Quill and Quire

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What’s My Superpower?

by Aviaq Johnston; Tim Mack (ill.)

Nalvana, a young Inuit girl with a big heart, has always dreamed of having a superpower. She observes the behaviour of the children with whom she goes to school and can easily identify their “superpowers.” Davidee can run exceptionally fast, Maata can jump off swings at the top of their arc, and Joansie can build anything out of snow. But Nalvana is at a loss when she attempts to identify her own exceptional ability. Does she have a superpower at all? Of course she does – she simply cannot see it.

Aviaq Johnston is an Inuit writer who hails from Nunavut. This intimately sweet story feels personal, as if it comes from Johnston’s own experiences of noticing the remarkable in those around her. The author is proud of her hometown and her mother tongue; the story is set in Nunavut and some Inuktitut words are included in the text (a glossary is provided). The Inuktitut language does much to enhance the story, and readers and listeners come away feeling they’ve learned a little about Inuit culture. But this is not necessarily an Inuit story. The message is universal: everyone has something they are good at, even if they don’t realize it. The conclusion provides the kind of big, warm hug you want at bedtime.

The illustrations, too, are comforting. Tim Mack has done an admirable job bringing Nalvana and her world to life through bright, joyful illustrations. His rounded edges and cartoon-like characters have tremendous kid appeal. Nalvana is downright adorable, with her yellow cape tied around her neck and snowmobile goggles perched on her forehead. Her smile is infectious and young readers will likely be grinning along with her.

While there is nothing earth shattering about What’s My Superpower? – its familiar story has been seen countless times – it is well-written, heart-warming, set in a unique part of the country, and features a young superhero everyone can relate to.