Saturday, September 5, 2015

Kidlit in Canada: Part One

First of all, I want to apologize for my sparse posting.  Summer was busy, and my work duties are changing, leaving me with less time to write here.  I'd love to keep up my weekly posting schedule, but things may not work out that way; we'll see how the semester progresses.  Thanks for sticking with me :D

Now onto the Great White North!  So I went to Canada at the beginning of August, and it was the best.  THE BEST.  My husband and I spent a little bit of time in Toronto, then took the train over to Montreal, and finally settled in Quebec City for a few days.  I'm so grateful that I finally got to visit our northern neighbor, and I can't wait to go back and explore some different areas.

And reunite with my favorite candy in the whole wide world.

While in Toronto (home of Groundwood Books, one of my favorite publishers), I was slightly bummed because the city's children's bookstores all seemed to be out of reach.  My husband and I like to rely on public transit and walking when we travel, so we had to stay downtown -- not a big deal, of course, but no children's bookstores for me.  Therefore, I was quite pleasantly surprised when I found an excellent cache of picture books at the Museum of Inuit Art down by the harbor.

What a cool museum, and very accessible for someone like me, a Texan who isn't very familiar with Inuit art.  When you enter, you can take a quiz to determine which "style" of sculpture you like best (minimalist, naturalist, grotesque, etc.), and then most of the pieces are labeled with those style types.  This approach made the exhibitions very relevant and helped me think more deeply about my aesthetic responses to the artworks.

(I especially like the minimalist style, btw.)

Plus, there were plenty of engaging activities for kids (and adult-sized kids), from scavenger hunts to coloring pages to an animated short film version of a traditional story called "The Blind Boy and the Loon."

And the gift shop!  That's where I discovered the picture books and found myself immediately taken in by a book called Sweetest Kulu, written by Inuit-Canadian singer Celina Kalluk and illustrated by Alexandria Neonakis.  It's a precious lullaby filled with beautiful images of a baby interacting with various Arctic animals.  The perfect bedtime read.  (They also had a print version of "The Blind Boy and the Loon.")

Sweetest Kulu's publisher, Inhabit Media, is something to behold.  From their mission statement:

"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.

"Since 2006, Inhabit Media has been working to encourage Inuit and non-Inuit Arctic residents to share their stories and their knowledge, and to record the oral history of our home. One of our aims is to ensure that Arctic voices are heard and that they have the opportunity to contribute to Canadian literature. Since our inception, Inhabit Media has been working with elders and storytellers to ensure that the rich story-telling culture of the Inuit is preserved and passed on. As well, we have been working with elders, hunters, and knowledgeable residence to ensure that the rich traditional knowledge about the environment is not lost.

"As well, Inhabit Media works with Inuit organizations, non-profit societies and the Government of Nunavut to ensure that the Inuit language is preserved and strengthened. Almost every book Inhabit Media publishes is also available in Inuktitut or Inuinnaqtun. Our authors, storytellers and artists bring these stories and knowledge to life in a way that is accessible to readers in both North and the South."

Something worth supporting.  I encourage you to visit their website and browse their books -- they have some great selection, from contemporary realistic fiction to traditional strories to informational texts.

Well, that's it for now.  In my next post, I'll cover my Quebecois adventures, the abundance of comics/graphica I found, and my frustration with my lack of French language skills.  Hope you have a wonderful week!

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