This is an Alaska book that I have always loved. Barbara Lavallee's illustrations have hung in Mom's kitchen for as long as I can remember. (Not that that is saying much, since my memories of more than 5 years ago are hazy at best.) So the illustrations in this book feel like a part of my mother. And Barbara Joosse's words fit the pictures just exactly.
In this book, a little Inuit girl explores the depths of her mother's love.
How much? do you love me?
Let us talk for a minute about kuspuks--the dress/coat the Native women wear, particularly the summer ones. Winter ones are similar, but meant to go over a parka, so they are bulkier. Since the Inuit had parkas of exactly the same color (grey/tan fur) kuspiks were an opportunity for them to be a little more individualistic. The summer kuspuks are just like a dress with leggings. Really, men wear coats of similar cut, but the women burst forth in more colorful and floral patterns. I adore colors and patterns. I made Lily a kuspuk last fall and she has worn it quite a bit with leggings. Terribly useful!
Barbara Lavallee draws beautiful kuspuks.
I love you more than the raven loves his treasure,
more than the dog loves his tail,
more than the whale loves his spout.
How long will that love last? Until the impossible.
I'll love you until the umiak flies into the darkness,
till the stars turn to fish in the sky,
and the puffin howls at the moon.
But what if I made a mistake? Will you love me still?
Mama, what if I carried our eggs-our ptarmigan eggs!-and I tried to be careful and I tried to walk slowly, but I fell and the eggs broke?
Then I would be sorry. But still, I will love you.
(I love how well Joosse catches the cadence and wording of little children.)
What about if I was bad? On purpose?
Then, Dear One, I would be very angry. But still, I would love you.
I love this little girl, exploring how far she would have to go before her mother would not love her anymore. And I love the truth of her mother's answers. There would be anger, sorrow, but more than that, there would always, always be love.
I also love the way this book shows some Native crafts and customs.
Northern lights and dogsleds... !
What if I turned into a musk-ox? Could you still love me?
This little girl has reached the worst her little mind can imagine. What if she turned into a polar bear and chased her mother?
But still, inside the bear, you would be you, and I would love you.
I will love you forever and for always, because you are my Dear One.
This is such a sweet, honest little book! I want everyone to love it. So love it!