Friday, May 17, 2019

Review - A Promise Is a Promise

A Promise Is a Promise
by Robert Munsch & Michael Kusugak
illustrated by Vladyana Krykorka
Date: 1988
Publisher: Annick Press
Reading level: C
Book type: picture book
Pages: 32
Format: e-book
Source: library

When Allashua disobeys her parents and goes fishing on the sea ice, she has to use her wits to escape and to further trick the Qallupilluit when she promises to bring her brothers and sisters back to them.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

I think I may have read this book before at some point, because it seems familiar. In any case, picking it up again now was kind of serendipitous. I recently read an article about Inuit child-rearing, and it mentioned this exact type of story. Being out on the sea ice can be dangerous, especially for children, so stories like this one were made up to scare little ones away from potentially dangerous situations. (Apparently, Qallupilluit only snatch children when they're by themselves, not with their parents. It's easy to see why and how this type of story came to be.)

Allashua is a little girl who wants to go fishing on the sea ice. Her mother tells her it's too dangerous, but when nobody's looking, Allashua steals away and goes fishing in the ocean. There, she encounters the Qallupilluit, who drag her under the ice. In a panic, she promises her siblings to the creatures, and they let her go, but with the warning, "A promise is a promise." They will be back to collect.

But Allashua's mother is smart, and she comes up with a plan to outwit the Qallupilluit with the help of her children.

I enjoyed this one quite a bit, even though it's not standard Robert Munsch fare (the way the mother and kids outwitted the Qallupilluit reminded me a bit of how Elizabeth outwitted the dragon in The Paper Bag Princess, though). I've not read a lot of Inuit stories, though I have enjoyed the ones I have read. (Readers who want more books in this vein might want to check out Fish-Boy by Vanita Oeschlager and Magic Words by Edward Field.)

Overall, this is a strong picture-book offering from Robert Munsch, even if it's not quite what one would expect from this author. I definitely recommend giving it a try.

Quotable moment:

The sea water stung Allashua's face like fire. Allashua held her breath and the Qallupilluit gathered around her and sang, with voices that sounded like snow blowing over the ice:

Human child, human child
Ours to have, ours to hold.
Forget your mother, forget your father;
Ours to hold under the ice.

Premise: 4/5
Meter: n/a
Writing: 4/5
Illustrations: 4/5
Originality: 4/5

Enjoyment: 4/5

Overall: 4 out of 5

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