Nutik & Amaroq Play Ball

by Jean Craighead George, Illustrations by Ted Rand

HarperCollins, June, 2001.
Picture Book, 40 pages.
ISBN: 0060281669
Ages 4-8

Nutik & Amaroq Play Ball by Jean Craighead George Nutik and Amaroq Play Ball is the latest in a series of books written by Jean Craighead George that began with her Julie of the Wolves. This very successful book was followed by Julie's Wolf Pack and Nutik the Wolf Cub. For those who have read her many books, this new book will continue Ms. George's continuing theme of the experiences of children who live in the dangerous, yet beautiful, world of the Arctic. Each new book follows the experiences of a young person who must deal with a harsh and beautiful world, and with the fascinating animals who inhabit it. In such a world there are no excuses for bad judgment, and only a keen and scientific observer of the laws of the Arctic and its wildlife will survive. Ms. George's respect for the Arctic environment and for the children who must deal with its severe rules is sure to inspire and teach young readers.

In Nutik and Amaroq Play Ball, is the story of a young boy who has adopted a wolf pup as his best friend. Nutik is a playful little Eskimo boy and Amaroq is the wolf grandson of the great wolf leader, who was also named Amaroq. The story begins with a problem. The two want to play with their football, but it has disappeared after a visit from the Kuklook boys who are known pranksters. There is only one thing to do and that is to go outside and play. We see the boy and the wolf pup communicate as they look for an amusing activity. The wolf pup appears to want to take a walk across the treeless tundra and the boy follows until he begins to realize that they are lost. They cannot see any of the familiar landmarks, such as the village, the fish drying racks or his father's airplane hangar. Frightened, Nutik remembers that he must observe Nature if he is to find his way home again. He observes the gulls flying towards the fish-drying racks and feels relieved. But the wolf pup keeps heading across the tundra until finally he finds an empty oil barrel in which he is very interested. To the joy of both boy and pup, the missing football is found inside the oil barrel. Now they can play with the ball again, and that is what they do for the remainder of the day.

Again the pair is facing the dilemma of being lost on the tundra. Nutik wants to follow the gulls again, but the wolf pup does not want to go in that direction. Wisely, the boy relies on the instincts of the wolf pup and soon they are back in the familiar territory of the fish-racks, the village and the airplane hangar. Again Ms. George has made a strong case that a wise person will observe the animals that have instincts that we have lost, and the keen observer of Nature will be safe.

The tale of Nutik and Amaroq is also told by the stunning illustrations by Ted Rand, who is an established illustrator of children's books. He and his wife traveled to Barrow, Alaska, to observe the colors and moods of the land of the midnight sun, and he has done a superb job of bringing the dramatic beauty of the area to life. As they should be in such a book, the drawings are large and they are set against a dominating landscape, sometimes showing the tundra and at other times showing the dramatic colors of the sky. Ted Rand's paintings bring summer in the Arctic alive.

Stories about children and their animal friends are always favorites with children. Somehow relating to a simple and uncomplicated creature inspires all of us, and a story about a special place called the Arctic as told by Jean Craighead George is sure to become a favorite story.

--Sarah Reaves White

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This review was published in the June, 2001 of The Internet Writing Journal.

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