Una Huna?: Ukpik Learns to Sew (Susan Aglukark)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Una Huna?: Ukpik Learns to Sew, written by Susan Aglukark and illustrated by Amiel Sandland and Rebecca Brook, a thoughtful story of cultural tradition and patience.

Ukpik is delighted when her father and brother return from their hunting trip with reindeer skins; her mother, whom she calls Anaana, has been wanting to start a special project. Using traditional tools and techniques, Anaana invites Ukpik to learn alongside her as they methodically prepare the skins to be made into winter clothing to replace the items Ukpikand her sister have outgrown in the last year. Anaana tries to make the lessons fun, but she also stresses the importance of doing the work with attention to detail. When Ukpik grows frustrated that she is not mastering her new skills as quickly as she wants to, her mother comforts her by assuring her that her skills will grow with time and practice, and that she will be there to teach her how to do things the way their people have done for generations.

A little packed, but utterly heartfelt. Aglukark’s style of writing is immersive, throwing readers into Ukpik’s world of Inuk camp life, including frequent use of Inuktut-language words. This in itself is not overwhelming, especially since Aglukark does well to define each Inuktut word within the same sentence (and also offers a much-appreciated phonetic glossary in the backmatter), but combined with the lengthy story, it does make this a difficult book to read aloud in one sitting for one not familiar with the Inuk culture and/or language. However, there is a great deal it has to offer a solo reader: a window into a culture rarely explored in children’s literature, as well as powerful lessons on cultural tradition and patience when learning new skills. The ending may feel abrupt, but fits one of the overall themes of Ukpik’s story: good things often take time to complete. Sandland and Brook’s illustrations are simplistic yet sweet, and while this would not make the best storytime title, we still recommend it, especially for those interested in learning about indigenous cultures. Overall, we enjoyed this one – Baby Bookworm approved!

(Note: A copy of this book was provided to The Baby Bookworm by a representative of the publisher in exchange for an honest review.)

We Are Water Protectors (Carole Lindstrom)

Hello, friends! Our book today is We Are Water Protectors, written by Carole Lindstrom and illustrated by Michaela Goade, a conservational call to action and celebration of Indigenous pride.

A young girl of Ojibwe descent recounts a lesson her grandmother imparted to her: “Water is the first medicine.” She points out that we come from water, from the earliest days in our mothers’ wombs; once born, the planet we all share nurtures us with water in the same way. Her people talk of a black snake that will spoil the water and destroy the land, and in the form of high-volume oil pipelines, the black snake has arrived. So the girl and her people make a stand, fighting for their rights… and protecting the sacred safety of the water.

Beautiful. This deeply passionate and original tale, written and illustrated by Indigenous creators, is part historical account, part rallying cry, and part unabashed expression of cultural pride. Drawing inspiration from the Standing Rock protests and ongoing fight to prevent oil pipelines from being built on tribal nations’ lands and waterways, the text reads like flowing, free-form poetry, yet manages to incorporate themes like stewardship of nature, community, and heritage throughout. The dreamy, rich artwork is absolutely stunning, and JJ and I found ourselves marveling at every page. This length is great for any storytime, and the message within is a critical one for right now and always: we must rise to protect life and what sustains it from those who would destroy it – it is our responsibility to the planet, and to each other. A fantastic title, and we adored it. Baby Bookworm approved!

(Note: A copy of this book was provided to The Baby Bookworm by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.)