Book Review: Under the Ice

4 Oct

Today’s review is for Under the Ice, written by Rachel A. Qitsualik, illustrated by Jae Korim, with a forward by Babah Kalluk, published by Inhabit Media. I received an electronic copy of this book through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Under the Ice is based on a traditional Inuit story about an old woman whose grandson is carried off by the qallupaluit. The quallupaluit are strange creatures who live beneath the ice, and stories about them have long been used to scare children into staying away from the shore. In the forward, Kalluk explains that “Inuit stories are magical, strange, and often scary”–and that kids today are exposed to fewer of them due to the emergence of movies, cartoons and comics as preferred mediums for entertainment. In order to compete, this book pairs a traditional story with bold comic-book style illustrations–an artform that should appeal to the target audience.

Qitsualik does an outstanding job in retelling this tale. Her prose is clear and simple. It leaves you with the sense that she could be sitting beside you reciting the words. For me, she captures the feel of the oral tradition in her writing. And I like that, because it’s one more way to try to keep the younger generation connected to this traditional culture. Being simple and clear doesn’t mean that the writing isn’t beautiful–quite to the contrary. There is wonderful imagery and figurative language skillfully woven into the narration.

Korim’s illustrations are top notch. He primarily works in a palette of muted blues, grays, and browns that capture the visual environment of life in the Arctic perfectly. You can almost feel the coldness of the ice through the page. His rendering of the qallupiluq is truly frightening. My only complaint about the illustrations is that there weren’t enough of them! By which I mean, the book is absolutely wonderful as is, but I loved Korim’s art so much that I would have loved to see even more.

Inhabit Media has been impressing me with the quality of books that they are producing. They are an Inuit-owned publishing company with a mandate to preserve the stories and knowledge of northern Canada. I was excited to learn of them recently, and hope that I will be able to read more of their catalog in the future.

Under the Ice is certainly worthy of a full 5 star rating. I would love to have a copy of this book for my personal library–and think it would be a great addition to any local or school library, as well. For the children of Nunavut, it provides a chance to connect with their traditional culture in a new way. For other children, it provides a great opportunity to learn about a different culture through their own stories.

You can find more information about this book, including other reviews, at Goodreads.

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10 Responses to “Book Review: Under the Ice”

  1. Marie-Claude October 4, 2013 at 4:08 pm #

    I love learning about other cultures, and though Canadian, I have rarely been exposed to the Inuit culture – your review sounds wonderful, and I am sure me and my kids would enjoy reading this. I am putting a request for our local library to order it 🙂 Thanks for sharing! (stopping over from the kid lit blog hop)

    • Destiny October 10, 2013 at 1:07 pm #

      I think that often the voices of historically marginalized cultures are pushed to the periphery. So, even though they might be your neighbor, you never really end up hearing them. The Inuit have a lot of amazing stories, though, and they’re worth hearing. And if it’s something you’re interested in learning more about, you should definitely look at some of the other titles at Inhabit Media.

  2. bookwormbear October 5, 2013 at 5:16 pm #

    Thanks for sharing this book! I stopped by from the Kid Lit Blog Hop. This sounds like a wonderful retelling of an Inuit story – and sounds like the illustrations work well with the story. We’ll look for it. Thanks!

    • Destiny October 10, 2013 at 1:10 pm #

      I think it’s a great example of having a clear vision of why you’re telling a story and who you want it to reach, and then selecting the illustration and book design accordingly. I think that often, the reason that books fail is because they never really put much consideration into those questions and instead don’t move beyond the matter of what story they want to tell.

  3. Christy October 5, 2013 at 11:30 pm #

    Dropping by from Kid’s Lit Blog Hop, and I’m glad to see another of Inhabit Media’s books. I’ve read and liked their book Kamik. I hope that publishing company does well. We need more northern books out!

    • Destiny October 10, 2013 at 1:12 pm #

      I haven’t seen that one, yet! I also did a review for Joy of Apex which is another of the titles in their catalog. I’ve spent some time poking around their children’s catalog and coveting pretty much everything.

  4. Resh October 8, 2013 at 8:44 pm #

    The cover art looks amazing! Have yet to read one of these in the series! But looks like a wonderful read! thanks for sharing on Kid Lit Blog Hop!
    -Reshama @ Stackingbooks.com

    • Destiny October 10, 2013 at 1:14 pm #

      I was definitely drawn to it based on the cover art. Although I was also interested because it was a story from another culture, told by someone from within that culture (which I always prefer to outsider re-tellings).

  5. Cheryl Carpinello October 12, 2013 at 2:20 am #

    I love when authors are able to retell and share the old stories from different cultures. Kids need more stories like this. Thanks for sharing on the Kid Lit Blog Hop. Cheryl, Hop Hostess

  6. PramgaticMom November 30, 2013 at 2:51 am #

    Thanks again for linking up! Did not know there is a publishing company to preserve stories of Northern Canada! That is so exciting!!

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