Northern Lights: The Soccer Trails

Traditional qamutik (sled), Cape DorsetImage via Wikipedia
This award-winning picture book has become one of my favorites! Northern Lights realistically conveys many aspects of life in Canada's north. I love how the author, Michael A. Kusugak writes, "On a clear moonlit night, the northern lights come out to play."

The book opens with Kataujaq, a young girl who is learning about her arctic home from her mother. Together they travel across the sea of ice, pick flowers during the summer, and gather berries in the autumn. The happy times end when Kataujaq's mother dies suddenly. She misses her mother so very much. Kataujaq's grandmother tells her the legend of the northern lights to ease her sadness.

The people of her village like to play soccer out on the sea ice under the moonlight, using a caribou skin ball stuffed with moss and fur. Her grandmother tells her that the thousands of thin strands of light moving about in the northern lights above them are really the souls of those that have passed on, playing soccer with a huge, frozen walrus head. This greatly consoles Kataujak as she feels her mother's presence, and no longer feels as lonely.

The artwork illustrated by Vladyana Krykora is beautiful with strong, bold colors and much detail. It's very easy to become mesmerized by some of these pictures! A full-page painting accompanies each page of text. A nice touch is added to the text side of the page with the inclusion of a beaded replica of one of the designs traditionally used to decorate Inuit clothing.

Northern Lights: The Soccer Trails

* Book Details:


Michael Arvaarluk Kusugak
Illustrated by Vladyana Krykorka Toronto, Annick Press, 1993. 24pp, paper
ISBN 0-55037-338-2 (paper) $5.95, ISBN 1-55037-339-0 (cloth) $15.95. Distributed by Firefly Books. CIP

Subject Heading:
Inuit-Canada-Juvenile fiction.

Grades 3 and up / Ages 8 and up

One reviewer writes, "This book has many applications to the school curriculum, from an analysis of myths and legends to a study unit on native peoples. Other readers might choose this book because it deals with death and life after death. On the back cover, the author explains that his grandparents and father are dead and that it is a great consolation for him to go out on a clear moonlit night to watch them enjoying a game of soccer."

I found the book very comforting and I could see why it won the Ruth Schwartz Award. Though there is sadness in saying goodbye to a loved one that has gone on, there is peace in knowing that there is much joy in the land far above where loved ones enjoy a game or two of soccer. Even though I cried while reading the book out loud, I felt so much better afterward!

5+ stars, a great read!

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