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Bookends: An Alphabetic Romp Across the Northern Territories December 29, 2013

Posted by klondykewriter in Bookends.
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Bookends: An Alphabetic Romp Across the Northern Territories

By Dan Davidson

July 24, 2013

– 634 words –


T is for Territories

A Yukon, Northwest Territories and Nunavut Alphabet

By Michael Arvaarluk KusugakTerritories

Illustrated by Iris Churcher

Sleeping Bear Press

40 pages



Sleeping Bear Press has come up with rather a neat variation on the typical alphabet book. There are 11 books in the series and each focusses on a different region or province of Canada, working their way through an alphabet based on that area. A is for Algonquin is about Ontario; B is for Bluenose is about Nova Scotia; C is for Chinook features Alberta, and so it goes across the land, ending the provinces with S is for Spirit Bear for British Columbia.

T stands for Territories, and it wraps up the set by dealing with all three in one book. The author is Michael Arvaarluk Kusugak, who has produced nine books, mostly for early readers, during his career.

Kusugak was born in Cape Fullerton and lived a nomadic life based out of Repulse Bay as a child. He suffered the scourge of being in a residential school until the family moved to Rankin Inlet so that his father could work at the mine there. After Grade 5 he attended schools in Yellowknife, Churchill and Saskatoon.

Before he became a writer, Kusugak was a pilot, forest fire fighter, potter and photographer. He got his start when Robert Munsch mentored him on his first book (A Promise is a Promise, Annick Press) back in 1988, and was one of our five-dozen or so writers-in–residence at Berton House back in 1998, ten years later. His stay here produced Who Wants Rocks? (Annick Press) in 1999.

Kusugak continued to live in Rankin Inlet for many years, but this book’s bio page indicates that he now lives on Vancouver Island.

T is for Territories is a book that comes at the reader from a number of directions, not the least of which can be found in Iris Churcher’s marvelous illustrations, rendered in coloured pencil and digital print. The pictures are one and two page spreads that do a great job of covering the topics used in the book, showcasing people, places, buildings, animals, machines and maps.

The layout of the book is effective and attractive. The letters are shown in both upper and lower case. The illustration takes up most of the page (sometimes two). There is a four-line poem (a quatrain) usually composed of two rhyming couplets. About a third of the page above or below the letters is given over to a three-paragraph (about 150 word) write-up about the main subject of the page.

Kusugak has chosen a variety of subjects to cover the alphabet from A to Z.  The topics are not necessarily all names of things, as in many such books. A, for instance, is for April 1, 1999, the date when Nunavut became a territory, and is used to cover the territory itself. C is for caribou, which is more the sort of thing you would expect to see. D is for drum. G is for Game, specifically the Arctic Winter Games.

Then there are some pages about specific people. J is for Jack London, but Robert Service and Ted Harrison get mentioned in that write-up. Pierre Berton gets a page of his own, with a poem, short bio and special mention of the Berton House Writers’ Retreat, which Kusugak also mentions in his author’s note and in the author’s bio on the flyleaf.

“Let me honour Mr. Berton

“Journalist, writer, TV person.

“Pierre, I give you many bows

“For giving us the Berton House.”

K is for the Klondike Gold Rush. L is for languages, of which there are many in the North. In keeping with that idea, S is for syllabics, the characters used to write many of the native languages. Each of the territories gets a two-page spread.

All said, this is a book that should capture the attention of its target age group, and be of interest to others as well.








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