Kumak's House: A Tale of the Far North
Author: (Ms.) Michael Bania
Pages: 32
Publisher/Date: Alaska Northwest Books/2002
ISBN: 0882405403
Grade Levels: Kindergarten and up

Book Review

"At the edge of a great frozen river, Kumak and his family lived in their house by the willows. Though their house was warm and cozy, Kumak was not happy. His wife was not happy. His sons and daughters were not happy. His wife's mother was not happy."

Why? Because the house was too small. So Kumak sets off to see Aana Lulu, the "oldest and wisest elder in the village." She tells Kumak to invite a rabbit to live with him. And so he does. While the rabbit thinks the house is "just right," it is still too small according to the family.

Kumak once again visits Aana Lulu, who suggests that he invite a fox to live with him. The fox—and her kits—think the house is perfect, unlike the owners. So Kumak is off once again to Aana Lulu's. This time he comes sledding home with a caribou.

By the end of the book the small house is home to bears, otters, caribou, foxes, rabbits, porcupines, and a whale as well as Kumak and his family. What does Aana Lulu advise? "Your guests have stayed too long. Send them away this very night." Which, dutifully, Kumak does.

The result? "Kumak's wife was happy. His wife's mother was happy. His sons and daughters were happy. And Kumak was happy too. "Just right, this house."

What makes this book rise above others in this category, are the wonderfully humorous and luminous illustrations—rich in detail about life in the far north, particularly the traditional activities of village life. On one page, for example, Aana Lulu is "picking leaves and twigs from a pail of frozen salmonberries." On another she is "carefully cutting the last piece for a beaver hat." The depiction of the whale in the house will delight young readers.

Thoughtfully, Ms. Bania, a former teacher in the Arctic circle, includes an interesting and detailed Author's Note about the story. She discusses not only the making of the story, but details about life in the far north such as clothing, the aurora borealis, cooking, and more.

Reviewed by the teachers at Education Oasis.
©2003 Education Oasis® http://www.educationoasis.com

About the Author

Michael Bania lived above the Arctic Circle for almost twenty years. She traveled to many rural villages in arctic Alaska and discovered a place of unique beauty, rich in cultural heritage and full of wonderful people. While living in the villages, she met her husband, raised a family, and taught the children who would become the inspiration for Kumak's House.