It doesn't have to be at the end of the day. It could be anytime. Pausing to appreciate someone, something or somewhere simply is not done enough.
Yesterday I wanted to stop at the top of a hill I have descended hundreds of times, so struck by the beauty of the swath of colorful trees bordering along and up from the shores of a harbor in a nearby town. I knew the other motorists speeding by would not be appreciative. For more than the thousandth time as I walked my marvelous old dog last night, I felt a huge thankfulness and affection for the sound of her breathing as she slowly paced along a well-known path. When we acknowledge the importance of someone, no matter their age, both parties are the better for it.
When reading Sweetest Kulu (Inhabit Media Inc., November 1, 2014) by Celina Kalluk with illustrations by Alexandria Neonakis, I felt a sense of deep compassion. Most notable within the narrative is the birth of a child as an occasion to be revered and celebrated. The natural world is tightly woven into, an intricate part of, the Inuit culture.
on the day you were born, all of the Arctic Summer was there to greet you. Smiling Sun shone so bright and stayed through the night,
giving you blankets and ribbons of warm light.
Each element of the Arctic world bestows words of wisdom on the child whether asleep or awake. From the wind comes the necessity to listen to stories. Snow buntings bring seeds and flowers to the baby as reminders to grow and bloom having faith in your abilities.
Gifts from the Arctic hare show love can be freely given. Not a minute is to be wasted nor the opportunities to help others are words spoken by the fox. Tenderness, creativity, gratitude for the many colors, and the willingness to begin and the bliss at completing a task are offerings shared by creatures of the water.
Sheltered by the muskox, Kulu hears of the importance of standing tall and finding strength in one's ancestry. Looking toward the night sky is a way to anchor your path, find direction and be a guide. The polar bear advises the child to honor animals recognizing their importance.
This Earth, the ground beneath our feet, is a support for all things. As the voice gently continues the song to Kulu, who has again fallen asleep, safety is assured. Kulu is love and loved.
Every single page turn without exception is an ode to the beauty and blessing of a new baby. The words of Celina Kalluk radiate calm with their genuine warmth. Each time a sentence is read, a new adjective is added to the name of Kulu; sweetest, charming, admired or magnificent to name a few. By having the sun, wind, land, each animal and the mother voice their hopes, readers will understand the value of each. Here is another passage.
Seal, whose favourite colour is ice blue,
heard about Arctic Char's adoration of you.
Seal loves creativity, and surrounded you with colour, nicest Kulu.
Opening the book case readers see a tender illustration of the baby sleeping on the back of the caribou. Snow buntings watch from the antlers as a polar bear mother and cub and a fox lean in for a closer look. The cool soft colors blended with the warm browns radiate peace. Opening and closing endpapers are a pale green with sketches in gray of all the animals patterned edge to edge. A snow bunting brings a floral sprig to the baby resting in the grass beneath the title.
All of the images span across both pages altering perspective according to the narrative. For the opening two pages Alexandria Neonakis brings us close to the sleeping child held by the mother. We see the entire face of the baby but only a portion of the mother, her hair sweeping outward from the left to provide a background for the text on the right.
In another picture Kulu lies among a field of lupine as the fox approaches from the right. The tail, a swirl of white, supplies a path for the words. Each illustration is filled with sensory beauty; a compilation of flowing lines and a natural palette.
As a caribou stands looking out over a mountain lake, snow-covered peaks surrounding the shores, with leaves whirling among the grasses, I immediately knew this would be one of my favorite illustrations. The majesty of the land and the power of the wind are evident. Even without the words each reader will feel the presence of something beyond their control, something which needs their attention.
Sweetest Kulu written by children's book debut author Celina Kalluk with illustrations by Alexandria Neonakis is a gift. It's perfect for any time of the day but truly lovely at bedtime. For children living in the Arctic it's wonderful to see themselves and their world depicted in an outstanding book. For other children it's an open door, an invitation to enter another culture.
If you would like to learn more about Celina Kalluk please follow this link to Debbie Reese's website, American Indians In Children's Literature, for her review and further links. Alexandria Neonakis has many more pictures of her work at her website; the link embedded in her name.
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