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Thursday, June 1, 2017

Akilak's Adventure, written by Deborah Kigjugalik Webster and illustrated by Charlene Chua. Inhabit Media, Fitzhenry & Whiteside. 2016. $10.95 ages 4 and up

"Carrying only a small amount of dry meat as a snack, Akilak set off toward her uncle's camp. She walked and walked. And as she walked, she thought about how wonderful it would be to see and play with her cousin again."

 Akilak and her grandmother live on their own on the tundra, taking care of themselves and enjoyed their days together. When her grandmother sprains her ankle and cannot walk, Akilak must make the long journey to her uncle's camp to get the food they will need until her grandmother has healed. Given clear instructions, Akilak sets off. She knows it will take a long time, but her grandmother assures her:

"your destination is not running away;
it will be reached eventually."

Off she goes, keeping a quick pace and enjoying the outdoors. When she sits to rest, have a snack and a refreshing drink from a nearby stream, she notices a young caribou grazing across the stream. They are unafraid. When the caribou speaks, and asks to journey with Akilak, she is delighted to say yes as she will enjoy the company.

Their trek is quicker with company. Akilak imagines herself a fish, a wolf and a snow goose as her grandmother has shared tales of humans who change into animals, and animals who change into humans. Despite her imaginary wishes, she realizes how happy she is just as she is. Soon, the two come to the hill that will lead her to the camp she seeks. The caribou is quick to change direction, while leaving her new friend with a familiar observation:

"Your destination did not run away;
you will reach it soon."

The journey (and adventure) ends in a happy reunion with her relatives, and the knowledge that  a young child can take responsibility and get the job done. An important lesson, and a lovely tale.

Charlene Chua's images are as welcome and gentle as the story told. She brings a delightful energy to the adventure shared. The beauty of the northern landscape is evident at every turn, and will be welcomed by the book's young audience.


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