Way Back Then, by Neil Christopher, illustrated by Germaine Arnaktauyok (Inhabit Media, 2015)

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What the book’s about

The legends relating creation and prehistory that are passed between Inuit generations are collected into a picture book in both English and Inuktitut, displaying the images of a highly regarded First People’s illustrator.

Two Activities for ages 7 up, by Francisca Goldsmith

Activity 1: Origin Stories

Readers select one of the brief stories in the collection and retell it two ways.

Supplies

Writing equipment with which readers are accustomed to working

Activity

After reading the collection and having the opportunity to revisit legends that struck particular chords with each reader, each youth composes two reflective narratives.

The first narrative is an original retelling of a legend from the reader’s own culture that treats the same theme as the one selected from the book, such as the characters who might be creating the sounds of nature or giant animals that are mistaken for places.

After sharing these narratives, each reader returns to the original legend in the book and, using her own cultural narrative of the same theme, weaves an original story using details from both cultures into a longer short story.

Note: For groups in which speakers and readers of languages besides English are participating, encourage work in multiple languages.

Activity 2: Storyboarding the Tale

Readers select one of the legends and, using the illustration as a guide, create a multi-paneled interpretation.

Supplies

  • Drawing paper or bristol board, depending on group’s expertise
  • Pencils and, where appropriate, inking pens

Activity

Each reader selects a legend to use as the foundation for his project.

Storyboard the sequence of events as they are told in the text, using the accompanying book illustration as a guide to attributes not described by the text, such as clothing and shapes of the landscape and the characters.

Stories, combining text and images that reveal more content about mood, activity, and consequences, can range from four to ten or more panels depending on the degree of experience and engagement with cartooning work of the group members.

Note: For storyboarding support templates, see Comics Pages from Printable Paper.

A note about using picture books with older readers

This book is an excellent example of how rich the experience of encountering a picture book can be for older readers. It is an authoritative look into an indigenous culture, recounted and depicted by members of the culture rather than by outsiders. Because the content is fairly slim, we have the basic concepts and rhythms and the opportunity to expand and build out from these seeds.

To have the text presented in the language and the lettering of its origin is also important and invites discussion of how translation and interpretation can be highly complex. Consider using this book, and these exercises, in teacher training as well as with youth.