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Whale Snow Paperback – July 1, 2004
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From School Library Journal
Kindergarten-Grade 2-Filled with joy, this tale about a loving family and a caring community is something all youngsters can understand. Amiqqaq is home with his grandmother when fat flakes begin to fall. She refers to the precipitation as "whale snow," which occurs when a whale has given itself to the people of their Alaskan village. Soon Amiqqaq's father comes in to announce the kill, and then takes the boy to see the great beast. Before long, Amiqqaq begins to understand the true spirit of the whale, as members of his community come together to celebrate and prepare its different parts for use. The author has included notes about the I¤upiat culture, a list of words in I¤upiaq, and a link to a Web site where readers can access the story written in that language. Although infused with the colors of winter, the illustrations create a sense of peace and warmth. Patterson's characters acknowledge the strengths of modern culture without giving up traditional ways: Amiqqaq's father rides a skidoo, but also wears the traditional parka, and villagers dress in various combinations of jeans, parkas, and warm boots. An intriguing glimpse into another culture.
Susan Marie Pitard, formerly at Weezie Library for Children, Nantucket Atheneum, MA
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
PreS-Gr. 2. Amiqqaq is watching his aaka (grandmother) make Eskimo doughnuts when his father comes and whisks him away on his snowmobile to see the whale that "has given itself to the People." The community gathers joyfully, first on the ice around the whale and later in Amiqqaq's house, where his mother and grandmother boil a whale feast for the whole village. Watercolors in cool, dusky hues predominate in the appealing illustrations. The satisfying story underscores cultural differences by portraying Amiqqaq's growing awareness of the spiritual connection between the whale and his people. In an appended note, Edwardson discusses the partnership between the bowhead whale and the Inupiat of Alaska. Teachers looking for picture books on Arctic people will find this a good read-aloud choice for preschool and primary-grade classes. Carolyn Phelan
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top customer reviews
Now here is a children's book about subsistence whaling written by residents of a primarily Inupiat Eskimo community in Arctic Alaska. It features a young boy Amiqqaq who learns about the "fat snow" or "whale snow" which comes in spring when a whale has given itself to the people, to help nourish and sustain them. He also learns about whaling and the spirit of the whale.
The book is well written by Debby Dahl Edwardson,and beautifully and sensitively illustrated by Annie Patterson. Reflecting the title of "Whale Snow," Patterson has managed to include big fat snow flakes in every illustration, even those showing the interior of a house.
Both Edwardson and Patterson live in Barrow, Alaska, the farthest north community in the United States. And this local perspective helps develop the story and illustrations to a very high level.
It is a great book to read to your children some chilly evening. In addition to the story, Edwardson has included background on subsistence whaling and a list of "Words to Know" in the Inupiaq language. So readers young and old can be informed at the same time they are fascinated with the story and art work.
Enjoy the book!
As Whale Snow opens, Amiqqaq, a young Inupiat boy, is with his grandma. She's making donuts. I love that donuts is part of this story! It is like us having jello and chocolate cake on our tables at traditional feasts. Some of our non-Pueblo guests are surprised to see them amidst all our traditional stews. Because they didn't originate with us, some people think our use of things like that means we're "less authentic." Are Americans less-American because they don't eat the exact foods (and nothing else) that the Founding Fathers ate?! Of course not! Back to Whale Snow...
Amiqqaq looks out the window at the "fat snow" that falls, wishing he was out on the ocean ice with his dad and the other whalers. His grandma tells him it is "whale snow" that "comes when a whale has given itself to the People" (no page numbers). By the end of the story, we know why Amiqqaq is named Amiqqaq, we know a little about how his family prepares whale meat, and Amiqqaq's mom has taught him about the "spirit of the whale." That page (shown below) is one of my favorites:
The page shows Amiqqaq and his mom. The text in the page I loaded is from the Inupiaq version of the book (download it from Edwardson's website). Amiqqaq tells his mom he's happy inside. He says "Inside is like a giant smile. Bigger than a house. Wider than a whole village." I remember that feeling! I experienced it, too, when my dad or uncle or cousins went hunting and came home with a deer (that was in the 60s). We'd all gather at my grandmother's house. As someone arrived, they'd bless the deer in the way that we do, and then we'd revel in just being together in her kitchen, some of us warming our backsides on the wood stove that heated her house.
In some ways, this review says more about me than it does about Whale Snow. But that is precisely why it is an important book. I connect with it! It reflects my experience as a Pueblo Indian girl who grew up in a village where we hunted and co-existed with the animals in the mountains around us, and in fact, it reflects the experience of my great niece, Hayle, who is having a childhood much like mine was, over 40 years ago.
Whale Snow is an outstanding book. If you can't tell, I highly recommend it.
American Indians in Children's Literature
My family didn't like this book. It was written very well.
There was a modern cultural aspect with which we disagreed - the continuance of hunting whales, but with modern equipment and then eating them.
I wasn't sure what to expect. The book showed up in a box of things given to us. When looking at the outside I thought it would be ancient whale hunting. That would have been very cool. I love history. My family doesn't like Modern Whale Hunting, even if it is a part of a people's culture. If it is a part of their culture and they are on modern equipment it feels like they aren't honoring ... something. It just felt wrong. Whales and dolphins have higher mercury than other smaller ocean animals and whales aren't super plentiful, either.
There was a part where a boy was put on the whale's dead body that my son had a reaction to. It was opposite of what the author or the culture intends. We did not like this book.