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.