Review of The Man of the Moon: And Other Stories from Greenland

The Man of the Moon: And Other Stories from Greenland
retold by Gunvor Bjerre; illus. by Miki Jacobsen; trans. from Danish by Charlotte Barslund
Intermediate, Middle School    Inhabit Media    202 pp.    g
7/21    978-1-77227-295-6    $29.95

The folktales and myths from Greenland collected here are based on stories recorded by Knud Rasmussen in the early twentieth century. Reteller Bjerre says in an author’s note that she focused on the stories involving children and young people, but that does not mean the tales are sweet; far from it. In them, children are abducted, orphaned, starved, tormented, and abandoned but usually persevere through their hardships. In “Kaassassuk the Orphan,” for instance, a boy with giant nostrils is treated cruelly by all; he calls on a monster, who violently shakes him until he becomes the strongest person in the settlement and eventually kills everyone except the three people who had been kind to him. Hunting, killing, and skinning animals is a prominent feature (with moments such as harp seals having their heads smashed together), but the brutality is balanced by humor (if earthy: lots of pee and poo) and compelling action. The thirty-five stories vary greatly in length, with some many pages long and others very short, such as “The Child Snatcher,” in which a boy escapes a monster by sticking his toe in its nose and shouting, “If I were you, I would be very scared of my big toe. Because it eats monsters and people!” Copious watercolor illustrations by Greenlandic artist Jacobsen are often comical, always loose and lively, in warm blues and browns, with a full-page illustration for each story and occasional small, labeled pictures of animals and objects. A glossary explains some of the Inuktitut words, along with pronunciation tips; there are no individual source notes.

From the November/December 2021 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Susan Dove Lempke
Susan Dove Lempke
Susan Dove Lempke is a Horn Book reviewer and director of the Niles Public Library District in Illinois.

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