My Wounded Island by J. Pasquet and M. Arbona
Pasquet, Jacques and Marion Arbona. My Wounded Island. Translated by Sophie B. Watson. Orca Books, 2017.
Imarvaluk lives on a small island called Sarichef on the Chukchi Sea coast of Alaska. Imarvaluk tells the story of how her people live on their island, in their town of Shishmaref. She explains how they used to live in igloos but now live in small wooden homes. The men in her family still hunt bearded seal, walrus, elk, and caribou as their ancestors did. In the summers the family moves to a camp on the mainland by the Serpentine River where they hunt caribou, catch fish, and pick berries.
Imarvaluk also tells of how their lives are changing because of the sea, and the monster within it. During winters long ago, the sea would freeze and protect the island from the waves. The ice would also enable her family to hunt. The creature in the sea has caused winter to retreat earlier and earlier, making the pack ice unstable to hunt on, and it slowly swallows the island into the sea. Imarvaluk describes how the home of her people will eventually disappear and how they may have to relocate to Nome, when her island becomes uninhabitable. Through her relationship with her grandfather, Imarvaluk explains how the culture of her people is very much at risk as they face the end of their island.
This beautiful and emotionally packed story is remarkable in its ability to convey how environmental impacts are being felt by this Inupiat community. Illustrations by Marion Arbona use paint and texture to convey impactful images of life on Shishmaref, weaving the monster of the changing environment together with Inupiat mythology. It was refreshing to read a children’s book that takes up the very real changes caused by climate change, and in so doing, does not hesitate to leave the ending unresolved. This being said, My Wounded Island could evoke strong emotions and may be better read with an adult, so that there can be discussion about the issues it presents. This doesn’t mean parents should shy away from this book as it is truly a beautiful and impactful read for both young and old.
Highly recommended: 4 out of 4 stars
Reviewer: Hanne Pearce
Hanne Pearce has worked at the University of Alberta Libraries since 2004. She holds a BA and MLIS and is currently working towards her Master of Arts in Communications and Technology. Her research interests include: visual communication, digital literacy, information literacy and the intersections between communication work and information work. She is also a freelance photographer and graphic designer.
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