Snowbear: A Story Inspired by Inuit Folktales
by Elisabeth Shalij
Stratton Press

"Warmth and light was provided by oil lamps, creating an atmosphere of togetherness. Through telling stories the elders would teach their children lessons of life."

A retelling based on traditional Inuit folklore, Schalij’s text introduces readers—young and young-at-heart alike—to siblings Tiak and Unu and the many Arctic animals they meet upon their journey to Icecap Mountain. The Inuit brother and sister trek to find waters full of fish to eat and reunite with their father and other people of their village. On the journey, readers meet Brother Seal (“guardian of the sea”), Brother Walrus, who “knows everything” and can guide the two to Icecap Mountain, and a big white polar bear—the bear of “white snow," aptly named Snowbear—singing his song and encouraging the pair to remain brave. When a grizzly bear and the polar bear fight to the death, it is Snowbear who saves the young siblings from the grizzly’s wrath.

The story is simple, enjoyable, easy to follow, and would make for a perfect picture book to share with a young child. Though there are a few minor issues regarding grammar and spelling, it is fair to say that these errors certainly do not detract much from the overall narrative and plot of the traditional folk tale. The text of this book is really a book-within-a-book, as the folklore is passed on to the children by their grandmother. Attractive, simple images of the animals and people, as well as the snow-covered landscape, combine with this nice tale of friendship, family, and perseverance to constitute an enjoyable read. Like many Inuit folktales, the story emphasizes the notions of love, kindness, and bravery as well as the sacred power of dreams.

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