Discover the northern lights in Painted Skies

PaintedSkies_InhabitMediaIncTitle: Painted Skies By: Carolyn Mallory Illustrated by: Amei Zhao Ages 5-7 ISBN: 978-1-77227-004-4 Publisher: Inhabit Media Inc. Author, Carolyn Mallory’s newest book, Painted Skies, tells the story of a young girl named Leslie who has recently moved to the Canadian Arctic. She and her young friend, Oolipika, are lying on their backs making what people from southern Canada would call “snow angels,” when the sky erupts into the shimmering green of the northern lights. Unnerved, Leslie begins to whistle. Oolipika quickly stops her and explains there are consequences for those who whistle under the northern lights. In Mallory’s story, readers are introduced to the magic of the aurora borealis through the eyes of someone who’s never seen them before; stunning, beautiful, and seemingly reacting to your presence. But it is our young Inuit interpreter, Oolipika, who shares the traditional story of what the northern lights are that brings a mystical element. Mallory draws on her experience of living in Nunavut for many years, as well as Inuit traditional knowledge. The book ends with a page that discusses the science behind the northern lights. It is the amazingly beautiful artwork of Amei Zhao that brings this story to life. In her skillful artistry, Leslie and Oolipika are endearingly and wonderfully portrayed. Her use of birds-eye- and worms-eye-view are part of the magic. They bring the reader right where the action is taking place, and they give majesty to the lights phenomenon. What’s more, the birds-eye-view gives the impression that the northern lights are themselves a character in the book looking down on the girls, which is wholly appropriate when you understand the traditional story behind them. The illustrations are vibrant with colour and Zhao manages to capture, in a hauntingly realistic way, the breathtaking and flowing nature of the northern lights. When Oolipika tells Leslie the traditional Inuit story of the northern lights, Zhao transforms the lights in the sky to illustrate the concept. While in my 16 years living in Nunavut, they never appeared the way she portrays them in this moment, the idea in the traditional story and these illustrations perfectly capture the essence or spirit of what I saw. I find myself captivated by virtually every page of artwork, and can well imagine that if I had access to the original pieces of artwork I would find myself framing many of them and hanging them on the wall. Painted Skies is an entertaining read with captivating artwork that will ignite the imagination of a young reader. This is Mallory’s third publication, after co-authoring Common Plants of Nunavut and authoring Common Insects of Nunavut. Painted Skies is also her first published book of fiction. Amei Zhao is a wonderful illustrator, and an animation professional, with many credits to her name, including work for DC Comics. Painted Skies is available through Chapters, Amazon.ca and fine independent book stores.

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1 Comment

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One response to “Discover the northern lights in Painted Skies

  1. Thank you Stephen! This is wonderful and thoughtful.

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