December of last year, I passed along a portion of Erin
Hollingsworth's review of The Giant Bear: An Inuit Folktale,
by Jose Angutinngurniq. Earlier this week I was at the local library
and, happily, found the book on the new books shelf. Of course,
I checked it out and read it. I think it is terrific!
For starters, the book opens with a two-page foreword about
Inuit stories that tell of giant creatures of long ago. One of those
giant creatures is nanurluk, which means giant bear. The story in
The Giant Bear is about how a hunter kills a nanurluk. The foreword
provides a lot of context for the story, situating it within the
people from whom the story originates.
Second is the word iglu. It is one of four words (nanurluk
is another) included in a Pronunciation Guide that follows the foreword.
It means "A winter dwelling made with snow blocks" (n.p.).
In parenthesis we see how the word is pronounced. For iglu, we see
I'm taking time to point out iglu/igloo because this tiny bit
of information is one of the reasons I think The Giant Bear is terrific.
I'd love to see every book use iglu instead of igloo. If I was still
teaching, in fact, I would physically alter "igloo" in
books I had in my classroom, and I'd make sure I taught my students
to use iglu instead of igloo.
Third is Eva Widermann's illustrations. Here's a gorgeous illustration
from the book. It is the third reason that I'm so taken with The
See how big the iglu is in comparison to the man and woman?
That iglu is where they are living for this story. In another illustration,
you see them inside where she is cooking and he's stretched out
on a bench. Next time you see an illustration or a toy iglu that
is out-of-scale, you could take a minute and point out that error.
Below is an example from a Sesame Street coloring book. See what
Fourth is the story Angutinngurniq (the author) tells. The
Inuit man in the story is out hunting one day and comes across what
he recognizes as an aglu, which is a breathing hole in sea ice that
is created or kept open by a marine animal. He knows that the nanurluk
comes out that hole to hunt, too, and decides he has to take action
to protect his winter camp (the iglu) from the nanurluk. His plan
is a clever one that gives him an edge so that he can kill the nanurluk.
The method by which he kills the bear is what some people find
troubling about the book. Using his harpoon, he stabs the nanurluk's
eyes and nose when it starts to emerge from the hole. Without its
ability to see and smell, it dies. Widermann accurately depicts
that part of the story. Some think it is too graphic for a young
reader, but that depends on the reader. Those for whom hunting is
part of their experience won't struggle with it. That is precisely
what Erin said in her
review of the book at the Goodreads site. Here's her review
This book combines a great story with terrific art. I cannot
praise it enough. As to the reviewers who found it too violent,
the polar bear is the largest land carnivore and it hunts and
eats people. Polar bears are not cute cuddly animals; they are
man killers. I think it is perfectly appropriate to share this
fact with children. So many of them have had their brains addled
by modern Coca Cola culture that it might do them some good to
realize that the world around them is an all too real, and sometimes
She's right. Bears are dangerous! And, they are in danger due to
climate change, which brings me to the fifth reason I like The Giant
Inhabit Media prepared a study
guide. It consists of a series of lesson plans teachers can
use along with the book. I especially like the one about Climate
Change. It starts on page 27 of the guide and includes watching
a PBS Jean-Michel Cousteau Ocean Adventures video called "A
Warmer World for Arctic Animals."
All in all, The Giant Bear is outstanding. The depth of its
content and its ready-made connections to a science curriculum make
it a fine addition to any library. I highly recommend it.
The Giant Bear: An Inuit Folktale
Told by Jose Angutinngurniq
Illustrated by Eva
Published in 2012 by Inhabit
Indians in Children's Literature
Established in 2006, American Indians in Children's Literature (AICL)
provides critical perspectives and analysis of indigenous peoples
in children's and young adult books, the school curriculum, popular
culture, and society. Scroll down for links to book reviews, Native
media, and more.
Born in Munich, Germany, in 1978. Eva resides with her husband in
Cork, Ireland. Otherwise known as the Rebel County. She started
her career as a graphic designer in 1998 and worked for several
years in the advertising industry where she gained valuable experience
from various agencies in Munich, Stuttgart and Karlsruhe. In 2003
Eva decided to pursue her long time dream of becoming a freelance
illustrator and concept artist with her main focus on character
art in both traditional and digital media. Since then, her work
has been published in a wide variety of books, magazines and games.
We are an Inuit-owned publishing company, with our head office located
in Iqaluit, Nunavut. To our knowledge we are the only independent
publishing company located in the Canadian Arctic. Our aim is to
preserve and promote the stories, knowledge and talent of Inuit
and northern Canada.
We are an Inuit-owned publishing company that aims to promote and
preserve the stories, knowledge and spirit of northern Canada.