It's Time for Berries!
It's Time for Berries!
Two cheerful Inuit girls who love spending time with Ninguiq (Grandmother) are excitedly anticipating berry-picking season in their Arctic home. But there are other things to do to provide for food before the end of the summer when the fruit will be ready.
“Ningiuq, can we pick berries?” Siasi asks.
“No, the berries aren’t ready yet. But we can go fishing,”
Ninguiq replies. “Yay, I love fishing!” says Siloah.
Ninguiq packs their fishing equipment into the qamutuk and
they all put on their parkas.
Activities which might seem exotic to Southern children, such as driving a snow mobile or jigging for fish under the ice, are presented as being part of the everyday here. A number of fish are caught, and, later in the season, the little family goes digging for clams on the rocky beach.
Finally, when summer is ending, it is time for the berries.
Ninguiq puts on her favourite hiking shoes and her jacket.
She has her bucket. The girls follow her as she walks
toward her berry-picking spot.
The mountain behind her house is enormous. Up, up and
up the mountain they climb, but nothing can stop Ninguiq.
It’s finally time to pick berries!
Rain, high winds and the shortened daylight hours of a waning summer are no impediment to the trio who want to harvest as much fruit as they possibly can. They fill bucket after bucket, and even an unseasonably-early snowfall doesn’t deter grandma from carrying on.
It’s snowing. “Oh, no!” Ninguiq cries. All the berries are getting covered.
Soon the snow is blowing and piling up, but Ninguiq will stop
at nothing to get berries! Ninguiq and the girls walk through
“I can see my tracks!” says Siloah.
Ninguiq brushes the snow off the plants back and forth
and side to side. She fills her bucket.
All this industry pays off, as shown on the final pages where Ninguiq and the girls are faced with a bounty of jam, muffins and berry desserts.
The straightforward tale of what to these children is daily routine in the North is accompanied by simple pictures in soft shades, with human figures and other pictorial elements defined in gentle black line. The artist has provided detail in the backgrounds to provide some insight into life in this remote community, and pages are bright with the clear light of the Arctic sky.
The author duo of It’s Time for Berries! lives in Iqaluit with their two children. They have used personal experience on the land as the subject for the book. I did smile at the fact that, in two different places in the text characters, are described as climbing “up, up and up the mountain”. A mountain would be hard to find in many parts of Nunavut where the terrain is generally very flat. What seems to these children to be a mountain is likely only a steep hill.
The illustrator is an Icelander who may have had some of these same childhood experiences in their native country as Siasi and Siloah have in the Canadian North.
There is a brief glossary and pronunciation guide at the back.
It’s Time for Berries! will be enjoyed as a pleasant family story by young readers, and it could be used as an adjunct to a discussion of traditional life in Canada’s North in a primary classroom.
Ellen Heaney, a retired children’s librarian, lives in Coquitlam, British Columbia.