The village of Kwethluk
in Southwest Alaska is home to about 500 people, "almost all Yup'ik Eskimos . . . [who] live a subsistence lifestyle [depending]
on the Kwethluk river for their major food source,"[i] fish. Kitaq Goes Ice Fishing
tells the tale of a young boy, not yet six, who reaches a milestone in his village – becoming a fisherman. Although
Kitaq is not yet old enough to go to school, he is big enough to walk with his grandfather all the way to the river and back
again. After helping his grandfather re-open the fishing hole in the ice-covered river, Kitaq catches three pike, just one
of which is big enough to feed his entire family for dinner.
Written by Margaret Nicolai,
whose husband is a native of Kwethluk, this story is based on her husband's tales of growing up in Kwethluk in the 1960s.
"About the Author" tells us that Nicolai wrote the book for her sons, to help them acknowledge their heritage. The book tenderly
reveals much about the Yup'ik culture and lifestyle. We gain an understanding of strong family ties – Kitaq's respect
for his elders and grandfather's pride in his grandson – and the rigors of life in this remote village.
Illustrator David Rubin,
a long-time Alaska resident, authentically illustrates this book in oil on canvas. Rubin's illustrations
catch the warmth of the family's kitchen and their love for each other while also capturing the icy cold environment made
brilliant by a few hours of sunlight.
This book is a treat to
[i] Author's note, About the Yup'ik Village of Kwethluk.
Nicolai, Margaret. 1998. Kitaq goes fishing. Illus. David Rubin. Anchorage, AK: Alaska
Northwest. ISBN 0-88240-504-7.