Imarvaluk lives on Sarichef, a tiny island off the west coast of Alaska. She fears for her home, as a terrible sea creature is slowly eating away at the island. She has nightmares in which the water washes over her home in the middle of the night, plunging everything she holds dear into the sea. Imarvaluk explains that while her people live in modern houses, they keep to many of the old traditions. But with the sea threatening to overwhelm the island, how much longer can they live as their ancestors did? Where will they go when their island disappears?
Because of its enormous scale and countless ramifications, climate change is a difficult topic to explain to children. My Wounded Island succeeds because it depicts climate change as a character in its own right – the evil sea monster that is slowly eating away at Sarichef. Author Jacques Pasquet cleverly plays into children’s natural fears. But this monster is not waiting under the bed: it is all around us.
Marion Arbona’s haunting mixed-media illustrations mesh perfectly with the tone of Pasquet’s story. Imarvaluk and her village are drawn in rich colour and detail. In contrast, the sea monster, a voracious jellyfish, is depicted in understated line art. Despite – or perhaps because of – its lack of depth, it is terrifying. The monster appears on almost every spread that features water, overshadowing daily life on Sarichef.
It’s refreshing that Pasquet does not downplay the situation on Sarichef; Imarvaluk’s island will disappear one day. There is no easy solution to this problem – it is a harrowing truth people living on small islands must plan for. Children need to know that communities are being displaced, not only by war (as they will likely have learned from books featuring refugees and immigrants), but by rising temperatures. This story is raw, melancholic, and completely unforgettable. It is a must for helping children understand the realities of climate change using imagery they can understand.