Michael Arvaarluk Kusugak, children's writer, storyteller (b at Qatiktalik [Cape Fullerton], NWT, 27 Apr 1948). After spending his early childhood in Repulse Bay, NWT (now Nunavut) with his nomadic hunting family, living a traditional Inuit life, Michael Kusugak attended residential school and the University of Saskatchewan. He worked for the government for 15 years, and now writes and works as a storyteller in English and Inuktitut. His picture books, all illustrated by Vladyana Krykorka, deal with Inuit life and traditions and show how stories can be used to teach history and culture.
Michael Kusugak was encouraged to write by Robert Munsch, who co-authored his first book, A Promise is a Promise (1988). The book is about Qallupilluit, Inuit creatures who live in the ocean, and is based on traditional stories used to warn Inuit children about the dangers of falling through the ice. The story has been retold as a play for schoolchildren, and is sometimes performed using puppets by Rag and Bone theatre company. It was followed by Hide and Sneak (1992), which also describes a little girl's successful escapes from spirit beings.
In Baseball Bats for Christmas (1990), children are bewildered when a bush pilot brings Christmas trees to a remote village, but make practical use of his gift. Northern Lights: The Soccer Trails (1993) is about a child who learns that the spirit of her dead mother is playing soccer in the sky. It won the Ruth Schwartz Award for best picture book in 1994.
Although most of Michael Kusugak's work is aimed at children aged 4-7, My Arctic 1, 2, 3 (1996), a counting book of Arctic animals, is suitable for younger children. The three tales in Arctic Stories (1998) draw on Michael Kusugak's own childhood to evoke life in the Northwest Territories in the 1950's. They describe both everyday events, such as going to school, and an extraordinary event, when a black monster appeared in the sky. In Who Wants Rocks? (1999) Old Joe, a gold prospector in the western Arctic, realises that rocks can be more valuable than gold.
The Curse of the Shaman, A Marble Island Story (2006) tells the story of Wolverine, who is cursed at birth by a grumpy shaman; everyone forgets about the curse until Wolverine grows up and wants to marry the shaman's daughter. One of Saturn's moons was named Paaliaq, after the shaman in this book. The Littlest Dog Sled, a story about a small dog with big dreams, was published in 2008, the same year that Michael Kusugak won the Vicky Metcalf Award for Children's Literature.