Putuguq & Kublu and the Qalupalik
Putuguq & Kublu and the Qalupalik
Qalupaliit are strange creatures with long hair that live under the ice. They search for children to take away in their amautiit.
This short, humorous graphic tale tells a story of Putuguq and Kublu, two siblings around the ages of five and seven that live in Arviq Bay, Nunavut (the first page is a map of their small town). Kublu, the older of the two, finds her brother playing make-believe that he is a mighty Tuniq hunter with his cute little dog Lulu. Kublu tells him that she's going to meet her friend Lisa by the shore, and Putuguq begs to go with her. She finally gives in, providing he doesn't bother them, and they head out on their walk. On the way, the two meet their grandfather who is returning from hunting, and he tells them a cautionary tale about legendary creatures called qalupaliit (plural of qalupalik) that snatch children.
The brother and sister don't always get along, but their grandfather's story gives both of them the creeps, and when they reach the shore and can't find Kublu's friend Lisa, they bravely team up to follow some strange tracks that lead to her abandoned knapsack near a rock. They hear weird noises coming from behind the rock, and when Putuguq loses their deciding round of "rock, paper, scissors", he is the one who has to gather his courage and investigate. The anticipation is eerie but all in good fun, and the "creature" that pops out from behind the rock is none other than Kublu's friend Lisa who had conspired with the siblings' grandfather to give them a fright. All is forgiven as the kids laugh it off (though Kublu needs a moment to lie down and hints that he might have wet himself).
As the trio head away from the shore, Kublu congratulates Lisa on the detail of the weird footprints, but Lisa says she doesn't know anything about that. Lulu the dog, meanwhile, begins to bark at the water, and Putuguq looks back to see a real qalupalik emerging, with eyes on him. The story ends with Putuguq’s running away yelling as the two older girls (who weren't paying attention to him or the dog) shrug his actions off. His sister Kublu tells Lisa, "I stopped trying to understand him a long time ago."
With very little narration, the story is carried almost entirely by dialogue. It flows quickly, and the reader gets a good sense of the characters' personalities without any backstory.
Astrid Arijanto's illustrations, which look to be created digitally, are bright and simple. The main characters are cute, with expressive faces and brightly coloured down jackets and mittens. Their black eyes (no iris, pupil, or sclera) are slightly off-putting at first, but you quickly become accustomed to the style of drawing. The abundant crisp snow, the drifting, fluffy white clouds and the rolling blue hills and sky create a peaceful backdrop for their home town and Northern climate. Only when the grandfather tells the story of the scary qalupalik does the colour palette change to tint the familiar landscape with a murky, ominous purple.
The graphic aspect lends itself well to the telling of another culture's traditional tales, the illustrations allowing for little written explanation in the way of the few non-English words that are introduced seamlessly. However, though there is a page at the back that contains a supplementary explanation of what qalupaliit are (with an additional resource the reader can check out if interested), it may also have benefitted by including a key for pronunciation.
Putuguq & Kublu and the Qalupalik, a thrilling little adventure with believable character dynamics, introduces readers to a creature from Inuit legend through the characters' grandfather's storytelling.
Andrea Zorzi is a children's librarian at Toronto Public Library in Toronto, Ontario.