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Sunday, April 8, 2018

How Nivi Got Her Names, by Laura Deal and illustrated by Charlene Chua. Inhabit Media, Fitzhenry and Whiteside. 2016. $10,95 ages 7 and up

"In Inuit culture, people get their names from many different places, and some people, like you, have many names to be proud of. People are often named after family members and loved ones who are no longer with us. Babies, like you, are given the names of people who are no longer ... "

When I shared Alma's naming story yesterday, I was reminded of another book I had read about a little girl and how she got her names. Nivi's names are hers through Inuit tradition.

A two page introduction sets the story, explaining traditional naming and Inuit custom adoption. It also explains how Nivi (Niviaq) became part of a much larger family.

"Through her names, Niviaq is a little girl, a grandfather, a grandmother, and a well-respected elders of all these families. And she's probably the cutest little girl in the whole universe.   -Aivaq Johnston"

As Nivi and her mom play one day, Nivi 's mother names the little stuffed pig the child is holding. Nivi wonders why her toy has only one name, while she has many - Niviaq Kauki Baabi Irmela Jamesie. She loves them all. Her mom explains in an easy manner, telling her that Niviaq means 'little girl'. She then goes on to tell her about the other special people whose names she was given.

Kauki was the grandmother of Nivi’s birth mother, and is a connection to her biological family. Baabi was a special family friend who appeared in a dream and naming Nivi after him allowed his spirit and character to live on through her, thus connecting her to Baabi's family. She is named Irmela after her great-grandmother Irma who was blessed with strength and creativity. Finally, the name Jamesie was to honour her mother’s grandfather, a man with a generous heart and a loving spirit.

Nivi's mother accentuates family, love, respect and identity in an effort to help her daughter understand the ways of her people. The artwork matches the gentle tone of the story, while including many family photos in the backgrounds. Animated expression and playful conversation are evident in the warm, colorful images.
In back matter, Laura Deal provides further material about 'Inuit Kinship and Naming Customs, descriptive personal paragraphs about 'Nivi's Namesakes', a helpful glossary of Inuit terms, and author and illustrator data.

Sure to inspire conversation concerning family and special people in a child's life, it also provides a window into Inuit culture and customs.

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