I’m not a real fan of alphabet books, so I was a little skeptical when I picked up the book T is for Territories: A Yukon, Northwest Territories, and Nunavut Alphabet. I was pleasantly surprised. For each letter T is for Territories has a choosen word with a poem and picture as well as an incredibly informative sidebar. The level of detail helps the book stear clear of generalizations.
Would you expect “Igloo” for “I”? I think I was, and yet the book chooses Inuit, which is definately a better choice. Then it talks about the igloo within the modern context. The following is from the third paragraph on the sidebar of the “I” page:
Modern, superinsuilated houses have replaced igloos. Snowmobiles have replaced dog teams. But Inuit continue to hunt and fish, building igloos where night finds them. They build their own sleds and snowknives. They sew caribou and sealskin clothing to ward off cold weather. But they also work in modern offices, watch satellite TV, and text messages on cell phones.
I read it to my children sitting on the floor next to a wall map of Canada, so we could talk about the places mentioned. We learn that the Inuktitut name for Hudson’s Bay is Tariuq, meaning “salt.” We learn about Baffin Islands and are reminded that the Inuvialuit are the people of the Beauford Sea at the North of the MacKenzie River (we read before a bit about people of that area in some children’s books about life in Northern Canada).
The description of the Artic Winter Games inspired my children to a lot of playful jumping trying to imitate the one-foot high kick.
There are also literary tie-ins in the book. The book mentions Jack London, Ted Harrison, Robert W. Service, Pierre Burton. A few lines of The Creation of Sam McGee are quoted. Inuit artists such as Kenojuak Ashevak are mentioned, as well as singer/songwriter Leela Gilday.
The author’s note at the end of the book is a fascinating read too, as the author wrote about his experiences in a residential school and how his name was changed, first to a the numbers “E3-296” and later to “Michael Agvaluk” and then the next year to “Michael Kusugak” as the government officials took on ‘project surname’ and insisted they adopt their father’s names as a surname.