Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Picture Book Review: Magic Words

Magic Words is a modern translation (1965) of a very old Inuit creation story by nationally known poet Edward Field. As a poem it captures beautifully the intimate relationship this Arctic people have with their natural world.
Magic Words describes a world where humans and animals share bodies and languages, where the world of the imagination mixes easily with the physical. It began as a story that told how the Inuit people came to be and became a legend passed from generation to generation. In translation, it grew from myth to poem. The text comes from expedition notes recorded by Danish explorer Knud Rasmussen in 1921. Edward Field got a copy from the Harvard Library and translated it into English.

The Inuit people, whom I had previously thought of as Eskimos, became a reality to me in the 1960s when I was asked to create a book of poems out of the notebooks of the Danish explorer Knud Rasmussen’s expeditions to this remarkable people living north of the Arctic Circle. From his observations and jottings, much of it transcribed verbatim from Inuit people themselves, I selected passages that had the mark of traditional retellings of Inuit history and cosmology – and when I spotted the lines in Rasmussen’s rough translation that became “Magic Words,” I knew that this poem came from the soul of the Inuit people. In fact, “Magic Words” became my most successful Inuit translation, one that has met with a wide response for the lost, and extraordinary, truth it reveals. The artist Mike Blanc has here beautifully captured in his illustrations the pure spirit, the essence, of Inuit art to illuminate this gem of Inuit wisdom for our children, who more than anyone are responsive to the magical power of words and images. I can only congratulate Vanita Oelschlager for bringing this beautiful edition of the ancient Inuit poem I had the honor to discover and translate to the children and to their parents who will read it to them.- Edward Field

5 Stars
This beautiful book takes an old Inuit creation myth and brings it to life. Teaching about other cultures is so important and Magic Words gives kids a look into an ancient Inuit poem and the artwork of this part of the world. This book would work with a class or a parent/child reading time. It is easy to understand, look at and would be a great source of discussion for little ones. Great!

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