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Native Pathways to Education
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Honoring Alaska's Indigenous Literature

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Martha Stackhouse

Book Review for Mama, Do You Love Me?
By Barbara M. Joosse
Illustrated by Barbara Lavallee

The author, Barbara Joosse for Mama, Do you Love Me? has a web page but it does not say where she grew up or where she presently resides. She does say that when she was a little girl, she did not know how books were printed. She thought it was magic. Now she thinks she is the luckiest person to be able to write children's books.

The illustrator, Barbara Lavallee, was born and raised in the Midwest. She graduated from Wesleyan University. She had been a teacher for the Bureau of Indian Affairs in Arizona and Sitka, where she taught art. She left teaching in 1976 to become a full time artist. She loves doing "folk art." She is an award winning illustrator.

Mama Do You Love Me was printed in 1991. The editor, author and illustrator thanked C.E.W. Graham of the McCord Museum of Canadian History in Montreal for checking the manuscript for accuracy in its portrayal of the Inuit culture. This led me to think that the book was about the Canadian Inuit. However in the back of the book, the author said that this book shows the way Inuit lived in the northern part of Alaska. I think that they should have had Alaskan Inupiat people check for its accuracy if it is about the northern part of Alaska.

The story has to have been after contact because the pictures are very colorful and the atikjuks, the outer part of the parka, are made from cloth. In looking at the pictures, the maklaks appear to be soft sole, where we mostly use hard crimped soles. The strings on the maklaks are tied forward, when we tie them towards the back. The mother also is wearing feathers in her braids. I have never seen an Inupiaq woman wear feathers before. This may be a cultural blend with the Interior Indians. The animals are cute, drawn mostly for kids. However on the page where the daughter asks "how long?" (No page numbers through out the book) there is a Yupik looking mask up in the sky. The inner part of the mask would be a better representative of the Inupiaq mask but the appendages to it makes it more like a Yupik style mask. On that same page, there is a puffin howling at the moon. There are no puffins in the northern regions of Alaska. However in the glossary in the back of the book, she did mention that they can be found in the western part of Alaska. The umiaq (boat) seems to be made from one piece of skin. They are generally made from five or more bearded seal skins. On the page where she asks what she would do if she puts salmon, ermine and lemmings into various clothing, the lemmings look more like little shrews with pointy noses. On the next page where she asks what she would do if she were to pour water on the lamp, the mother is busy making a grass basket. This activity is predominant in the Yupik culture where the grass grows long. The grass in the northern regions are too short for basket making. The lamp is too round where our traditional seal oil lamps are elongated in shape; more like rectangular with smooth edges. In the next page, the dogs don't look like huskies. The fringes on the parkas are also too long. In the next page, there is a mask of the musk ox. Again, there are appendages of fish that are common in the Yupik masks. In the page with the polar bear and a canvas tent, there is another mask that has fish, hands and feathers as appen-dages to the mask. The inner part of a mask within a mask, is more representative of the Inupiaq culture.

The story itself is a little redundant for an adult. However, it is a children's book for the primary level and the children love the story. They think it is so silly. They also like the fact that they know all of the animals except for the puffin. There are some Inupiaq words that are not spelled correctly. The skin boat (umiaq) is spelled umiak. The polar bear (nanuq) is spelled nanook.

At the back of the book, there is a glossary of the animals of the Arctic. It gives good information about the animals they mentioned in the book. However, under whales, it says that whales that are common in the Arctic are Belugas, Blue whales, Bowheads and Killer whales. All but the Blue whales can be found here in the Arctic. Otherwise, the rest of the animals give good information. The author even mentions that the puffins are found in the Western part of Alaska.

I would recommend that this book continue to be placed in the school shelves, as long as teachers talk about some of the illustrations that have cultural blends that are in the book.

The book reviews are a result of students enrolling in special topics course Ed 493 Examining Alaska Children's Literature taught by Esther A. Ilutsik in the Spring of 2004.

The book reviews are written by the students and are a reflection of their own analysis of the books and have not been altered in any way. The reviewers have given permission to share the book reviews on the HAIL website.

 

 

 

 

 

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Last modified August 21, 2006