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Leo Ussak students get book published

Collaboration between students and former vice-principal at Leo Ussak School finally comes to fruition
An excerpt from The Three Hunters shows the beautiful art and stylings made to the story. Image courtesy of Inhabit Media

It was a long, winding road to publication, but former Grade 4 students at Leo Ussak School can call themselves authors with the publication of The Three Hunters on July 19.

“It’s the story of three hunters going off on their own for the first time to go hunt seal,” explained Raymond Gianfrancesco, vice-principal and teacher at Leo Ussak School (LUS) in Rankin Inlet for six years.

The book is an adaptation of the children’s story The Three Little Pigs. Instead of a wolf blowing the pigs’ house down, it features a human-like blizzard – piqsiq – threatening the hunters’ shelter.

The Grade 4 class combined inspiration from fairy tales and social studies units to work on the adaptation.

“We spent about six weeks — like a half an hour after lunch every day — talking about our story, writing it, rewriting it, editing it, until we had something that we all thought was pretty great,” said Gianfrancesco. “I sent the story home with all the students at the time, and I thought it was awesome, so I sent it to Inhabit (Media) and they liked it as well.”

That was in 2019, but it took a few years for publication to come to reality. Gianfrancesco had taken an adult educator position at the mine after leaving LUS that year, going back and forth with Inhabit about details of the book.

“It was a long process and I kind of forgot about it a little bit,” said Gianfrancesco. “And all of a sudden, it’s just ready to go and they showed me the artwork, and here we are.”

The book is set before colonization, as students had been studying Inuit from long ago. Gianfrancesco said it was a truly collaborative process with the students.

“We wrote it together,” he said. “We would sit there, we would have the big pieces of bulletin board paper we were writing on. We would write things and then rewrite things.”

The hard copy of the book is available from Inhabit Media. Gianfrancesco said half of the proceeds will be going to LUS, and he gave his share from Inhabit to the Ikurraq Food Bank.

“I don’t know if there’ll be any (proceeds),” he said. “I mean, I don’t suspect this is going to sell a lot of books or anything.”

Gianfrancesco wants to make sure no one’s contributions are forgotten.

Grade 4 authors include the following: Avra, Andrew, Michael, Puya, Tayshaun, Kyrene, Robert, Hailey, Iqaluk, Sulu, Dylan, Atuat, Joseph, Nolan and Lisa.

School counsellor Noah Tiktak also made important contributions, along with learning coach Trudi Bruce. The book was illustrated by Thamires Paredes and includes a glossary of Inuktut words used.

Synopsis of The Three Hunters

Akagaq, the youngest brother of three, is confident but forgetful. When he gets caught in a blizzard he makes a tent, but it is no match for the powerful winds. Trapped in the cold, Akagaq is helped by his brother Tiriaq. Tiriaq digs into a snowdrift for shelter, but the wind is still too strong and blows out their lamp. Akkiutaq, the eldest brother, arrives to save them, and brings them to the iglu he has carefully built. The wind threatens to destroy the iglu as well, but the shelter proves strong, and the brothers are safe. The brothers learn an important lesson about paying attention to their Elders, and taking care in what they do.

- Courtesy of Inhabit Media