Resources are scarce in the far North. When resources are scarce and commodities need to be flown in great distances you learn to use your resources carefully and wisely. In The Pencil by Susan Avingaq and Maren Vsetula along with illustrator Charlene Chua we are introduced to Susan, Rebecca, Peter and their Anaana and Ataata. They live in the far north in their iglu where they are rich in love and imagination. One of their most cherished possessions is Anaana’s pencil. She uses it for her work as a midwife, writing instructions and letters to neighbouring communities. When the children grow restless one day when Anaana is out delivering a baby, Ataata allows them to use the pencil, each taking turns, creating beautiful pictures and practicing their writing. When Anaana returns she is proud to see all of the beautiful drawings but also reminds the children how the pencil must be used wisely as it is a great distance just to go and pick up another at the trading post.
The Pencil is a beautiful mirror book for the Inuit community to see their culture and their lifestyle reflected back to them. It also offers a clear window into the Inuit culture for non-Inuit readers and provides us with a powerful message of resource management. We live in a time where corporate profits mean more than quality products. Given the current state of our climate, books that highlight the need to value our resources are so important. Susan Avingaq and Maren Vsetula remind us to value our possessions, use our things wisely and carefully and not fall into the trap of disposing of things without thinking.
Charlene Chua’s illustrations are bold and brilliant and so well informed. You can fully appreciate the care that goes into the work she does with Inhabit Media, ensuring her illustrations are culturally accurate and reflective of the Inuit and the Arctic landscape. The book just leaps off the shelves thanks to her vibrant work.