Honoring Alaska's Indigenous Literature
Book Report for The Lamp, the Ice, and the Boat Called
By Jacqueline Briggs Martin
Illustrated by Beth Krommes
The book, The Lamp, the Ice, and the Boat Called Fish, is
based on a true story. The author, Jaqueline Briggs Martin, had
researched the expedition and decided to put it into a children's
book so that it can be used as a history lesson. She had it verified
by Emily Wilson, the daughter of the toddler, Makpii, in the book.
Emily is an Inupiaq instructor for the University of Alaska,
Fairbanks so the Inupiaq words and all the names in the book were
spelled correctly. She lives in Mt. Vernon, Iowa.
The illustrator, Beth Krommes, lives in Peterborough, New
Hampshire. She did a pretty good job of illustrating the book. I
especially liked the first page of the underground sod house and all
of the skins and fish drying, sled, meat cache up on top of the
house. The house has a long entry way with a lot of hunting gear
The expedition took place in 1913 when commercial whaling had come
to an end. The Canadian Arctic Expedition sponsored this particular
trip in order to study the plant life and its Arctic people. Captain
Stefansson, the crew, scientists and explorers decided to take an
Inupiaq family from Barrow. The father, Kurraluk, and another man,
Kataktovik, were to be a hunters for the crew. The mother, Qiruk, was
hired to be a seamstress. She had the ability to look at a person and
the fur clothing would be just right. She sewed parkas, fur pants and
maklaks for the crew members through out the trip.
They set out on their expedition when winter came early in 1913.
The ship became locked in with the ice. Captain Stefansson and five
crew members left the boat to go hunt caribou. Robert Bartlett became
the Captain of the boat. Qiruk continued to sew for the crew.
Kurraluk and Kataktovik would occasionally find seals but it was not
enough to feed the crew, their 28 dogs and a cat. They spent
Christmas and New Year on the ship. Nine days after New Years, the
ice cracked and took the ship down with it. They confiscated what
they could and built ice houses. Eventually, they decided to walk
almost a hundred miles across the sea ice to Wrangell Island off of
Siberia. They had to wear goggles to keep from getting snow blind.
They had to build snow houses along the way. They encountered ice
opening up where they slept, polar bears and near starvation.
Finally, they made it to Wrangell Island but they still had meager
foods. There were no signs of ships anywhere all summer. Finally in
the fall, they saw a ship. They had to go from ice to ice to board
it. The ship took them to Nome. The scientists and crew members went
home to the south, the Inupiaq family started their long journey back
home along the coast to Point Barrow. The book ends here. The Inupiaq
family must have made it back safely because I remember seeing Qiruk
in the 1950's as a little girl. The toddler, Makpii is still alive
and is now the oldest person in Barrow.
I really enjoyed this book, as it talked so positively about the
ingenuity of the Inupiaq people. They were able to survive because of
the Inupiaq people. I fully recommend that this book remain on the
shelves of the schools.
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.