Magnetic Pr. Mar. 2021. 128p. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9781951719050.
Gr 3-6–This graphic novel continues the story of Waluk, a young polar bear, and his companion, an older bear named Eskimo, as they roam through the changing Arctic, hunting and befriending other animals. Though the art is stunning, the writing is stilted, with awkward dialogue and blocks of expository narration superimposed over panels, and the message about the dangers of climate change is heavy-handed and didactic. Most troubling are characters’ names. The various Northern Indigenous peoples who have been called “Eskimo” almost universally view it as derogatory, and it is inappropriate to use that slur as a character name. The human characters, mostly unnamed, appear to be white except for one older woman, whose ethnicity is unclear, and a “shaman,” who is unseen. Many other animal names come from a mishmash of Northern cultures including Inuit and Finnish. The animal characters appear to come from a variety of legends, some of which seem to be made up (“Tuhis the Great Dog”), others of which are appropriations and misrepresentations of Indigenous legends such as Nanook the Great Bear (in Inupiaq culture, he is mostly an arbiter of human hunting success, not a helper to polar bears as depicted here). Because no context is given for any of these names or legends, there is no way to know without independent research what is real (very little) and what is invention or appropriation (most of it). While the environmental message is laudable, the writing is weak and the overall book is dismissive of and derogatory to the Native Arctic peoples who have been stewards of the lands for thousands of years. The lovely art it is not enough to save the book.
VERDICT With harmful language and misrepresented mythology, this book is not recommended for purchase.

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