Whale Snow

Whale Snow

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By: Debby Dahl Edwardson / Illustrated by: Annie Patterson

Amiqqaq is excited when his family catches a bowhead whale. As his family prepares to celebrate the traditional Iñupiaq whaling feast, Amiqqaq learns about the spirit-of-the-whale.

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Author & Illustrator Bios:

Debby Dahl Edwardson, author

Debby Dahl Edwardson lives on the shore of the Arctic Ocean in Barrow, Alaska, the northernmost point of land on the North American continent. She has fond memories of the way Barrow was sixteen years ago when she moved north from Southern Alaska determined to forge an understanding for the place which became her home. Although plumbing in those days was honey buckets and wind chill factors often dipped to minus sixty, she found in Barrow a warm-hearted people who taught her much about life. She is still learning and growing.

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Annie Patterson, illustrator

Annie Patterson earned her Visual Communications degree with honors from the Art Institute of Seattle in 1999. Before moving to Barrow, Alaska, she worked as a digital ink and paint artist for a leading children's CD-ROM game company. Whale Snow is her first illustrated children's book, written by Debby Dahl Edwardson. Annie is a freelance artist, working primarily in watercolor. When she isn't creating art, Annie likes to study children's books, read fiction and art books, and graphic design magazines. On long walks with her dog Heather, Annie dreams of her next vacation to Europe.

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Awards & Honors:

  • CBC/NCSS Notable Social Studies Trade Books for Young People
  • Notable Books for a Global Society
  • Bank Street College of Education's Best Children's Books of the Year
  • Independent Publishers Children's Book Award

Editorial Reviews:

Publishers Weekly

First-time author Edwardson presents culture and custom through a child's eyes with this handsome tale about the whaling traditions of northern Alaska's Iñupiat Eskimos. Relayed in lyrical prose, the narrative centers on Amiqqaq, a modern-day boy whose father brings home the first bowhead whale of the season. Amiqqaq's grandma explains that the "fat snow" her grandson sees is "whale snow, [which] comes when a whale has given itself to the People." Easy-to-imagine similes (e.g., "snowflakes as big as birds" and "massive chunks of blue-green ice… huge as houses") help readers visualize the frozen north, while debut illustrator Patterson's dreamy, muted watercolors create a peaceful counterpoint to the excitement of the whale catch. Amiqqaq travels with his father to the whaling camp on the frozen ocean and perches gleefully atop the enormous slain whale as villagers in furlined parkas cheer him. The softly edged, snow-filled pastel sky and the smiles of the people indicate celebration, however, Amiqqaq's questions about the whale attest to the Iñupiat awareness of the bowhead's sacrifice. A glossary of Iñupiaq words and an afterword detailing the Eskimo's relationship with the bowhead cap this attractive volume. While some younger readers may not fully appreciate the book's more metaphysical ideas (Amiqqaq recognizes the whale's spirit in the fellowship of villagers feasting on the whale), the story strikes an appropriate balance between a child's inquisitive delight and his respectful discoveries about his heritage.


Amiqqaq is watching his aaka (grandmother) make Eskimo doughnuts when his father comes and whisks him away on his snowmobile to see the whale that "has given itself to the People." The community gathers joyfully, first on the ice around the whale and later in Amiqqaq's house, where his mother and grandmother boil a whale feast for the whole village. Watercolors in cool, dusky hues predominate in the appealing illustrations. The satisfying story underscores cultural differences by portraying Amiqqaq's growing awareness of the spiritual connection between the whale and his people. In an appended note, Edwardson discusses the partnership between the bowhead whale and the Iñupiat of Alaska. Teachers looking for picture books on Artic people will find this a good read-aloud choice for preschool and primary-grade classes.

School Library Journal

Filled with joy, this tale about a loving family and a caring community is something all youngsters can understand. Amiqqaq is home with his grandmother when fat flakes begin to fall. She refers to the precipitation as "whale snow," which occurs when a whale has given itself to the people of their Alaskan village. Soon Amiqqaq's father comes in to announce the kill, and then takes the boy to see the great beast. Before long, Amiqqaq begins to understand the true spirit of the whale, as members of his community come together to celebrate and prepare its different parts for use. The author has included notes about the Iñupiat culture, a list of words in Iñupiaq, and a link to a Web site where readers can access the story written in that language. Although infused with the colors of winter, the illustrations create a sense of peace and warmth. Patterson's characters acknowledge the strengths of modern culture without giving up traditional ways: Amiqqaq's father rides a skidoo, but also wears the traditional parka, and villagers dress in various combinations of jeans, parkas, and warm boots. An intriguing glimpse into another culture.


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ISBN: 978-1-57091-393-8

ISBN: 978-1-57091-394-5

ISBN: 978-1-60734-241-0 PDF
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Ages: 4-7
Page count: 32

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