Honoring Alaska's Indigenous Literature
Martha Stackhouse of Barrow
The Hungry Giant of the Tundra
Retold by Teri Sloat
Illustrated by Robert Sloat
This book was written in memory of Olinka Michael and with
gratitude to Lillian Michael. Versions of this story are told
throughout Alaska and Canada. This one is from Olinka Michael, a
master Yupik storyteller from Kwethluk, Alaska. Lillian Michael, her
daughter, wrote this story down in Yupik and was first published by a
federally funded bilingual press and educational center in Bethel,
Alaska. This is where the author and Lillian worked and now Teri
produced a retelling in English for a wider audience.
Teri quotes, "in the tradition of Yupik storytelling, tales can
serve other purposes in addition to entertainment." Some tales can
have warnings of breaking a consequence, through laziness, greed,
being disobedient, all of which is necessary for survival. There can
be a variety of frightening creatures, which appear in tales.
In this retelling of a tale, the hungry giant, "A ka gua gan kak",
is a favorite of storytellers. His name is to be said slowly as to
imitate someone large and heavy trudging across the tundra. This
giant is tricked out of his supper.
The setting of the story takes place in a remote northern village
out on the tundra. The village children are having so much fun and
pretended not to hear their parents calling to them to come home,
instead they played farther and farther from the village.
The youngest of the children smelled the scent of the giant and
told the other children, but they didn't believe him since he was the
youngest. Soon they all saw him and they tried to run away from him,
but the giant captured all of them. The hungry giant was so hungry,
he would have eaten them right then and there, but he didn't have his
knife! So he took off his pants and placed all the children in his
humongous pants and tied them to a tree branch since he had to go and
get his knife.
All the children were so frightened and thought of a plan! They
all did something unique, which all kids may do to escape from the
hungry giant! The events of this short story is exciting to read to
any age to excite the listener's imagination! The illustration is
colorful and shows the facial excitement of all the children. The
wilderness colors are brilliant in fall colors and the river looks
mighty. The animals of the story add to the natural setting.
The children's facial color tonation is similar, with contrasting
hair color. The boy's hair seems to be all the same, and so are the
girls. There clothing appears similar and everyone is wearing
Recommended age group for independent reading is about 3.8, third
and early fourth grade. Teachers can implement extended activities
around this story through language arts activities; create a new
ending, select a illustration and describe the illustration, or
create a diorama of the story, write a book report, or complete a
story map of the story.
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.