March 15, 2013


by Julien Béziat
Translated by Evan Jones
Fitzhenry & Whiteside
36 pp.
Ages 5+
January, 2013

Don't let anyone tell you differently but art is sustenance.  Without art, there is no life.  Perhaps that seems like an over-the-top statement but in Julien Béziat's Mäko, translated by Fitzhenry & Whiteside editor Evan Jones, we learn that this is a reality.

Mäko is a walrus who, like most animals, spends much of his time searching for his food.  But after fishing, Mäko returns to the giant ice floe on which he and other animals live and uses his tusks to carve amazing ice sculptures.  

His sculptures are more than just a joyful hobby for Mäko - they provide key information to the locations of the fish that the animals need to survive.  When the giant ice floe breaks apart and all his ice maps are destroyed, so too do the fish disappear.  It's up to Mäko to find a way to help everyone survive.  But how?

The simplicity of Julien Béziat's story, whose integrity is maintained by Evan Jones' thoughtful translation, speaks of art, appreciation, global warming, responsibility and logic.  Why does the ice floe break apart?  Where have the fish gone?  Why does Mäko bother sculpting ice?  Do the other animals appreciate Mäko's efforts and artistry?  What sculpture could result in the reappearance of enough fish to feed everyone? Most important, the question that is answered so simply but eloquently is: what is the value of art?

The text is sparse, the illustrations are pen and ink with watercolour, and the story is succinct.  For any age, Mäko teaches that art is integral to life.

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