Thursday’s Tale: Magic WordsMagic Words: From the Ancient Oral Tradition of the Inuit by Edward Field
Illustrator: Mike Blanc
Published by Vanita Books on September 1, 2013
Genres: Folktale, Picture Book
Pages: 24
Format: eBook
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Magic Words: From the Ancient Oral Tradition of the Inuit is a modern translation (1965) of a very old Inuit creation story by nationally known poet Edward Field. As a poem it captures beautifully the intimate relationship this Arctic people have with their natural world.

Magic Words describes a world where humans and animals share bodies and languages, where the world of the imagination mixes easily with the physical. It began as a story that told how the Inuit people came to be and became a legend passed from generation to generation. In translation it grew from myth to poem. The text comes from expedition notes recorded by Danish explorer Knud Rasmussen in 1921. Edward Field got a copy from the Harvard Library and translated it into English.

I love books that expose kids to other cultures, to other ways of looking at this world. Magic Words is a good introduction to the Inuit people.

It’s a gorgeous book. I read the eBook, but wish I had the paperback. The illustrations are richly colored and imaginative and invoke the feeling of the Inuit culture. According to the book, the illustrations began as ink drawings that were retraced and softened with 6B extra soft charcoal pencil. You know, before Amber started drawing I think I was pretty sure all pencils were #2 and the directions on standardized tests to use a #2 were silly. Anyway, the finished drawings were scanned and colored digitally. They are vibrant and just gorgeous.

sample page

The poem talks of a past time when people could become animals and animals could become people and they all spoke the same language. And the words they were powerful and could have unintended consequences – a good reminder to be mindful of what you say. It’s a lovely poem and in my opinion, it could be a great jumping off place to talk about cultures, what animal you’d turn into, or that words can hurt or help situations. It also has a nice list of animals to spot through the book.

It’s a book I would have enjoyed reading to Amber when she was little and I think she would have liked it. It’s colorful and full of creatures and who hasn’t wanted to fly? But I don’t think it’s for everyone. It’s not really a story. We learn about this time, but nothing really happens. “That’s the way it was.” The end. It you’re expecting a folktale, you’ll be disappointed. It’s a wonderful book, but a gentle one that doesn’t really go anywhere.

Thursday’s Tales is a weekly event here at Carol’s Notebook. Fairy tales, folktales, tall tales, even re-tellings, I love them all. Feel free to join in.


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