Akpa’s parents took turns keeping their egg safe, and warm, and secret. As the sun climbed higher in the sky each day, manniit, the springtime, passed. Still they waited for their egg to hatch.
One day, Akpa grew too large for his little egg. He knew it was time to peck a hole through the shell and peer outside. With one hard peck, a tiny crack appeared, and a warm sliver of golden light shone through. With a second peck the crack grew wider, and the shell fell open suddenly like a book.” (p. 7)
Author Mia Pelletier has combined her expertise in ecology and biology with her experience living and working in the Arctic to produce a wonderful natural science book about “the penguins of the Arctic”, the thick-billed murres.
Akpa’s Journey tells the story of an anthropomorphized baby thick-billed murre, named Akpa, from pre-hatching to its first journey south from the breeding ground.
Illustrator Kagan McLeod has filled every page of this book with colourful drawings of Akpa as he begins life on an almost inaccessible rocky Arctic cliff, grows protected and cared for by his parents, to the moment when he takes a huge leap of faith, literally, and jumps from the cliff to the water far below.
Akpa’s father looked at his son with kind eyes. This is the way for murres, his father explained. We are born near the sky, but first we must fall before we can fly. Your flying feathers will come, and the feathers you have now will keep you warm and dry. Your mother will fly south, and I will swim with you. As your feathers grow, I will trade my worn summer feathers for fresh winter ones and, for a while, neither of us will be able to fly. We’ll swim together. I will teach you how to fish and show you the way to our winter home. (p.13)
McLeod makes the night time jump of the young murres look magical in the moonlight. As Akpa travels south with his father, McLeod includes pictures of other Arctic animals that share this part of the sea with murres and shows the young murre as it learns to dive deep under the water to catch its own meals of fish.
Together, in words and pictures, Pelletier and McLeod capture the magic moment when the young murre takes another leap of faith, this time into the air.
You are ready too, Akpa, his father said one evening. Come fly with me. Then, smiling gently at his son, he began to beat his wings into the wind and rise up over the waves. Remember, he called, sometimes you have to leap when you can’t yet fly, and trust that the wind will carry you! (p. 29)
Akpa’s Journey is the perfect combination: a story told about an Arctic animal by an author who clearly has the knowledge and the passion to tell the story, illustrated by an artist with the skill to bring that story to life for young readers everywhere.
The endnotes include additional facts about thick-billed murres, a range map showing the east and west coast ranges, and a glossary of Inuktut words with pronunciations as well as meanings.
Whether you are selecting books for a library in Iqaluit, Nunavut, or Prince Edward County, Ontario, Akpa’s Journey will make a valuable addition to your collection.
Dr. Suzanne Pierson tends her Little Free Library in Prince Edward County, Ontario, for the enjoyment of her friends and neighbours.