July 10, 2018

The Muskox and the Caribou

Written by Nadia Mike
Illustrated by Tamara Campeau
Inhabit Media
36 pp.
Ages 5-7
February 2018

While The Muskox and the Caribou is obviously a story rooted in the Arctic where both species co-exist, children everywhere will appreciate the story of Baby Muskox and Baby Caribou and Mother Caribou who loved them both.

The story begins with the birth of Baby Caribou who is born to a loving Mother Caribou and learns to walk and gallop with the herd. One day, Mother Caribou spots Baby Muskox wandering helplessly alone and lost and leads him along with her own offspring back to the herd. Baby Muskox knows he is different. He has long and dark shaggy hair and his legs are short and stocky, very different from the caribou. Sadly, Baby Caribou and his friends don't seem to like Baby Muskox very much and tease him about his differences.  It is only with Mother Caribou that Baby Muskox feels love and comfort.
From The Muskox and the Caribou by Nadia Mike, illus. by Tamara Campeau
Months pass and the young animals grow. Even when the young are prodded by Mother Caribou to go out and explore independently, Baby Muskox returns to the safety and love of his adopted mother. Finally, when fully grown, Mother Caribou takes Baby Muskox on a long walk to see animals such as himself. For the first time, the muskox understands why he never fit in and, though he is sad to learn he isn't a caribou at all, he is excited to get to know others who are just like him.
But most of all, he was grateful for Mother Caribou because she had always shown him love. (pg. 26)
From The Muskox and the Caribou by Nadia Mike, illus. by Tamara Campeau
All children will feel different from others at one point or another.  It may be the way they look or what they can do or can't do or the way they feel.  Some may not feel like they belong in the family to which they were born or with whom they live.  But if The Muskox and the Caribou teaches anything it is that love can make things tolerable and allow growth. Baby Muskox may never have realized he was a muskox but he knew he wasn't like the caribou and that caused him much sadness. Only Mother Caribou made things right. Unfortunately Baby Caribou who'd always known that he belonged could have been a better sibling to Baby Muskox but he did not see the impact of his actions on the young muskox.

Nadia Mike's humble story of a baby muskox taken in by a mother caribou and loved and sheltered along with her own young provides may teachable moments about love and differences and empathy.  Children who live in the Arctic will more likely recognize the two animals and how different they are, but all children will accept that the muskox and the caribou could be any individuals who are different and can still coexist. With love, all is possible.

Northern Quebec illustrator Tamara Campeau provides a natural landscape for The Muskox and the Caribou, emphasizing the rugged terrain and tundra vegetation as the backdrop for the story.  While the animals as babies are softened and simplified, they are true and realistic, and Tamara Campeau makes The Muskox and the Caribou as much a teaching book about the Arctic as she does enhancing Nadia Mike's story with art.

Though all children will delight in a story about baby animals, The Muskox and the Caribou should be read to send a message that we all belong somewhere and, until that somewhere is found, love can help brook time and place.

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