January 12, 2018

Elisapee and Her Baby Seagull

Written by Nancy Mike
Illustrated by Charlene Chua
Inhabit Media
40 pp.
Ages 4-7
November 2017

When her father Livee brings home a baby seagull, seven-year-old Elisapee adopts it, calling it Naujaaraq or Nau for short.  She adores the little bird, caring for it as a mother would: making a soft bed for it and gathering sculpins and other food to feed it.  As Nau grows and begins to accompany Elisapee outdoors, they realizes they must encourage Nau to learn to fly.  After a few attempts, Nau takes to the air and even joins other seagulls, returning nightly.  Giving Nau a pink ribbon for her foot, Elisapee is delighted to be able to pick out Nau amongst the other gulls. And then a few days pass and Nau never returns.  Learning about loss is a hard lesson for Elisapee but one she accepts, rich in memories and understanding for the wildlife of the Arctic.
From Elisapee and Her Baby Seagull 
by Nancy Mike 
illus. by Charlene Chua
Only in the Arctic, a world of sculpins and krill, tundra and brilliant northern lights, could the story of Elisapee and Her Baby Seagull be as real as it is.  Most children will have brought home a found animal or injured bird to tend at home until time to let it go but Elisapee with the help of her little brother Jimi extends her care for Nau beyond the norm.  She gathers food along the shore, she draws pictures of the seagull, and she doesn't squirrel it away in her house to ensure it never leaves her, as some children may be want to do.  Elisapee is a mother in spirit and action, knowing the time would come for her little one to leave the nest, and, though it saddens her, she accepts it as a part of life.

This is Nancy Mike's first picture book and it is based on a childhood experience in Nunavut.  Her devotion to Nau and delight in her is palpable, raising the story from one about removing an animal from its habitat, as might be the case here in southern Ontario, to one of fostering a little one until it is ready to leave the nest and be with its own kind.  Charlene Chua, who illustrated previously-reviewed Akilak's Adventure (2016) and Fishing with Grandma (2016), brings that wide-eyed wonder and adoration to life in her artwork.  She also embeds the story in an Arctic environment and Inuit culture, making it all the more authentic.  

The beautiful spirit that Elisapee remembers as Nau is there in the story too.  It is the spirit of childhood and home, all the more memorable for being shared with the feathered and non-feathered.
From Elisapee and Her Baby Seagull 
by Nancy Mike 
illus. by Charlene Chua

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