May 28, 2020

Pirate Queen: A Story of Zheng Yi Sao

Written by Helaine Becker
Illustrated by Liz Wong
Groundwood Books
36 pp.
Ages 6-10
March 2020

The Pirate Queen was a woman whose impact was strong but whose details are vague, if not non-existent, and so Helaine Becker has created her story. Whether the Pirate Queen started in poverty and was captured by pirates to become a captain's wife or not, the story that Helaine Becker envisions for this extraordinary woman, born in Imperial China in the late 1700s, is one of making something from nothing, rewriting her story to one of possibilities and taking control. 
In Canton, girls like us were like ink: used and used until we were all used up.
But Fortune had shaken my bones and spun the wheel of my fate.
I had been given something rare: an opportunity.
I was ink, but I could also be the brush. 
From Pirate Queen: A Story of Zheng Yi Sao by Helaine Becker, illus. by Liz Wong
According to Helaine Becker's illustrated creative biography of the Pirate Queen, the girl refused to marry the pirate captain Zheng Yi unless he gave her an equal share in his enterprise. So, when he died six years later, she took command over more than 1800 ships and 70,000 men, never allowing any of the pirates to challenge her. Working with other squadron leaders as a council, she came to dominate the South China's seas and its economy.

From Pirate Queen: A Story of Zheng Yi Sao by Helaine Becker, illus. by Liz Wong
But the Pirate Queen did not restrict herself to the water. She also conquered poorer coastal towns until the emperor deemed it necessary to go after her. Attacks and attempts to starve her and her Red Flag Fleet were unsuccessful, as were attacks by British, Dutch and Portuguese ships.  When she finally decided to retire from the sea, she finds a way to leave free and rich while still thinking of those beneath her.
In the end, I had written my own scroll, using brine and blood as my ink.
I had never dreamed of the sea, but the sea, it seemed, had dreamed of me.
From Pirate Queen: A Story of Zheng Yi Sao by Helaine Becker, illus. by Liz Wong
From Pirate Queen: A Story of Zheng Yi Sao by Helaine Becker, illus. by Liz Wong
Though Helaine Becker is a versatile writer of picture books, early readers, middle grade fiction, and non-fiction, I think she has outdone herself in this story of the Pirate Queen. Her author's note makes it clear that little is known about the Pirate Queen, whose name Zheng Yi Sao refers to her simply as "Wife of Zheng Yi" but Helaine Becker writes her a life story of smarts and cunning, seeing chances where others might see despair. But Helaine Becker doesn't just make up a story about Zheng Yi Sao; she gives it life with words and voice–the story is narrated by the Pirate Queen– that make the Pirate Queen real and even eloquent. I can just imagine this young woman with her meagre existence deciding to make something of her atrocious circumstances, believing she had nothing to lose. In the end, she gained much and made a life for herself and others.

If you've been reading CanLit for LittleCanadians, you'll know what a big fan I am of illustrated biographies and Pirate Queen: A Story of Zheng Yi Sao will become an auspicious addition to that genre especially with American illustrator Liz Wong's pencil on bristol board (digitally coloured) art giving the richness of colour and form to the story. It's the telling of a little known historical figure whose impact was extraordinary but seldom discussed. That's about to change. Because of Helaine Becker, the Pirate Queen has had her story told and her fierceness acknowledged for the ages.

May 27, 2020

Sky of Bombs, Sky of Stars: A Vietnamese War Ophan Finds Home

Written by Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch
Pajama Press
224 pp.
Ages 8-12
April 2020

For young readers who have not had the privilege of reading Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch's award-winning non-fiction books about Son Thi Anh Tuyet, a child rescued from Saigon at the end of the Vietnam War and who finds a new life in Canada, Sky of Bombs, Sky of Stars offers an omnibus of the two earlier stories.  

In her first book, Last Airlift: A Vietnamese Orphan's Rescue from War (2011), Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch tells the story of Tuyet, an eight-year orphan in today's Ho Chi Minh City who knows only bombs, soldiers, caring for babies at the orphanage and two visits from a woman and a boy. Convinced she would never be adopted because of a damaged foot and because she did not understand English, she never sees the opportunity presented to her when she is taken with numerous babies onto a plane to head away from the danger and to a new life with the Morris family in Brantford, Ontario.

In the sequel, One Step at a Time: A Vietnamese Child Finds Her Way (2012), Tuyet has become a part of a family with a mom and dad, two sisters and a little brother. She no longer believes she has only been welcomed to tend to the children and, though she is still haunted by nightmares, she has learned to play and be a child again. But she has new fears when she learns that she will be undergoing surgery to resolve her foot and ankle impaired by polio. With her minimal English and her family unable to speak Vietnamese, Tuyet's world continues to be a challenge. Still, with the love and patience of her new family and other special people, she forges ahead, taking new steps forward.

Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch consistently tells stories about young people challenged during historical times and how they rise above the adversity to make lives for themselves. Tuyet's is such a story. She was a little girl alone, feeling her life limited to work and caring for others, never expecting much for herself. But with an airlift out of Saigon and the love of a compassionate family, Tuyet builds something new and begins to see herself as the incredible person she has always been, beyond what service she provides. Fortunately, by putting both Tuyet's stories together in an omnibus, Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch and Pajama Press will help young readers get the whole story, saving them from a search for sequels or determining which book came first.  Sky of Bombs, Sky of Stars truly gives young readers the more complete story of a Vietnamese war orphan's journey from hardships and horror to hope and home.

The two original books
Last Airlift: A Vietnamese Orphan's Rescue from War (2011)
One Step at a Time: A Vietnamese Child Finds Her Way (2012)
were reviewed on CanLit for LittleCanadians originally
on April 9, 2012 and September 9, 2012 respectively.

May 26, 2020

A Funny Sort of Minister

Written by Dominique Demers
Illustrated by Tony Ross
Translated by Sander Berg
Alma Books
96 pp.
Ages 7-11
January 2020 

The unconventional and spirited woman of Dominique Demers's The Adventures of Miss Charlotte has returned and this time she's accidentally delving into politics (hence the ministerial role in the title).

Miss Charlotte is heading by train to see her friends in Saint-Anatole when she accidentally grabs the bag of the Prime Minister, Roger Rarejoy. When she goes to the address with which it is labelled, she is sent away as a crazy lady (she doesn't just tell them outright she has his bag). But the prime minister's son, Gustave-Aurèle, wants to help her find his father and make his father proud, something the boy never feels he has accomplished, no matter how hard he works.  So together Miss Charlotte and Gustave-Aurèle follow the prime minister's schedule, hoping to catch up with him.

But, when the two unlikely companions end up at a car factory and learn the prime minister has not arrived to the impatient crowd, Miss Charlotte takes it upon herself to act as his representative, unveiling a new car and renaming it GA-GA after Gustave-Aurèle. She delights everyone with her lively presentation that includes a song and dance and has them heralding her as the new kind of politician. That is, everyone except the prime minister and his entourage who start to believe that Gustave-Aurèle has been kidnapped by the woman who incidentally reminds the PM of happy times with his own Auntie Josephine.

The hilarity continues with Miss Charlotte and Gustave-Aurèle seeking to get the important papers to the prime minister, particularly those that set out a new policy for education that requires more and more time in school and none for play, with the two parties ultimately converging to a charming reunion between father and son and the realization that play is an important part of learning.

Dominique Demers's original French-language series has charmed countless young readers across the world and we're fortunate that these English translations are being published now. These early chapter books provide straightforward but engaging plots with strong characters and subtle messages about creativity and play, bridging the genre between early readers and middle grade fiction beautifully. The writing draws the reader in immediately, as the distracted Miss Charlotte loses her bag and the Prime Minister, through a series of mishaps, enters the station. Then it's one scene after another, visually explicit and always funny with misunderstanding and confusion, that leads to the story's end when Miss Charlotte disappears with only a letter to tie up her latest adventure.
From A Funny Sort of Minister by Dominique Demers, illus. by Tony Ross
Complemented with the illustrations of well-known British artist Tony Ross, A Funny Sort of Minister will tickle young readers with its cheerful yet silly circumstances while they applaud Miss Charlotte's recognition of the value of learning outside the box, and the classroom.
I encourage young readers who are looking for funny early chapter books to consider reading the whole series (two of which I have reviewed):

The New Teacher (2016)
The New Football Coach (2019)
A Funny Sort of Minister (2020)

May 25, 2020

The Haircut

Written by Theo Heras
Illustrated by Renné Benoit
Pajama Press
24 pp.
Ages 1-3
May 2020

There's probably a lot of trepidation with respect to haircuts right now as many barbershops and salons are closed and people are taking on the task themselves. Fortunately, most of of have a history of haircuts and know what to expect, even if we ourselves don't know what to do. But imagine a toddler who has never had a haircut. That first haircut can generate much confusion and even distress for the unknown but Theo Heras and Renné Benoit's newest picture book, The Haircut, will comfort any child and probably a parent or two, as a young boy is taken to the barbershop for the first time.
From The Haircut by Theo Heras, illus. by Renné Benoit
This little boy may not know he needs a haircut but he does notice how it falls in his face when he plays. Even as he tries to keep it out of his eyes, it again falls. No wonder it's decided that it's time for a haircut.
From The Haircut by Theo Heras, illus. by Renné Benoit
From The Haircut by Theo Heras, illus. by Renné Benoit
Off goes child and father hand in hand to the barbershop marked with its red, white and blue pole. Of course the boy wonders if it will hurt. There are after all dangerous scissors involved. But, with an animal print cape, a chair that goes up high and his dad holding his little hand, the child is reassured, especially when he gets a lollipop and no longer has long hair getting in his eyes.
From The Haircut by Theo Heras, illus. by Renné Benoit
What a wonderful book to read with toddlers (and then get them reading for themselves) who will be experiencing their first haircut. It speaks to them, not their parents who think their hair is too long or wants it styled or thinks it's time. It's time because the little boy's hair keeps falling in his eyes and gets in the way of his play. He knows it's not convenient so they know it too.

Theo Heras, along with illustrator Renné Benoit, has taken children through a number of common childhood experiences (e.g., Hat On, Hat Off; Baby Cakes; and Where's Bunny?) in these uniquely presented books. The padded cover with rounded edges and extra-heavy pages are far nicer than board books usually aimed at the youngest of readers and are a treat to handle and to read to young children. The Haircut is similarly comforting and informing. That book cover portrait that focuses on the child and his glorious tresses and doubtful face invites the reader in, and Renné Benoit's watercolour and digital illustrations are similarly engaging, both uncluttered and complete. Like Theo Heras's words, Renné Benoit has illustrated The Haircut for the young child, though everyone can appreciate the book.

Whether a parent wants to help a child to prepare for that first haircut or to reminisce about that first experience, The Haircut is there for an snuggly read.

May 22, 2020

When You Get the Chance

Written by Tom Ryan and Robin Stevenson
Running Press Teens
272 pp.
Ages 12+
May 2021
(n.b. The original release date was May 2020 but I have been informed by author Robin Stevenson that the date has been changed to May 2021)

Teens Talia and Mark may think that their destiny is to attend Toronto Pride when they and their families visit Ontario for a funeral but, though they get there, their stories in When You Get the Chance are all about the journey.

When Talia and her dad Gary come from Victoria and meet up with his sister Janet and two kids, Mark and 10-year-old Paige, who live in Halifax, the atmosphere is cool. Though Gary and Janet are attending their father's funeral and trying to help their mother through the loss, their long-term estrangement causes great friction, especially about the family cottage in Muskoka which Gary thinks should be sold and Janet hopes to visit with her kids. Grandma insists they all go up there together and spend a week before a decision will be made.

But, when Grandma has a fall and the adults rush back to Toronto, leaving the kids to fend for themselves–grant you, Talia and Mark are in their late teens–the summer becomes a whole lot more interesting. Paige is determined to discover what lead to her mom's estrangement from her brother so, while she and Talia clean and sort, she speculates and puts clues together. Mark, on the other hand, is smitten with local boy Darren who has come around to help fix a 1970 Ford Mustang discovered in a shed. Mark, unfortunately, is all about Mark and, after he learns what Darren is really like, he decides to head to Toronto for Pride. Talia, whose partner Erin had recently moved to Toronto, is desperate to see them (Erin is non-binary and uses they/them/their pronouns), insists Mark take his cousin and, of course, Paige must come along too.

However, when the old Mustang breaks down, their trip looks like it's ended early. But, after meeting diner owner Shirley Jr. and her mechanic partner Babs who offer to take the kids to Toronto themselves, it's a new journey for Mark and Talia in resolving past relationships, meeting new people, experiencing their first Toronto Pride, and discovering who they are and what they need.

For anyone who doesn't know where they fit in, When You Get the Chance provides the promise that somewhere there is such a place for all. While Mark is confident in being out as gay, Talia has come from a small community where she and partner Erin depended on each other for support. But when Erin leaves for the big city and finds a new community, Talia has to balance what she needed then with what she wants now. Fortunately, with much soul-searching and some heartbreak, Talia finds her way.
These are my people, this is my community. I may not know how I identify or whatever, but I'm pretty sure that whatever I am, there's a place for me under this great big queer rainbow. (pg. 177)
Writers Tom Ryan and Robin Stevenson have given us a road trip story with a twist in When You Get the Chance. By writing in the alternate voices of Mark and Talia who are from different coasts and have different experiences with their sexuality, Tom Ryan and Robin Stevenson present distinct and valid perspectives on being gay or queer or however a young person may identify. By including a myriad of communities from young and old, to gay, straight, non-binary and even polyamorous, they have demonstrated that everyone belongs and sometimes all it takes is one chance and a trip in a vintage yellow Mustang to find one's self, one's voice and community.

May 20, 2020

Hide-and-Seek: A First Book of Position Words

Illustrated by Sakshi Mangal
Text by R. D. Ornot
Kids Can Press
32 pp.
Ages 3-7

A concept book teaches abstract ideas like numbers or colours or shapes. A great concept book tells a story with the teaching embedded. Regardless of the subtitle and words such as  "among" or "behind" or "through" being in bold font, Hide-and-Seek would still be a great little story about three friends playing a game.
From Hide-and-Seek, illus. by Sakshi Mangal, text by R. D. Ornot
Bear invites friends Fox and Owl to a game of hide-and-seek in a park's fabulous playground. When Fox has to seek out friends Bear and Owl, Fox has to look inside and outside a castle, and beside and in and on the playhouse slide. With the search completed, Bear hugs his friends. Similarly, Owl seeks out the other two at a climbing wall and a bench. Huggly Bear again gives Owl and Fox a friendly squeeze.
From Hide-and-Seek, illus. by Sakshi Mangal, text by R. D. Ornot
But when it's Bear's time to seek, he cannot find them between the swings, among the trees, through the tunnel, across the bridge or around the playground. Saddened and in need of a hug, Bear is surprised when his friends reveal themselves and offer up their own affectionate embrace.

R. D. Ornot's text covers 14 positional words from the simplest of "in" and "out" to the more complex like "through" and "between," and still gives us a story of friendship and play. It's heartfelt fun between three characters who differ in their personalities and hiding and seeking behaviours, making Hide-and-Seek a different kind of story of diversity but with the lightest of touches. Sakshi Mangal's strongly outlined characters and setting elements are perfect for our youngest of readers, while still giving them loads of details in the park playground. Her use of colour energizes the very simple hide-and-seek text generally using a more reserved autumnal palette of greens and golds and saving the bold turquoises and reds for the friends.
From Hide-and-Seek, illus. by Sakshi Mangal, text by R. D. Ornot
Have some fun with your little ones with the reading of Hide-and-Seek and a game of the same to explore some playful learning about the concept of position.

May 13, 2020

Sophie Trophy Too

Written by Eileen Holland
Illustrated by Brooke Kerrigan
Crwth Press
96 pp.
Ages 6-9
March 2020

Sophie Trophy, the third grader from Eileen Holland's first early reader in the series (Sophie Trophy, 2019), returns with a story about learning to manoeuvre through school and social situations that regularly put her at odds with other students and even her principal.

When a new student, Hailey, joins their class, Sophie is intrigued, especially as Hailey seems not to be scared or shy. Sophie is perplexed by the ease with which Hailey is making friends, especially with Enoli, one of Sophie's best friends and the girl Hailey sits beside. But, as much as Sophie would like to be friends with Hailey, all she does seems to get her in trouble and give Hailey a bad impression.

Much of the poor impression is related to Sophie's enthusiasm for the class's upcoming assembly presentation. Their teacher, Miss Ruby, has planned on a performance of a song about the sun and the moon with all the students using flashlights to enhance the production. Sophie is so enthralled with her flashlight that she carries it with her and gets caught using it in the bathroom, the school's sick room and the staff room. Each time, the principal Mr. Homewood has to get involved.

Moreover, even when she's just being herself, painting in class, showing interest in Hailey's show-and-tell plant or trying to help Hailey when she drops her flashlight, things go awry, and Sophie causes more accidents and has Hailey declaring, "It's wrecked, because of you." (pg. 75) These are harsh words for a little girl who never intends to do harm but whose actions regularly bring about some upset. Happily Sophie's good nature and determination to make things right ultimately deliver Hailey's forgiveness and friendship.
From Sophie Trophy Too by Eileen Holland, illus. by Brooke Kerrigan
Though Eileen Holland never labels Sophie as a child with a learning disability or ADD/ADHD or on the spectrum, the child's actions suggest some character which may challenge her, particularly in her impetuousness or decision-making or social interactions. She is a bright and imaginative girl who is compassionate but whose complexity of thought sometimes gets her into trouble. Whether choosing to sneak into the school's sick room or into the staff room closet to play with her flashlight, or falling when she tries to sneak a peek at a box of surprises, Sophie's actions are seen as irresponsible or inappropriate. Her classmates may get a laugh from her antics but even Sophie wonders whether they are laughing at her or with her. That's something many parents and teachers forget about children who are dealing with some invisible disability like Sophie. These young people are confused by their peers' reactions, and those of the adults in their lives, regarding their actions which are done without malice but may have unfortunate repercussions. When Sophie gets paint on Hailey's new boots, it is an accident but one that could have been prevented. Unfortunately, Hailey just saw the consequences of that situation and Sophie could not look back and see what she could have done differently.

Eileen Holland keeps Sophie's story at the emotional level of children in the younger grades, making Sophie Trophy Too an exceptional early reader. Young readers will feel for the girl with joie de vivre who gets caught doing thinks she shouldn't be doing. They'll know that feeling, unfortunately. And they'll understand wanting to fit in and be liked and sometimes messing up. Still Eileen Holland takes a light approach to Sophie's foibles, something that illustrator Brooke Kerrigan depicts sweetly in her few sketches, and Sophie Trophy Too becomes the story of any child struggling to fit in.

May 11, 2020

At the Pond

Written and illustrated by Geraldo Valério
Groundwood Books
48 pp.
Ages 3-7
March 2020

A visit to a pond teaches a young boy a lesson in securing friendship without subjucation in this new wordless picture book from Geraldo Valério.
From At the Pond by Geraldo Valério
In a grey forest of grabbing branches of trees, a dog is tied up outside a house. When a boy emerges to take the forlorn dog for a walk on its yellow leash, they are drawn to a brilliant blue pond rife with swans. When one of the swans approaches and takes the boy and his dog for a ride on its back, they float through spectacular landscapes of pink roseate spoonbills, frolicking rabbits and foxes, meadows of foxglove and a plethora of brightly coloured flowers.
From At the Pond by Geraldo Valério
But when the boy finally releases the dog to chase dragonflies, the boy chooses to place the leash on the swan. With that, Geraldo Valério's illustration turns dark once again, with only the blue of the panicked swans as they retreat. Thankfully the boy sees the hurt in the tearful swan's eyes and releases his new friend, returning the world to one of colour, joy and compassion.
From At the Pond by Geraldo Valério
As a wordless picture book, At the Pond teems with emotion, primarily through artist Geraldo Valério's use of colour, though also with line and shape. In his complex illustrations. created with pencil, acrylics, latex, markers and even gouache, Geraldo Valério explores what it means to be a friend. From that poor chained dog, almost insignificant in a bleak world of darkness, to the unconstrained life of the pond and its environs, Geraldo Valério makes it clear that friendship is not conditional upon control, though some might envision it to be so, and this boy certainly does at the outset of the story. Friendship is about allowing a dog or a swan to be free to be themselves and share in the wonder of that freedom. It is only with the banishment of the enforced bonds that a relationship of closeness and compassion can be realized. 
From At the Pond by Geraldo Valério

For a treat, publisher Groundwood Books (House of Anansi Press) has shared a video online at of author-illustrator Geraldo Valério bringing life, through pencil, to a pair of swans from At the Pond.

Drawing with author and illustrator Geraldo Valério
Uploaded by House of Anansi to YouTube on May 1, 2020

May 08, 2020

Going Up!

Written by Sherry J. Lee
Illustrated by Charlene Chua
Kids Can Press
40 pp.
Ages 3-7
April 2020

In a jubilant story of inclusivity, diversity, and friendship.  Going Up! ticks all the buttons for a joyous read about making friends in an apartment building and accepting everyone as neighbours.
From Going Up! by Sherry J. Lee, illus. by Charlene Chua
Sophie and her dad are invited to Olive's birthday on the 10th floor of their apartment building. They bake cookies and take the elevator onward to the party. But getting to the party seems to be half the fun, because the elevator stops at every floor, taking on residents also invited to the party. There's the Santucci brothers–who look tough but are bedecked with cat and knitting trim–and Vicky and her partner Babs and dog Norman; Mr. and Mrs. Habib and grandchildren Yasmin and Jamal; Mr. Kwan; the Flores family; Vi Tweedle and her Chihuahua Minx; musicians Grace and Arnie; and finally Nori.
From Going Up! by Sherry J. Lee, illus. by Charlene Chua
As they take on new guests at almost every floor, the fit on the elevator gets a little more crowded but somehow there is always room to include everyone on the party elevator.
From Going Up! by Sherry J. Lee, illus. by Charlene Chua
When they finally arrive, the guests tumble out of the elevator in a glorious double-spread fold-out of colour and shape and spirit to wish poodle Olive, with her human mom, a happy birthday.

Going Up! will easily lift the moods of anyone who feels a little low. Whether on floors nearer the ground or the higher ones in this apartment building, there is much to elevate hearts and attitude. In fact, I suspect many people are currently relying on the same activities demonstrated as the apartments' residents–baking, gardening, knitting, pets, music, costumes and food–to help. We may not be able to all get together right now and celebrate birthdays in person, but Sherry J. Lee gives us the opportunity to see how we can revel in life with simple gifts of self. This is Toronto author Sherry J. Lee's debut picture book and its upbeat nature and depiction of inclusivity of all neighbours in an apartment building is a rousing kickoff.
From Going Up! by Sherry J. Lee, illus. by Charlene Chua
Charlene Chua, whose artwork I have enjoyed and reviewed numerous times (e.g., The Pencil, 2019; Akilak's Adventure, 2016; and Fishing with Grandma, 2016), brings that festivity to each one of her illustrations, which are rendered in watercolour, watercolour ink and coloured pencils before digitally completed with Photoshop.  She doesn't miss a detail, keeping Sophie and her dad's baking low-key and comforting in golds and greys, and amping up the colours and animation as the elevator travels up from floor to floor. Even the art that Charlene Chua uses on the copyright page reveals a little something of each apartment's inhabitants while the ubiquitous orange tabby cat enjoys some fish garbage.
From Going Up! by Sherry J. Lee, illus. by Charlene Chua
Going Up! cheers and rejuvenates, helping us all remember the joys of celebration with everyone, excluding no one, but also reminds us that there are ways to celebrate in which we might all partake alone. In tone and art, Going Up! raises all our spirits.

May 05, 2020

The Walrus and the Caribou

Written by Maika Harper
Illustrated by Marcus Cutler
Inhabit Media
32 pp.
Ages 5-7

This traditional Inuit origin story from actress Maika Harper and illustrator Marcus Cutler reminds us of the richness of the storytelling tradition, the source of Maika Harper's tale, and the breadth of its narration on revealing culture, history and people.

From The Walrus and the Caribou by Maika Harper, illus. by Marcus Cutler
When Guk was breathing life into the world, she pondered how the different parts of the animals should be organized. The walrus was generated when Guk blew air into her sealskin parka and added some flippers and wrinkles and antlers. (Yes, antlers.) The caribou was created from breathing life into her sealskin pants. With the addition of some big hooves and hair, a snout and tusks, her caribou was complete.
From The Walrus and the Caribou by Maika Harper, illus. by Marcus Cutler
But Guk's enhancements did not all work. The walrus's antlers were not a good idea. When the walrus swam, its massive antlers would upend the hunters' kayaks. As for the caribou, its tusks were not much appreciated by the hunters.

In a mix-and-match situation, Guk swaps out the tusks and the antlers, creating the familiar walrus and caribou of today's Arctic, with a special touch of punishment for the caribou because of its irritability and brashness.
From The Walrus and the Caribou by Maika Harper, illus. by Marcus Cutler
Though Maika Harper tells a simple tale of how the walrus and the caribou came to exist in their present morphologies, she also explains why the caribou avoids humans and encourages young readers to think about what animals they might create. With illustrator Marcus Cutler's Arctic landscape, depicted in a minimal palette of snowy whites, of earthy sandy browns and taupes, and of blue waters and skies, the walrus and caribou and Guk and the few hunters portrayed are the stars. They rule the landscape, living as they do, and sharing the land and water as tradition expected them to do so.

The Walrus and the Caribou may be a creation story with some tongue-in-cheek humour but it is also a representation of some Inuit traditions and culture, from the Inuit's clothing and hair to their kayaks and hunting techniques.  This tale will definitely inform and satisfy young readers, especially by answering, at least partially, that perennial question about where animals came from.