Nala's Magical Mitsiaq by J. Noah
Noah, Jennifer. Nala's Magical Mitsiaq. Iqualuit, NV: Inhabit Media, 2013. Print.
Adoption of children is common among Inuit families and "custom adoption" is a legal term for this age-old tradition which was a part of Inuit survival. Jennifer Noah wrote this children's book so that she could read a story to which her daughter could relate.
The mitsiaq is the umbilical cord. In Nala's story, her adoptive mother dreams of Nala before she is born and dreams of "a magical mitsiaq connecting [their] hearts". In the rest of the story, Nala's mother explains how one of her daughters grew in her belly, while the other grew in her heart and both are equally loved.
The text is above the reading level of the age 5 to 8 target audience, but there is an assumption that an adult will be reading with the child. Inuktitut words are used often in the text and appear in the glossary at the back of the book. This book presents adoption as a positive, loving traditional practice. For a non-Inuit child trying to understand adoption, this book shows adoption as a normal part of community and family life, at least in Inuit culture.
In the back of the book there are six quotations from Inuit women who have experienced custom adoption. Some have adopted, some were adopted and some have siblings who were adopted in or adopted out. All of their stories speak of the adoption process as an act of love both by the birth parents and the adoptive parents.
The illustrations by Toronto artist, Qin Leng are comic-book like, with all objects and features outlined in black and filled with colour. The illustrations are bright and attractive. The people in the book appear more Asian than they do Inuit, but because of the informality of the drawings, this does not detract from the story.
This is another excellent book from Inhabit Media and should be included in public and elementary school library collections
Highly recommended: 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.