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Putuguq & Kublu and the Qalupalik!

by Astrid Arijanto (ill.); Danny Christopher; Roselynn Akulukjuk

Something lurks beneath the sea ice of Arviq Bay. That is, if siblings Putuguq and Kublu believe their grandfather’s tale of creatures, called qalupaliit, who snatch unsuspecting children playing too close to the water.

Published by Inhabit Media, an Inuit-owned publishing company that preserves and promotes the stories and knowledge of northern Canada, Putuguq & Kublu and the Qalupalik! is the second graphic novel in a series. The first instalment, Putuguq & Kublu, was included in the United States Board on Books for Young People’s Outstanding International Books List.

Both volumes open with a stunning map of Arviq Bay — a small fictional community just north of the Arctic Circle — and both feature the antics of their mischievous title characters set against a tundra landscape. The stories present mythology and traditional world views in a way that is accessible and engaging to young readers, challenging children to learn unfamiliar vocabulary and make empathetic connections while reading. Children will benefit from reading the first book in the series beforehand, as it provides context to the siblings’ rivalry and their life together in Arviq Bay.

For the latest instalment – written by Nunavut-raised Roselynn Akulukjuk in collaboration with Toronto author Danny Christopher – Putuguq and Kublu are on their way to the shoreline when they are warned of a dangerous qalupalik. Together the two must decide if their grandfather is telling them the truth or simply trying to spook them.

Toronto illustrator Astrid Arijanto uses visual cues, including the spirited facial expressions and body language of Putuguq, Kublu, and their grandfather, to help struggling and reluctant readers generate meaning. And the writers have provided a simple narrative structure – with the exception of one fantasy sequence and a flashback – that relies more heavily on dialogue than action.

More playful than scary, Putuguq & Kublu and the Qalupalik! succeeds in teaching about contemporary Indigenous culture in a non-didactic, humorous way. As a supplementary text, it will easily align to curricula while helping children build their literacy skills. With brightly coloured illustrations and engaging dialogue, it’s one of those books that is highly informational without revealing as much to its young readers.