Maakusie Loves Music is a brightly illustrated picture book that introduces readers to the history of music in the Arctic. It’s the first children’s book by husband and wife duo Jaaji (Inuk and Mohawk) and Chelsey June (Métis, Algonquin, Cree, and settler), of the Ottawa-based Indigenous folk band Twin Flames. The authors’ love of music is conveyed through the perspective of Maakusie, an Inuk boy who is eager to share with the reader the knowledge he’s learned from his grandmother.
Maakusie addresses the audience directly, introducing himself and walking us through his relationship with both traditional and modern Inuit music. The book covers a wide range of musical styles, from katajjaniq (throat singing) to the prevalence of brass bands in Nunatsiavut, where Moravian missionaries introduced brass and stringed instruments in the 18th century. Equal weight is given to both historical and modern musical traditions. Maakusie Loves Music is rooted firmly in the present day and demonstrates the ongoing transmission of Inuit culture and language. This, combined with illustrator Tamara Campeau’s depictions of modern rock concerts alongside Maakusie’s narration does an excellent job of combatting any impulse to historicize Inuit culture that readers might have.
Campeau’s illustrations are vibrantly coloured, reflecting the joy Maakusie finds in music, and his enthusiasm for sharing it with the reader. Her detailed art is one of the strengths of the book. Maakusie, his grandmother, and the musicians and community members Maakusie tells us about are portrayed with great attention to their individual personalities. Maakusie Loves Music works well as a read-aloud title for younger children, both Indigenous and non-Indigenous. Jaaji and June incorporate Inuttitut vocabulary and geography into the text, with pronunciation guides and definitions for the vocabulary. The simple style and fourth-wall-breaking address to readers – Maakusie both opens and closes the book by asking readers about themselves and their musical preferences – might not work for an older audience, but Maakusie Loves Music is certainly an excellent resource for teachers and parents of primary-grade students.