Honoring Alaska's Indigenous Literature
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These two should look alike.
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
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
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.