Cover Image

Grandmother Ptarmigan by Q. Mikkigak & J. Schwartz

Mikkigak, Qaunaq and Joanne Schwartz.  Grandmother Ptarmigan. Illus. Qin Leng.  Iqualuit:  Inhabit Media, 2013.  Print.

Inhabit Media Inc. has as one of its goals: the collection and publication of Inuit traditional stories.  This picture book is another of their unique products. 

Many Inuit stories have recurring themes, including kind and caring treatment of children and origin stories, which tell us why things are they way they are.  This collaboration between Inuit elder, Qaunaq Mikkigak and writer, Joanne Schwartz, includes both. In this story a baby ptarmigan wants his grandmother to tell him a bedtime story.  She insists, instead, that he go to sleep.  When she finally relents and tells him a story, he is frightened by it and flies away.  The book ends with his grandmother searching for him, uttering the familiar call, “nauk, nauk”.  

In the story, ptarmigan play the roles of people.  They live in igloos, sleep under furs and have "armpits".  Illustrator Qin Leng shows the birds with human-like expressions and emotions. Leng's illustrations match the story in their simplicity.  Most of the pictures are drawings of the ptarmigan on white or blue-green backgrounds, with no ornamentation.

There are several lessons about adult-child relationships that often appear in traditional Inuit stories.  The two that appear in this story are that young people should respect their elders, listen to them and do as they are told and that adults should be kind and caring towards children. In this story, we expect the baby ptarmigan to get into trouble for not going to sleep, but because the grandmother frightens him with the story, it is the grandmother who is left is a worried state, searching for him.

Grandmother Ptarmigan would be a good addition to school and public libraries and those libraries with Canadian Indigenous folktale collections.

Highly Recommended:  4 stars out of 4
Reviewer:  Sandy Campbell

Sandy is a Health Sciences Librarian at the University of Alberta, who has written hundreds of book reviews across many disciplines.  Sandy thinks that sharing books with children is one of the greatest gifts anyone can give.