Baseball Bats for Christmas, by Michael Kusugak (1990, 2017)

Children’s Fiction
5-9
Baseball Bats for Christmas by Michael KusugakWhat fun it is to discover a classic for the first time! The 2017 reissue of this popular children’s picture book gave me the chance to finally read this award-winning Inuit story, based on the author’s own lived experience. When the bush pilot Rocky Parsons delivers a load of Christmas trees in 1955, the children of Repulse Bay are intrigued. Only Peter knows what they are. “Standing ups,” he declares, having seen them in pictures shown him by Father Didier. Asked what they are for, he simply shrugs. But when someone gets a ball for Christmas, the purpose of these standing ups becomes clear to the children – standing ups are ideal for making baseball bats! Kusugak draws from his own experience and the oral storytelling tradition he grew up with in creating this story of life in the high Arctic more than 60 years ago now. He grew up living a nomadic lifestyle, using dog sleds and living in igloos, until he was taken from his family and placed in a residential school when he was just six. This story is a sweet tale of childhood innocence and joy. I loved the descriptive details like the runaway sled dog, and the illustrations, by Vladyana Krykorka, add texture and depth to the story. The pages are filled with children and dogs joyously playing in a place where the days are short but twilight is long, resulting in glorious colour as skies of orange and green dominate the barren landscape. Who needs standing ups when that is the view? The storytelling narrative makes it too long for storytimes with preschoolers, but this is ideal for classroom use and holiday laptime sharing, introducing children to life as it once existed in the high Arctic. A Canadian treasure that will give pleasure at every read. My thanks to Annick Press for the advance reading copy provided through NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.
More discussions and reviews of this picture book: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/33215501
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