Written by: Rachel & Sean Qitsualik-Tinsley
Illustrated by: Yong Ling Kang
For ages: 4 years and up
Language: English, some Inuktitut (pronunciation guide in back as well)
Topics Covered: First Nations, Residential Schools, Own Voices, Responsibility, Pets, Growing Up, Indigenous Voices.
This is a lovely book based on author Rachel’s own life experience raising an owl. Tanna, or main character, receives an owlet from her father one day with instructions to care for it and make sure it has everything it needs. Tanna jumps at the chance initially, but becomes a bit worn down when Ukpik the owl requires more and more attention without any affection given in return. It is a wild animal, after all.
We were drawn into this story, with its unique and truthful outlook. This book acknowledges that Tanna doesn’t always feel like raising Ukpik is rewarding, and that is refreshing. At the end of the summer, Tanna must return to school (leaving Ukpik behind), which upon reading the Author’s Note the reader learns that she is educated at a Residential School. When she returns the next summer, Ukpik has learned to fly and isn’t there anymore. Tanna has a lot of respect for the owl, and is glad that she helped it thrive despite not always being excited to wake up early to catch lemmings for it to eat, or clean up all the poop.
I really loved how Inuit cultural values were woven into this story, and coupled with own voices lived experiences from Rachel’s childhood. This story emphasizes the value of hard work and appreciation for nature, it’s a fantastic real aloud for young people who might be expressing interest for a pet as well!
This book was sent to us by Inhabit Media, but all opinions are our own!
About the Author & the Illustrator:
Of Inuit-Cree ancestry, RACHEL QITSUALIK-TINSLEY was born in a tent on northernmost Baffin Island. She learned Inuit survival lore from her father, surviving residential school and attending university. In 2012, she was awarded a Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal for numerous cultural writings. Of Scottish-Mohawk ancestry, SEAN QITSUALIK-TINSLEY was born in southern Ontario, learning woodcraft and stories from his father. Training as an artist, then writer, Sean’s sci-fi work won 2nd place at the California-based Writers of the Future contest, published by Galaxy Press. Rachel and Sean have worked for decades as Arctic researchers and consultants. In writing together, they have published 10 successful books and many shorter works, celebrating the history and uniqueness of Arctic shamanism, cosmology, and cosmogony. Their novel, Skraelings: Clashes in the Old Arctic, was a Governor General Awards Finalist and First Prize Burt Award winner.
Yong Ling Kang is a full-time freelance illustrator. Having worked in animation studios and a publishing company for some years, she’s now living and working from home based in Toronto. Raised in tropical Singapore, she find comfort in playing water sports, taking walks in green spaces, and savouring spicy food. A glass of milo peng / teh-c siu-dai anytime!