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Wednesday, December 31, 2014

The Walrus Who Escaped, written by Rachel and Sean Qitsualik-Tinsley and illustrated by Anthony Brennan. Inhabit Media, Fitzhenry & Whiteside. 2014. $16.95 ages 6 and up

"Like a big, black seagull, she used to sit at the shoreline, watching a particular walrus dive for clams. Walruses were different in those days. They had tusks that curved round and round in beautiful spirals."

I know that I have mentioned the books from Inhabit Media in a previous post. They are a most welcome addition to any bookshelf.
I recently received a box from Winston at Fitzhenry and Whiteside containing a number of new First Nations stories. I will be sharing them with you in coming weeks.

The first I want to tell you about comes from the folklore of the Inuit people. It is a pourquoi tale explaining why the walrus has straight tusks, rather than the original spiral shaped ones. Kids love to hear these tails as an explanation for why the world is the way it is.

Rachel and Sean Qitsualik-Tinsley use their storytelling prowess to share their folk tale. It begins long ago when creatures of nature could take any shape. Raven is an envious creature who wants what others have. Watching Walrus gathering countless numbers of clams has her hungering for his talent. Walrus has no concern for Raven who only gathers clams when the tide is out; then she can safely hunt without worry about making any mistakes:

"So, Raven made do with waiting for the tide to go out. Then she dug each clam from the icky shore. All her clams tasted of mud. And this made her miserable."

One day, when Walrus makes the mistake of laughing at her, Raven proves herself to be an impressive foe. Given the Strength of the Land when she asks for it, Raven is able to freeze the water around where Walrus is hunting. What happens next is the stuff of winning, entertaining folklore and will be much appreciated by a young audience.


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