Kusugak grew up in Repulse Bay, a small village in the Northwest
Territories. "I've always been close to the land, the sea
and the animals," he says. "I want to teach everything
I know about how to live here, and write about everything kids
like to do."
During his childhood, Michael's family traveled by dog team; they
lived in igloos in the winter and tents in the summer. He had no
access to books as a child, and didn't speak a word of English until
he was seven. "Every night, my grandma would tell us a story
to put us to sleep," he recalls. In 1954, a float plane whisked
Michael off to a residential school in Chesterfield Inlet. "When
you're seven years old and hauled away from your parents, it's very
hard. I cried the whole year I was therethat's all I remember.
The following fall, when the airplane came again, I went and hid
in the hills. I didn't go to school that year." Michael went
on to become one of the first Inuit from the eastern Arctic to graduate
from high school, piecing together his education in Rankin Inlet,
Yellowknife, Churchill and Saskatoon.
While in school, Michael enjoyed writing stories and poems, but
he never thought of becoming an author until he met Robert Munsch.
"He stayed with us during Children's Book Week once, and I
told him all kinds of legends. He suggested that I write them down,
so we worked on one together, and eventually it was published!"
That story, A Promise is a Promise, is based on one of Michael's
childhood memories. He explains, "I take things that are native
to me, such as the northern lights, and create a story around them."
Michael has since published many other titles, including Baseball
Bats for Christmas, Hide and Sneak, Northern Lights: The Soccer
Trails, My Arctic 1,2,3, Arctic Stories and Who Wants Rocks?
all of which are stunningly complemented by Vladyana Langer Krykorka's
artwork. Northern Lights won the Ruth Schwartz Award in 1994. A
Promise is a Promise and Northern Lights have been developed as
Prior to writing books for children, Michael spent 15 years working
for the government in various positions. In his last posting he
was Director of Community Programs for Arctic College. Now he devotes
his time to writing, storytelling and speaking to educators. In
1997 he shared his stories at Young People's Theatre in Toronto,
during the run of a double-feature stage presentation: Michael Kusugak's
Stories of the Inuit and A Promise is a Promise.
One of the most rewarding experiences for Michael is visiting children
in schools and at libraries. He mesmerizes young audiences with
narratives from his Arctic home and tales told with string. He also
enjoys hunting, fishing, boating and looking out his study window
at the northern landscape stretching towards the horizon.
Library and Conference Presentations
Stories of the North: Inuit Legends and String Stories
Acclaimed Inuit storyteller Michael Kusugak mesmerizes young audiences
with narratives from his Arctic home and tales told with string.
In a tradition passed down by his grandmother, Michael weaves one
story from the thread of another, using a piece of string, a bone
on a stick, voice, and intimation. Winding it around his fingers,
he creates a whale, then a dog, then a sea gull, and so on, spinning
one story after another. He transforms the ordinary into the magical
and shares the customs of his culture.
to Grade 8; Adults
for conference presentations
Press books by Michael Kusugak:
Musnchworks Grand Treasury (2001)
battes de baseball pour Nöel (1994, French)
Lights: The Soccer Trails (1993)
Wants Rocks? (1999)
and Sneak (1992)
Bats for Christmas (1990)
Arctic 1,2,3 (1996)