Sweetest Kulu, written by Inuit throat singer, Celina Kalluk, and illustrated by Alexandria Neonakis, is a soothing picture book, perfect to curl up with at bedtime. Kulu is a term of endearment used by Inuit. The lyrical and delicately unfolding story is steeped in cultural and regional specificity as well as universal emotions of love.
Neonakis’s illustrations are saturated with vibrant colors that sweep smoothly across the page. In the first image a child snuggles against a woman whose long hair forms the background of the text, which reads: “Sweetest Kulu, on the day you were born, all of the Arctic Summer was there to greet you. Smiling Sun shone so bright and stayed through the night, giving you blankets and ribbons of warm light.” The baby, referred to only as Kulu, is envisioned as deeply connected to nature. One by one Arctic animals deliver life lessons as they greet the child. In one image a flock of birds meet Kulu with flowers. In a gorgeous spread, Kulu floats underwater as a Narwhal and Beluga whale gift her with spontaneity. The text ends like it begins, with woman and child, this time Kulu is nestled among flowers and the text reads: “Dream a little, Kulu, this world now sings a most beautiful song of you. Slumber in safety. Tomorrow will wait patiently. Be calm, Kulu, and celebrate, because you are true love.”
This is a beautiful book for very young children, easily on par with Nancy Tillman’s sweet stories. This text represents Inuit values that are wishes most of us have for children. It also represents animals that fill an Arctic landscape not always present in children’s picture books, from Arctic char and narwhals to muskox. A thoroughly enjoyable read that will quickly become a bedtime favorite.
Check out Inuit-owned publishing company Inhabit Media for more beautiful children’s picture books!