Kumak's River: A Tall Tale from the Far North (First Edition,)


Product Details

$9.99  $9.29
Alaska Northwest Books
Publish Date
9.8 X 8.2 X 0.2 inches | 0.45 pounds

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About the Author

For almost twenty years, Michael Bania lived above the Arctic Circle. While residing in various Inupiat villages, she actively participated in the local culture and developed an understanding and respect for a distinct way of life. Here she met her husband, raised a family, and taught the children who would become the inspiration for Kumak and his tall tales from the far north. Art and illustration is a big part of Michael's life. She wrote and illustrated her first children's book at age six. Today she maintains her studio in Southeast Alaska.


"As Bania explains in a note, the annual breakup of river ice in Alaska is cause for celebration, even when a particular year's ice build-up and weather cause rampant flooding.
In this not-so-tall tale, when "chunks of ice as big as houses" jam on their passage to the sea, Kumak and his neighbors perch on their roofs in the warm spring air while, hour by hour, the river water rises around their houses.
Children rejoice in a school-free day, while Kumak fends off ice with a pole. Still the river "went wherever it wanted to go. And it did whatever it wanted to do," sweeping away dogs tethered in boats, oil drums, fish nets, and toys until at last the jam bursts, the river returns to its bed, and people are free to seek and find (the tall-tale part) their belongings and to anticipate their summer relationshipe with the life-sustaining stream - fishing, boating, and the vital annual trek to summer camp.
The cheery line and watercolor vistas of smiling Inupiat, dogs, and gulls enjoying their adventure amid pounding ice and deep blue water are a fine match for the well-paced text. For anyone in the lower forty-eight who has suffered from extreme weather and its consequences, the depiction of people thriving in harmony with a natural environment that both challenges and sustains them offers plenty of room for discussion.--Horn book
Iñupiat villagers cope with a flood in a cheery tale that's not so much "Tall" as it is Wet. Watching the river ice break up after eight frozen months, papa Kumak comments to his family, "As sure as seagulls return in spring, that river will come to visit us today." Indeed it does--as Kumak and his neighbors watch from the roofs of their stilt-based homes, the water rises behind a temporary jam to carry away the village's oil drums, fish tubs, net floats and toys, as well as the boat into which Kumak has herded his motley pack of dogs. The river doesn't "visit" long, though, and once the dam breaks up, everyone climbs down to help one another successfully recover their strayed goods and animals. The Alaskan author draws from her own experiences to tell the lightly patterned tale, and she illustrates it with bright watercolor scenes replete with frisky dogs and smiling people (the latter in modern dress). There is some brief drama, but it's less a tale of hardship or survival than a celebration of the season's turn and an authentic glimpse of life in northwestern Alaska. A valuable, loving look at an often-overlooked culture. (afterword)--Kirkus reviews
In the far north, family bonds remain strong, even if visits are an adventure in themselves. KUMAK'S RIVER: A Tall Tale from the Far North is a children's picturebook from Michael Bania as he tells the story of Kumak and his journeys to visit his family as he lives in the far north. As the river's ice breaks and flows away, he usually visits his family, but when the ice breaks and jams the river, trouble may come for Kumak and the village. KUMAK'S RIVER is an excellent read for youth picturebook collections, highly recommended."--Midwest Book Review
This sunny sequel to Kumak's House (2002) and Kumak's Fish (2004, both Alaska Northwest) centers on spring in a remote Alaskan village, when the ice on the frozen river cracks and breaks and jams up at a river bend, flooding the community. Kumak and his family climb onto their roof and keep the largest chunks of ice away with long poles, their dogs tied up in a boat nearby. Bania, who taught in an Inupiaq village, works the cadences of the story like the flowing waters of the river, with repetition of key phrases building the action. The illustrations are a pleasing wash of color against large swaths of white space that call to mind the vast openness of Alaska. A secondary story takes place in the pictures, in which the dogs have their own adventure after the rope holding their boat breaks. Despite a misleading subtitle, the story is less a tall tale than a lovingly depicted story of a people who live in harmony with nature; rather than raging against the river that sweeps away their oil drums, toys, net floats, and fish tubs, Kumak and his family know that 'A river does what a river does.--School Library Journal
The story is told in spare yet rhythmic prose, with the repeated refrain of "Just in time!" adding structure. . . The line and watercolor art is jaunty and appealing, with teeming vignettes of people and stuff contrasting with the wide open skies and broad blue river. A float-ringed thumbnail "window" cleverly provides an ongoing dog-cam that follows the exploits of the drifting dogs as the family waits for the waters to subside. With a style that's suitable for reading alone or reading aloud one on one, this is an unusual adventure that will intrigue many young residents of the lower 48.--Bulletin of the Center for Children