Quill and Quire


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by Maxine Trottier, Stella East, illus.

Inukshuks – those strange human-like figures of piled rocks that are such a distinctive emblem of the Canadian Arctic – provide a centre for Maxine Trottier’s haunting story of a young boy lost in the midwinter darkness of the Far North. The award-winning author of Prairie Willow and other notable picture books unobtrusively but skillfully evokes her historical as well as geographical setting.

David has come to the Arctic with his naturalist father and learns of the Inukshuk as just one of many wonders of the place. When David ventures away from their icebound sailing ship to pursue two foxes in the moonlight, he loses his way. Everyone on the ship is still asleep. Then a tall, broad man appears at the top of a hill, kindly advising the boy to stay still and wait for the return of the sun. Trottier’s story moves from naturalism to myth, and from the perspective of the English-speaking travellers to that of the Inuit. In simple but poetic language she evokes the atmosphere of the Northern night, where the ordinary sense of time is altered, and human merges into landscape and myth. The sensuous textures of frost tracery and fur, and the contrasts of firelight and moonlit snow against the blue-black darkness in East’s vivid paintings, enhance the magic and eerie beauty of the story. Dreamstones deserves a place beside such outstanding picture books of the North as Andrews and Wallace’s The Very Last First Time and Ted Harrison’s works.