post written by Emma Filbrun
Title: Water Sky
Author: Jean Craighead George
Major Themes: Alaska, Eskimo, Whaling, Arctic Ocean
Synopsis: A young boy is sent to northern Alaska for a few months to live with the Eskimos at Point Barrow, where he hopes to find his Uncle Jack who went there to stop the Eskimos from killing whales.
Water Sky is an interesting look at the Eskimo/Inuit culture, through the eyes of an outsider. At the end of the school year, Lincoln is sent to Point Barrow, Alaska to find an old friend of his father’s, Vincent Ologak. When he arrives, he learns that Vincent is the captain of a whaling crew camped out on the ice at the edge of the Arctic Ocean, trying to get a whale for Barrow town. Because his adored Uncle Jack has come to Barrow to stop the whaling, Lincoln has very mixed feelings about this. However, he quickly becomes part of the whaling crew as he is thrown into life on the ice.
As Lincoln learns more about the Eskimo, including that his own grandmother was Eskimo, he also learns about the vital importance of whaling to the native people. Vincent Ologak is convinced that a great whale is coming to “give” himself to Lincoln. And, no one will answer Lincoln’s inquiries about the whereabouts of Uncle Jack.
I appreciated the glimpse into another culture, but I didn’t care for the spiritual aspect of the story. The Eskimo seem to have a supernatural connection with and communication with the whales, and pray to them and to the forces of nature around them. I was not totally comfortable with this; it is something to discuss with your children as you read Water Sky.