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Elisapee and Her Baby Seagull

by Charlene Chua (ill.); Nancy Mike

Elisapee, a young Inuit girl, lives with her parents in a quaint seaside house. In the summer, her father often brings home baby birds on his boat, and one day he brings home a baby seagull. Smitten, Elisapee makes it her mission to care for the bird, whom she names Naujaaraq – Nau for short – raising it from a chick to adulthood. With her father’s guidance, Elisapee learns to find the appropriate food for Nau and even teaches the bird to fly. The young girl learns many important lessons: how to care for a pet; patience; and eventually, how to say goodbye.

First-time picture book author Nancy Mike, who grew up in Nunavut, shows a gift for navigating a complex subject – wild animal adoption – in a way young children will understand. The story is never didactic. Elisapee’s bond with Nau is portrayed as a delightful friendship between pet and foster caregiver, and when it is time for Nau to join her own kind, the process is explained simply and without melodrama.

Illustrator Charlene Chua captures the beauty and simplicity of this story in expressive and vibrant illustrations. Elisapee is a cheerful, wide-eyed girl who clearly adores her pet seagull. Nunavut, Elisapee’s hometown, is drawn with much warmth and character. The story comes alive through Chua’s masterful art, which depicts life in Nunavut as traditional and joyful. No computers, televisions, or modern technology of any kind are included in the colourful spreads; Chua’s art will surely serve to broaden children’s horizons about how close bonds between family, friends, and pets can be experienced without distractions.

This lovely picture book is ideal for classroom or small group sharing, where an adult can provide context for young listeners. It’s also a good guide for children asking for a first pet. Most of all, it can be a valuable tale for young readers who know only one way of life, and who would enjoy seeing how others live.