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Tuesday, November 24, 2015

An Inuksuk Means Welcome, words and art by Mary Wallace. Owlkids, 2015. $18.95 ages 5 and up

is for inuksuk,

the stone messenger
that stands at the top
of the world."

Inuksuit have many purposes in Inuit culture. Because of the vast expanses of land in the north, an inuksuk may be used as a beacon, providing a kind of map to help travellers find their way. They are also used as a means of welcome and joy for those who see them.

"For thousands of years, people living in the Arctic have built stone towers called inuksuit to guide them across this land of ice and snow. A single marker is called an inuksuk. It can mark where to find food or how to find home. It can even be a way of saying, "Welcome."

Mary Wallace uses an acrostic framework to introduce her readers to seven words from the Inuit culture, each beginning with one of the letters of inuksuk. In reading it, we learn something about the customs and traditions of Arctic life for the Inuit people.

The words are first given in English and accompanied by textured and beautifully rendered artwork. The double spread that follows each of the seven words presents a portrait of the Arctic landscape, with a phonetic guide to saying the word properly as well as the word show in Inuktitut characters.

You will see the polar bear, a umiaq, a kamik, the siku, a umimmat, and the kunik. Interested in knowing more? Find this book at the library or your local bookstore. Then, you will know what each word describes.

Mary Wallace's paintings show readers the depth of beauty in the Arctic and the power of the stark landscape. As well, she allows a glimpse at family and the variety in form for these iconic towers on the northern landscape.

A final page shows and explains the meanings for the various inuksuit that may be built as messengers of the Arctic landscape, also giving their pronunciation, their Inuit spelling and the English translation. Readers are encouraged to go back and see if they can find each of the seven images.

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