Magic Words by Vanita Oelschlager

I recently had the pleasure of reading a unique book to my daughter: Magic Words: From the Ancient Oral Tradition of the Inuit, published by Vanita Books. It is due to be released September 1, 2013.

Title: Magic Words
Author: Mike Blanc and Edward Field
Publisher: Vanita Books
Expected Release: September 1, 2013
Source: publisher (NetGalley)


Magic Words is a modern translation (1965) of a very old Inuit creation story by nationally known poet Edward Field. As a poem it captures beautifully the intimate relationship this Arctic people have with their natural world. Magic Words describes a world where humans and animals share bodies and languages, where the world of the imagination mixes easily with the physical.

Overall the poem was a little too complex for my daughter, but I’m sure that’s because she’s still so young (3 1/2). She mostly wanted to point out every detail she noticed in the pictures. The text wasn’t completely lost on her, though; she was still able to grasp bits and pieces of the poem. One page shows a group of people with arms raised to the sky, fish raining down from above. The text here reads: A word spoken by chance / Might have strange consequences / It would suddenly come alive / And what people wanted to happen could happen. My daughter exclaimed, “They wished for food, because they were so hungry!” I can tell this book will be one that continually challenges both of us, always giving us something new to consider or imagine. It’s not the kind of book you read once or twice and then forget.

Even adults will find that this text stretches the mind. It feeds the imagination in endless ways, encouraging those who hear it to consider strange, beautiful possibilities and complex truths. Mike Blanc’s illustrations are absolutely stunning, creatively supporting the text and perfectly capturing its mysticism.

For further reading: While reading Magic Words, it was easy to understand why Edward Field was captivated by Inuit stories. Adults may want to look into reading his Songs and Stories of the Eskimos.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. I did not receive any other compensation for this review.

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