The Most Amazing Bird
The Most Amazing Bird
Soon the spring sun stayed up in the sky day and night and the snow softened.
The ravens still played, flying around doing loops and somersaults. Now, the frost was gone from their beaks. They were so black they looked almost blue. Their feathers glistened in the sun.
And their coats were no longer too big. They fit.
Now, they were beautiful.
This story begins in the winter in the Arctic, Nunavut. Aggataa is walking with her grandmother, Anaanattiak. The hard snow crunches under their feet. Aggataa sees a small raven and asks her grandmother what it is doing there. She sees it as an ugly bird. Her grandmother explains that the tulugjuat are winter birds. The previous winter this particular bird had been small and sick and the grandmother had fed it. Soon it followed her about. Aggataa observes the small raven and a larger raven tricking a sled dog out of a piece of fish. The larger raven then steals the fish from the smaller bird. Grandmother gives Aggataa some fish for the small raven. After Aggataa feeds the raven, each time she comes to her grandmother‘s hut it meets her and hops along with her. She greets it, “Hi, Ugly Bird.”
Spring arrives, and, as other birds appear, the ravens disappear. Aggataa greets and observes all the summer arrivals. She describes the characteristics and behaviours of each. But, as fall and winter approach, the snow buntings, sandhill cranes, Canada geese, swans, ptarmigans, horned larks and seagulls fly south again. Soon no birds are left. Then, one day, as Aggataa walks to her grandmother’s, the small raven returns and greets her. “Crah!” the bird replied. It would not be a lonely winter after all. The most amazing bird was back.
Michael Kusugak published his first story, A Promise Is a Promise, in conjunction with Robert Munsch, and it reflected Munsch’s high energy, almost manic style. The Most Amazing Bird is told very differently. It is a gentle story of a girl observing her surroundings and learning to appreciate the gifts of each season with the help of her grandmother. The language is simple and direct and, at times, beautiful in its description. The text is perfectly complemented by the drawings by Andrew Qappik. The spare, delicately coloured drawings illuminate the Northern landscape.
That both author and illustrator are Indigenous people helps to achieve a particularly unified vision for The Most Amazing Bird.
Rebecca King, now retired, was the Library Support Specialist for the Halifax Regional School Board.