.  I have vivid memories of reading a story from Robert Munsch and Michael Kusugak called A Promise is a Promise (Annick, 1992) and meeting for the first time the ice monsters known as Qallupilluit. They were scary and I was sure that any cautionary stories about them would have kept me back from the ice edge.

In this compelling tale an old grandmother is caring for her young grandson, and experiencing great difficulty doing so. There is never enough food, he is inquisitive and exuberant and she lacks patience. One day he wants food and will not hear that they have none. She loses her temper and makes a wish that the qallupiluq will come and take him. In fact that is just what happens! The childd is taken and the grandmother spends endless days filled with guilt and longing.

Finally, she convinces friends to look for him, for there have been reports by hunters of seeing a young boy playing out on the ice. How had he survived? The hunters finally find him, but he proves elusive and we learn that he is protecting his new family. They have treated him with love and kindness and he wants to stay with them. Will he be caught?

A great story, well-told with appealing artwork and touches of terror and great love.

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