One rainy day, Tanna took Ukpik outside. The owl was no longer grey and brown. She was growing white plumes. The feathers on her feet were thick as polar bear fur. Her talons were like little black knives.
Ukpik looked around as though bored. Then she stared at the Sky, as though to say,
I should be up there…
Tanna picked up the owl and moved her up and down. Ukpik was too young to fly, but she started to flap her wings.
Maybe, thought Tanna, pretending to fly will make her feel better.
Tanna’s father returns from hunting with a young, abandoned owl in need of care. At first, Tanna thinks the owl is ugly and strange, but she comes to appreciate its large eyes and its round body. Tanna names the owl Ukpik (the Inuktut word for “owl”) and soon discovers that caring for her is not easy. Tanna must rise early and catch lemmings for Ukpik. The owl impatiently stomps her feet and chomps her beak waiting for food. As Ukpik grows, she becomes increasingly demanding, and Tanna has to work hard to satisfy Ukpik’s needs. With a mix of relief and sadness, Tanna leaves Ukpik and her community for school. When Tanna returns to her community the following summer, Ukpik has returned to nature, and Tanna understands that caring for a creature so beautiful “[was] worth some work.”
Tanna’s Owl begins with a greeting from Rachel Qitsualik-Tinsley. Rachel shares that she grew up in the Arctic with many strange pets, including an owl like Ukpik. Framed by Rachel’s greeting, Tanna’s Owl is rooted in lived experience and celebrates the interconnectedness of Arctic ecology. Yong Ling Kang’s warm illustrations depict sweeping Arctic landscapes and vast skies. Despite frustrations, Tanna’s dedication to raising Ukpik teaches children that caring for something outside oneself is valuable and worthwhile. Tanna’s relationship with Ukpik also emphasizes the importance of respectfully engaging with nature and learning from the creatures with which we share our planet.
Tanna’s Owl is a poignant and uplifting read that will inspire all who read it to be better stewards of the environment.
Chloe Humphreys works as a Youth Services Librarian at Surrey Libraries in beautiful British Columbia.