Children's Literature - Catherine Campbell Wright
Brian Heinz has given us a gorgeous, original story of a young Eskimo boy who seeks to prove himself worthy of being a true hunter. Aknik struggles to escape the taunts of the village boys who will not let him forget his empty hunting bag. In his quest to prove himself, Aknik must rely upon his courage, compassion, and inner spirit to face a task, which teaches him more about himself than he ever, could imagine. Readers will be captivated by the stunning illustrations, the accuracy of the text, and the touching twist at the end.
School Library Journal - School Library Journal
Gr 2-5-Set in the Alaskan Arctic, this picture book chronicles the story of a young Iupiat hunter who must find what is emptying his traps of snared ptarmigan. The village is skeptical of Aknik's stories and only through bringing back proof is he victorious. The public ridicule that the other boys and even Aknik's own father heap upon him seems out of place here; the tribe would usually be more accepting, more nurturing. The inclusion of Iupiat vocabulary and a glossary adds to the book's usefulness. The illustrations, acrylic on masonite board, ably done by a well-known Alaskan artist, portray the starkness of life on the tundra and the warmth of the people. (Although the fox does look more like a small wolf.) Beige end papers and borders with primitive sepia drawings give the volume an antique look. On the whole, Heinz's adventure tale has successfully captured a slice of life in the Arctic.-Mollie Bynum, formerly at Chester Valley Elementary School, Anchorage, AK
Heinz (The Wolves, p. 1235) and Van Zyle team up for an involving glimpse of the lives of traditional Iñupiat people. Aknik is not allowed to be among the men of the village when they hunt agvik, the bowhead whale, because he fails to bring back meat from his carefully constructed snares. Something steals his bait, leaving no trace; the Shaman tells him that he must discover the identity of the one that empties his snares: "Kayuktuk, the Shadow Without a Body." Aknik returns to his snares and waits, then trails a fox to its den, where he finds it feeding his bait to her kits. How to prove to the village that there was a thief? Aknik brings snow home and shows the others the paw print of the fox, explaining that he had not taken the mother's one pelt because there will be so many more in the fall.
Readers never know whether Aknik's decision is based on a tradition of genuine wildlife management, or a nod to contemporary sensibilities regarding trapping. However, the lengthy text is dramatic; the paintings are a realistic accompaniment.