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Book Reviews

Kamik: An Inuit Puppy Story

by Donald Uluadluak; Qin Leng, illus.

Inhabit Media’s mandate is to promote the traditional Inuit culture of Nunavummiut (residents of Nunavut) and make it accessible to readers in the rest of the country. The publishing house, which has offices in Iqualuit and Toronto, succeeds with its most recent picture book.

Adapted from the memories of Donald Uluadluak and illustrated by Toronto artist Qin Leng, the story introduces readers to Jake and his puppy, who refuses to behave. The pair visits Jake’s grandfather, who delights and fascinates his young grandson with yarns about dogs he’s known throughout his life. Grandfather tells of his many adventures with four-legged companions, from sledding through blizzards to surviving fires to embarking on countless hunting expeditions. Over the course of Jake’s visit, the boy gains a new perspective on dogs, and the puppy gains a new name.

As with other children’s books from Inhabit, traditional Inuktitut words and names are sprinkled throughout. The story maintains a conversational feel, which serves the dual purpose of reminding readers of the strong tradition of oral storytelling in Northern Canada, as well as honouring the original source of inspiration for the book: the recollections of an elder and renowned storyteller from the remote community of Arviat.

Leng is an accomplished illustrator and designer whose previous work includes the immensely popular children’s book A Flock of Shoes (written by frequent collaborator Sarah Tsiang). Her style of illustration is well-suited to this tale. The range of Jake and his grandfather’ emotions, the splashes of warm colours, and the hints of background detail provide readers with much to look at while they listen, along with Jake, to Grandfather’s stories.

Jake’s puppy (adorably rendered by Leng) may be small now, but the reader gets the impression he will do big things as he gets older.