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Games of Survival: Traditional Inuit Games for Elementary Students by J. Issaluk



Issaluk, Johnny.  Games of Survival:  Traditional Inuit Games for Elementary Students.  Iqaluit, NV: Inhabit Media, 2012. Print.

Johnny Issaluk is an Inuit athlete who has competed in traditional Inuit games since age 16 and has won at national competitions.  He grew up in Igluligaarjuk on the coast of Hudson’s Bay and now coaches younger athletes in Iqaluit.  In this book he provides a visual guide to how the games should be played.  The book is also designed to help preserve the traditions of the games for future generations. Issaluk tells us that being part of the book is one of the “biggest accomplishments” of his life.

The Inuit games “were used not only for fun, not only for celebration, but for survival”.  Each game is designed to improve a hunter’s agility, strength or endurance.  The book is made up of photographs of people performing the movements for each game, accompanied by text that explains both how to play the game and why it was played.  For example, the Alaskan High Kick, an agility game, is first described in a paragraph followed two pages show two different people performing the kick and step-by-step instructions.  In describing the Hand Pull, a strength game, Issaluk explains how to perform it, but also tells us that “the hand pull was traditionally used to strengthen the wrists and the grip, so that a hunter could hold a walrus in one place until the animal got tired.”

While the instructions are clear, the images will be most helpful to anyone trying to understand the games or teach them to elementary school children.  The children in the photographs are dressed in bright colours and presented against a stark white background, so that there is nothing to distract or confuse the viewer.  Sometimes sequences of movements are illustrated. In other cases, the same movement or position is shown with several different participants or from different angles, so that it will be easy for readers to replicate it.

There are few books that teach how to play Inuit Games.  This one is high quality and authentic.  It would be an excellent tool for use in an elementary level physical education program.  Highly recommended for public and school libraries.

Recommendation:  4 stars out of 4
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.