Wednesday, November 29, 2023

MAHAHAA, Inuit-English retelling of Mahahaa the Tickler and her evil ways

(illus. Babah Kalluk)
Inhabit Media
$17.95 trade paper, available now

Rating: 4* of five

The Publisher Says: A bilingual retelling of a traditional Inuit story from the North Baffin region, and illustrated by celebrated Inuit artist Babah Kalluk.

Aulaja must stay alone in camp with only her dog to protect her. She has heard about dangerous land spirits from her father, but she has no idea she will soon encounter one—Mahahaa the Tickler, a being from Inuit mythology who can tickle you to death.


My Review
: Short for a graphic novel, but far too intense for a reader under 10 to read alone so definitely not a picture book. This Inuit myth is actually quite disturbing, but does not contain violence but rather unease and menace...the last illustration I've put on the page is Mahahaa herself, in all her maleficent glory.

The artwork is stunningly beautiful:

I trust that last image shows you why I think it's best for this to stay out of hands younger than ten years. By fifth grade, I would expect that level of uneasiness with such a deliberately wrong-looking humanoid figure to be established as fantastical and exaggerated for effect in the reader's mind. The artwork suits the deep unease of the young girl left alone to face the possibility of confronting Bad Things.

This is one I would, if I planned to gift it to a kid, read first and discuss with the parents. The fascinating writing system, so different from our alphabet, could be a very big draw for a fifth grade reader. I would've been enchanted by it, maybe even inspired to look into the Inuit language. It seems to me like something that challenges the juvenile reader to make a fictional context for the fear of being left alone.

It's a worthy aim, and a wonderful story for a young person interested in other cultures to safely explore, and create, and expand their own storyverse.

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