When baby Kulu is born, all of the Arctic world welcomes the new child. First, the Sun shines “so bright and stayed through the night, giving you blankets and ribbons of warm light.” Next, the Wind arrives with its music, and invites the wider world to come and meet the newborn. At the Wind’s command, a number of wise creatures bestow their blessings upon the child. One by one they give Kulu advice and gifts: the Arctic Hare shows love, the Arctic Char gives tenderness, the Caribou bestows patience, and the Polar Bear offers gentleness and respect for all animals. Lastly, the Land itself gives a gift: “Never be lazy, beloved Kulu, because your Land is a place of bright ideas.”
Sweetest Kulu is a lovely bedtime book. Debut author (and lauded Inuit throat singer) Celina Kalluk employs a warm narrative voice to address the child directly, inviting young readers to “dream a little” along with Kulu. The newborn is portrayed as part of a marvelous, intricate web of relationships within the natural world, lazing in the soft grass or snuggling up to the arctic hare. Alexandria Neonakis’s illustrations are gorgeous, sometimes depicting Kulu asleep, other times awake and interacting with the creatures that come to bestow their gifts. Even the largest animals, like Muskox and Caribou, are pictured cradling and protecting the baby, creating a sense of peace and safety.
Kalluk’s text is not as consistently lyrical and poetic as it could be: the author uses rhyme on the first page, but not on those that follow, and awkward phrases occasionally intrude on the story’s rhythm. Nevertheless, the constant repetition of “Kulu,” a term of endearment in Inuktitut, serves to knit together the text. Young children will be captivated by the stunning beauty of this Arctic world embracing little Kulu, and by the sweet faces of the creatures that love the newborn.