Title: Christmas Nevermore
Authors: Marc Cadieux & Herve Bastien
Illustrator: Christina Zakhozhay
Publication Date: October 25, 2013
Publisher: Sir Reel Films
Pages: 360 (many illustrations)
Recommended Age: 8+
Reviewed by: Renee (Mother)
Christmas Nevermore is an inspiring adventure story in which worlds collide, from the villages of the Great North, down to Santa’s secret workshops, and finally to the realm of the Mother of the Sea, a character plucked from Inuit mythology. Readers are guided in their literary travels by orphans Polik and Nika, two young mixed-race Inuit children, who are being raised by their Shaman grandfather, Ikkuma.
The holiday season is approaching and Polik and Nika are filled with excitement. All of the children living in their Inuit village, Akilineq, are anticipating its arrival. But will this be the first time that Santa is unable to deliver his gifts on time for Christmas?
Big Oil has been drilling on the outskirts of Akilineq, affecting the residents’ way of life and culture. Even Polik and Nika are noticing the effect this invasion is having on the environment and the once majestic and untouched arctic landscape.
When the oil company accidentally begins drilling in the wrong place, a chain of events is set in motion which threatens the life of their grandfather Ikkuma, and the safety of the seen and unseen. In order to save Ikkuma, the children embark on an exciting, albeit treacherous journey that leads them into a magical underground world they never knew existed directly below them.
In the gigantic network of fantastic ice tunnels, hundreds of elves live and work alongside Santa as they prepare for the biggest day of the year. Polik and Nika discover that Santa’s world is melting and recent activity from above is threatening its very existence. Along with the elves, Santa, and a few other unexpected helpers, the children will race against time to reverse the damage done to both worlds and find a way to save their grandfather and Christmas!
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My Thoughts: Christmas Nevermoreis a thoughtful exploration of environmental issues from an Inuit perspective and with a little bit of Christmas magic sprinkled in. The story takes place in the far North of Canada in a little village called Akilineq (fictional, I believe). The village is inhabited by the Inuit and is geographically important to a big oil company who believes the village lies atop a large oil field. The story’s main protagonists are a brother and sister team, 10-year-old Polik and 8-year-old Nika – the only villagers who are half Inuit and half white. They live with the village’s shaman, their grandfather, Ikkuma.
The story begins with the children’s reflections of the changes in the North (e.g., the lack of icebergs), that are clearly due to global warming. The children soon learn that the pieces of a mystical necklace have been removed from their resting place thus breaking a longtime pact between the Inuit people and its protector, the Mother of the Sea. Wise Ikkuma foresees that a curse will fall upon the village should the pieces not be returned. Polik and Nika take it upon themselves to return the pieces of the necklace, but they fall deep into a crevice where they discover … Santa and his elves! The only thing I will say about Santa is that, in this story, he is full of surprises.
Christmas is in danger of not taking place as Santa and his crew are experiencing energy problems due to environmental issues and they are unable to manufacture toys. Polik and Nika devise a plan, enlisting the help of the elves, some friendly reindeer, and their older cousins Anda and Tuar, to save Christmas. But, hot on their tail, is the oil rig manager, Jack who has little understanding and respect for the Inuit culture or its people. He will stop at nothing to get his hands on the precious stones of the necklace for himself. I loved the tension (completely age-appropriate, of course) built up in the story as the children get chased across the tundra fleeing to the nearby city of Yellowknife in the North West Territories.
Environmental issues are of particular relevance to the Inuit culture as they are witnessing drastic changes and have been raising the alarm bells for decades. I thought the authors did a great job threading in facts about some of the scientific evidence of the environmental changes experienced globally. For example, one of the villagers reads aloud the following from a newspaper article:
“The temperature of the earth has gone up two degrees,” Mikael read a headline from the front cover on top of the pile. He picked up the magazine and flipped through the pages.
“The ice at the poles is melting faster than predicted.”
Otto looked up at him from behind the page he was reading. “I guess it won’t be long before we can sail all the way to the North Pole.”
What I loved the most about this book is the immersion into Inuit culture. The names of the characters are Inuit, there are sprinkles of the Inuit language in the text, beautiful descriptions of the ecology (e.g., northern lights, the tundra), and glimpses into Inuit mythology and storytelling. Recent middle grade books that are set in Northern Canada, that focus on the Inuit culture, or that feature Inuit children as main characters are somewhat lacking (although Jack London and Farley Mowat definitely come to mind), so I was so pleased to see this gap addressed with Christmas Nevermore.
The illustrations are simply stunning! Gorgeous does not even begin to describe the interior depictions of the events that transpire. The true beauty of the North comes through many times over with Christina Zakhozhay absolutely beautiful pictures. It is like gazing upon a painting that stirs your soul. They are amazing and I’m thrilled to see so many illustrations in a middle grade book.
My Bottom Line: Christmas Nevermore consists a unique and compelling story bringing together Inuit culture, environmental issues, and the magic of Christmas. I didn’t think it possible to merge these themes, but Cadieux and Bastien have woven a magical tale that transports the reader to the far North; making you feel as if you are sitting amongst the Inuit people being regaled by the telling of old legends and myths passed down generation to generation. I highly recommend this great adventure with an important message for children aged 8 years and older.
More Buzz About the Book
“This is a great book – perfect to read with your kids this holiday season! It’s well-written, full of adventure and has a lot of heart. I loved the illustrations, the message about being kind to the environment, and the twist on the usual Christmas tale (this isn’t your average Santa Claus!!!). I’d say that it’s ideal for ages 8 or 9+. I felt good about my purchase, because partial proceeds benefit the Sanctuary for Kids charity, so you’re giving more than one gift when you get it as a present for the holidays. Highly recommended!” ~ 5 Star Review, Jessica, Amazon
“This is a great book for young and old alike. Its also has an important ecological message. It is also very beautifully illustrated. If you want to give a gift to someone that is a little different, and has a real message, it would make a great gift. I recommend it highly as something to read that has value during the holiday season.” ~ 5 Star Review, Billk, Amazon
About The Authors:
Canadian born, Marc Cadieux spent 14 years in Paris working as a film director, later moving to Los Angeles to continue his writing and film career. Cadieux’s unique and stylized approach to storytelling led him to work for the iconic Tom Waits on three of his world tours. As his reputation flourished, Marc extended his endeavors to include documentaries and an award-winning short film, “La Pension”, which went on to be selected for the Cannes film festival. This is Marc’s first novel.
French born, Herve Bastien began his career in film as a casting director and later as first assistant director for such prominent European directors as Jean-Paul Goude and Patrice Leconte. From there Herve entered the second phase of his career, for several years writing and adapting children’s stories for Disky Europe. Bastien then moved into directing with his short film “Pique-Nique,” which was picked up for distribution by Luc Besson’s Europa Corp. Numerous commercials and institutional films followed. began his career in film as a casting director and later as first assistant director for such prominent European directors as Jean-Paul Goude and Patrice Leconte. From there Herve entered the second phase of his career, for several years writing and adapting children’s stories for Disky Europe. Bastien then moved into directing with his short film “Pique-Nique,” which was picked up for distribution by Luc Besson’s Europa Corp. Numerous commercials and institutional films followed.
About the Illustrator: Christina Zakhozhay
Christina Zakhozhay is a Russian writer and illustrator. She began working on illustrations for Christmas Nevermore after Marc Cadieux discovered her incredible work on deviantart.com. Christina has a Bachelor of Arts degree in Design, and is currently taking a course in Visual Effects for Film and Television at Seneca College in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. When she’s not studying, Christina is hard at work on her own graphic novel, The Book of Contradictions, which she began at age 13.
* Giveaway *
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