Magic Words: From the Ancient Oral Tradition of the Inuit – Edward Field (Translator)

Illustrations – Mike Blanc

Sparse in words but full of wonder, Magic Words is an Inuit creation story that has been passed down orally and then written as a poem, now translated by Edward Field and accompanied by Mike Blanc’s gorgeous illustrations. Aimed at children between 4 and 12 years old, children and their parents alike will enjoy this book.

Magic Words invites us to imagine a time when humans and animals shared one language, when humans could become animals and animals could become human. We’re shown the magic of words, the power of speaking something into being.

Just like Vanita Oelschlager’s forthcoming book Fish-Boy it was Mike Blanc’s illustrations that sparked my interest in this book. I’m no artist but there’s something about Mike’s style that makes me want to linger over each illustration and I don’t know if I can describe this accurately but it is as though there is both a simplicity and depth to his artistry. You can glance at a page and know it’s a beautiful image but as you look closer you discover more and more intricacies.

Thank you very much to NetGalley and Vanita Books for the opportunity to read this book. Between Magic Words and Fish-Boy I’ve had a small taste of Inuit culture but I’m hungry for more and will be on the lookout for future publications by Vanita Books.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Magic Words: From the Ancient Oral Tradition of the Inuit is a modern translation (1965) of a very old Inuit creation story by nationally known poet Edward Field. As a poem it captures beautifully the intimate relationship this Arctic people have with their natural world.

Magic Words describes a world where humans and animals share bodies and languages, where the world of the imagination mixes easily with the physical. It began as a story that told how the Inuit people came to be and became a legend passed from generation to generation. In translation it grew from myth to poem. The text comes from expedition notes recorded by Danish explorer Knud Rasmussen in 1921. Edward Field got a copy from the Harvard Library and translated it into English.

Fish-Boy – Vanita Oelschlager

Illustrations – Mike Blanc

Fish-Boy is an Inuit folk tale told by Vanita Oelschlager. It’s a wonderful book in which the story of Fish-Boy is told to a young child by Teragloona, a wise old Inuit man. Fish-Boy is the origin story that explains why there are so many sea-parrots (Atlantic puffins) on the stony islands of the far north. This is a story of fathers and sons, kindness and rejection, hospitality to guests, friendship and some magic.

I loved the story and found the glossary very helpful and well written. The illustrations by Mike Blanc are what initially grabbed my interest in this book and are absolutely brilliant. I loved the people, the backgrounds, the use of colour, and the way they immerse you in the story.

I adore the tradition of teaching origin stories to each generation by the elders in so many Indigenous cultures. I’ve had a huge interest in learning about Indigenous cultures, their traditions and stories since I was a child. I had a computer program called 500 Nations with audio by Kevin Costner and I’d lose all concept of time as I explored the richness of cultures I knew nothing about. This book has really whet my appetite again and I want to learn more about the culture of the Inuit people.

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Vanita Books for the opportunity to read this book. I hope to see more books retelling other Inuit folk tales by Vanita and Mike.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

The Arctic region of North America is a land of long days, icy cold, hardy people and peculiar creatures. The Inuit people there have made traditional use of remarkable folk tales to find truth and explain the mysteries of an astonishing world.

In Fish-Boy, An Inuit Folk Tale, Vanita Oelschlager retells a tale passed down by a wise old Inuit. It’s an origin story involving a little magic and a very odd boy with a large heart for friendship. On a journey with his new father, he must confront misfortune and the malice of cold hearted villagers. But he has a way … and a lesson for all in the virtues of kindness and hospitality.