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Whale Snow

Whale Snow

5.0 1
by Debby Dahl Edwardson, Shelley Gill, Annie Patterson (Illustrator)

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Amiqqaq is excited when his family catches a bowhead whale. As his family prepares to celebrate the traditional Iñupiaq whaling feast, Amiqqaq learns about the spirit-of-the-whale.


Amiqqaq is excited when his family catches a bowhead whale. As his family prepares to celebrate the traditional Iñupiaq whaling feast, Amiqqaq learns about the spirit-of-the-whale.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
First-time author Edwardson presents culture and custom through a child's eyes with this handsome tale about the whaling traditions of northern Alaska's I upiat Eskimos. Relayed in lyrical prose, the narrative centers on Amiqqaq, a modern-day boy whose father brings home the first bowhead whale of the season. Amiqqaq's grandma explains that the "fat snow" her grandson sees is "whale snow, [which] comes when a whale has given itself to the People." Easy-to-imagine similes (e.g., "snowflakes as big as birds" and "massive chunks of blue-green ice... huge as houses") help readers visualize the frozen north, while debut illustrator Patterson's dreamy, muted watercolors create a peaceful counterpoint to the excitement of the whale catch. Amiqqaq travels with his father to the whaling camp on the frozen ocean and perches gleefully atop the enormous slain whale as villagers in fur-lined parkas cheer him. The softly edged, snow-filled pastel sky and the smiles of the people indicate celebration, however, Amiqqaq's questions about the whale attest to the I upiat awareness of the bowhead's sacrifice. A glossary of I upiaq words and an afterword detailing the Eskimos' relationship with the bowhead cap this attractive volume. While some younger readers may not fully appreciate the book's more metaphysical ideas (Amiqqaq recognizes the whale's spirit in the fellowship of villagers feasting on the whale), the story strikes an appropriate balance between a child's inquisitive delight and his respectful discoveries about his heritage. Ages 4-9. (July) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Children's Literature
Fat snowflakes fall as the Iñupiat boy Amiqqaq's grandmother fries Eskimo doughnuts while they wait for Amiqqaq's father to return from a whale hunt. The crew has been successful and Papa takes the boy on his skidoo to see the huge, dead, dark gray whale. Happiness prevails among the Iñupiat community as they celebrate with a feast of whale meat stew, cooked fruit, and doughnuts. Edwardson focuses on the historical importance of the bowhead whale to the Iñupiats, spiritually and (formerly) as sustenance. There is, however, a strange contradiction between the very cheerful tone of the story, the charming, pastel watercolor illustrations, and the realities of killing a whale. Ignored are the dangers of the hunt, the death agonies of the huge mammal, and the bloody business of reducing a whale to meat, blubber, and bone. Papa speaks of the whale as being "given" to the people, but a whale doesn't give itself; it must be killed. Although bowheads are endangered, native peoples are allowed to hunt them to perpetuate their traditional way of life. One could say that time marches on—people who have modern homes, electric stoves, cars, and snowmobiles might show their respect for the endangered whales by letting them live. If children have studied whales or listened to their voices, they may find the community's unmitigated joy disturbing. On the other hand, teachers may choose to stress the traditional importance of the bowheads to the Iñupiats, a relationship well presented in an author's note. 2003, Charlesbridge, Ages 4 to 8.
— Barbara L. Talcroft
School Library Journal
K-Gr 2-Filled with joy, this tale about a loving family and a caring community is something all youngsters can understand. Amiqqaq is home with his grandmother when fat flakes begin to fall. She refers to the precipitation as "whale snow," which occurs when a whale has given itself to the people of their Alaskan village. Soon Amiqqaq's father comes in to announce the kill, and then takes the boy to see the great beast. Before long, Amiqqaq begins to understand the true spirit of the whale, as members of his community come together to celebrate and prepare its different parts for use. The author has included notes about the I upiat culture, a list of words in I upiaq, and a link to a Web site where readers can access the story written in that language. Although infused with the colors of winter, the illustrations create a sense of peace and warmth. Patterson's characters acknowledge the strengths of modern culture without giving up traditional ways: Amiqqaq's father rides a skidoo, but also wears the traditional parka, and villagers dress in various combinations of jeans, parkas, and warm boots. An intriguing glimpse into another culture.-Susan Marie Pitard, formerly at Weezie Library for Children, Nantucket Atheneum, MA Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.

Product Details

Charlesbridge Publishing, Inc.
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
11.32(w) x 8.80(h) x 0.34(d)
Age Range:
4 - 8 Years

Meet the Author

Debby Dahl Edwardson lives on the shore of the Arctic Ocean in Barrow, Alaska, the northernmost point of land on the North American continent. Debby has published everything from poetry to newspaper features. She is the author of MY NAME IS NOT EASY, which was a National Book Award finalist. Her interest in writing for children grew from a desire to see more books which accurately reflect and celebrate the rich cultural heritage of the Iñupiat people, the heritage of her own children.

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Whale Snow 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Beautifully written and illustrated, Whale Snow can be appreciated by young and old alike. Edwardson captures the essence and importance of community, a concept sorely lacking in the lower forty-eight today. What I wouldn't give for a little whale happiness in the big city.