Tales from the Tundra: A Collection of Inuit Stories by I. Kaslik
Kaslik, Ibi. Tales from the Tundra: A Collection of Inuit Stories. Illus. Anthony Brennan. Iqaluit: Inhabit Media, 2010. Print.
Inhabit Media is an Inuit-owned, independent publishing company that “aims to promote and preserve the stories, knowledge, and talent of northern Canada.” This collection of five traditional Inuit stories from different regions in Nunavut is one of their most recent offerings. Three of the stories tell of how specific animals came into being. One tells how the raven and loon came to look the way they do and the fifth, The Owl and the Siksik, is a typical story of outwitting the enemy.
Anthony Brennan’s illustrations have a two-dimensional fantasy quality to them that is more reminiscent of cartoons or Japanese anime than of traditional Inuit art. Many of the creatures are outlined in black and then filled with solid colour. While the backgrounds are usually ice-blue, and there are pastel colours in the images, many of the main parts of the drawings are black, giving the book an overall ominous look.
While these stories are described in the forward as “contemporary retellings”, Kaslik’s voice is similar to that of an elder telling stories and her style is traditional. The language is simple and direct, occasionally incorporating Inuit words. Animals are anthropomorphized. They do the same sorts of things that humans do and have human emotions and foibles. For example, in “The Raven and The Loon”, the two birds sew clothes for each other. When Raven thinks that Loon is sewing too slowly, she reacts impatiently: “Please, sew faster!” impatient Raven pleaded.”
Kaslik also uses internal dialogue, another traditional technique, to allow the reader to listen to the characters reasoning out their actions. For example, “Siksiks often go in and out of their dens,” thought the owl, believing himself to be very clever. “Today I will find a siksik den and wait there until I see one.”
There are few children’s books of Inuit mythology available, and fewer that have the authenticity of being published by an Inuit publishing house. Overall, this volume is a small, but welcome addition to the field, through which many children will be able to learn about the mythology of the Inuit. For public and school libraries everywhere.
Highly recommended: 4 out of 4 stars
Reviewer: Sandy Campbell
Sandy is a Health Sciences Librarian at the University of Alberta, who has written hundreds of book reviews across many disciplines. Sandy thinks that sharing books with children is one of the greatest gifts anyone can give.