Age Range: 8-10
Hardcover: 96 pages
Publisher: Groundwood Books (April 28, 2008)
Source of book: Review copy from publisher
It's the early 1600s, and Tuk, a young Inuit boy sees a giant ship approaching his group's winter camp on the Baffin Islands. It's a ship of European whalers who've been blown off course. These "Qallunnaat" (foreigners) are malnourished and exhausted, and they appeal to the islanders for their help catching "Arvik," a breed of a gigantic and elusive black whale. There is distrust and uncertainty on both sides, as is evidenced by Tuk's thoughts early on in the book:
"Strangers couldn't be trusted. They weren't related by blood, or by marriage. They didn't bring news of friends and family in other camps. They could take things, break things--even hurt people. It was easy for strangers to do bad things to people because they didn't know anyone. And they could always just leave again." (p. 16)
Nevertheless, realizing that the whale could feed their people for months, the people of the camp agree to help out. What follows is an account of an exciting hunt for the great Arvik.
Tuk and the Whale is a story that provides a glimpse into what life was like for the Inuit people very early on in the whaling industry. We see the importance of whales to both the European whalers and the Inuits, though both are very different. Throughout the story, readers are introduced to a number of Inuit words, and a short glossary in the back of the book defines each one.
It's obvious that Ms. Rivera conducted thorough research to write this book, and she did an exceptional job of seamlessly weaving details of her research into a story that reveals the importance of family, teamwork, and tradition. I appreciate the fact that Ms. Rivera does not neatly tie the book up in a pretty little bow. Instead, it foreshadows the serious troubles that befell the native peoples in the boom of the whaling industry.
Young readers will enjoy reading this book, and it would make an excellent introduction to a unit on the whaling industry and the Inuit culture.