Monday, June 03, 2013


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"Ataatasiaq? Are you home?" Jake called as he walked into his grandfather's kitchen.
Jake is a young Inuit boy visiting his grandfather. He's not alone on this visit... He's brought his new puppy with him. As Jake turned around to bring the pup inside his grandpa's house, it ran back down the stairs. Jake called to it, but instead of running to Jake, the exuberant puppy ran under the porch. Jake gathered him in his arms and carried him inside. Exasperated, Jake says:
"He never listens, no matter how loud I yell. I called him Kamik because his fur looks like he's wearing a boot. I should have called him Bad Dog."

All three--Kamik, Jake, and his grandfather--are on the cover of Donald Uluadluak's delightful picture book, Kamik: An Inuit Puppy Story:

Those of you who've had a new puppy will love reading more of Jake's frustrations, and, you'll definitely appreciate what his grandfather shares about dogs. We all know those commands, right, that we try/tried to teach our pups? Jake's grandfather does, too, but there's more to it:
"In order to train a good dog, you have to build trust with the dog, living with it every day and teaching it through how you behave and how you treat it. I spent a lot of time with my dogs. It was more like building a good friendship than raising an animal. Eventually they start to understand you and you start to understand them."
You can probably find words similar to that in most dog-training books but Kamik: An Inuit Puppy Story delivers its instructions in a specific context. That context is an Inuit way of life. As Jake's grandfather talks about dogs, he shares a lot about his own life and why his dogs were important to him. As we (readers) turn each page, we learn about Inuit culture, and we learn some Inuit words, too. Uluadluak gives us those words and their meanings with such ease that we may not even realize we're learning. Take, for example, the first sentence in the book. It's the one I opened with, above. As you read it, you learned that 'aatasuaq' means grandfather.

Let me list what I love about the story, and why I think you ought to get it for your library:

It is about a kid with a new pet. How many of your patrons are kids with a new pet who could use some training advice in the form of a picture book?

You're interested in diversifying your collection, right? Kamik is a huge plus in that effort, because its tribally specific (names the tribe rather than the generic/problematic 'American Indian'), and because its set in the present day (if you read my site, you know I push for your assistance in helping children know that---contrary to popular misconceptions---Indigenous people didn't vanish; we're part of the 21st century, too!).

Staying within the 'diversifying your collection' mode, its by a Native author. Books by Native authors let you (in your book talk) provide your patrons with an additional bit of info by pointing out where that tribe is, and where it was (if it was moved from its homelands). In this case, the author an Inuit elder from Arviat, Nunavut.

And last---its just plain fun! Read it aloud. You'll like reading it aloud, and your patrons will like it, too. You'll also like Qin Leng's illustrations. They're full of life. Here's the top of the back cover. See what I mean?

Kamik: An Inuit Puppy Story was published in 2012 by Inhabit Media. Order it from your favorite independent bookseller.

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