Water Sky


water sky

Book: Water Sky

Author and Illustrator: Jean Craighead George

Publisher: HarperTeen, republished 1989

ISBN-13: 978-0064402026

ISBN-10: 0064402026

Language level: 2

(1=nothing objectionable; 2=common euphemisms and/or childish slang terms; 3=some cursing and/or profanity; 4=a lot of cursing and/or profanity; 5=obscenity and/or vulgarity)

Recommended reading level: Ages 10 and up

Rating: ***** 5 stars

(5 stars=EXCELLENT; 4 stars=GOOD; 3 stars=FAIR; 2 stars=POOR; 1 star=VERY POOR; no stars=NOT RECOMMENDED)

Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker

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George, Jean Craighead.  Water Sky (Published in 1987 by HarperCollins Children’s Books, a division of HarperCollins Publishers, 10 E. 53rd St., New York City, NY  10022).  Sixteen year old Lincoln Noah Stonewright lives in Massachusetts with his father Frederick, an investment banker, and mother Alice, a volunteer worker.  His great-great-grandfather Amos Stonewright was a whaling captain who sailed in Alaska waters and married Nora Ologak, an Eskimo woman.  As a young man, Lincoln’s father had spent some time in Alaska with Vincent Ologak, an Eskimo whaling captain and Nora’s nephew.  Now Lincoln’s favorite uncle, Jack James, his mother’s younger brother, has gone to Alaska to help save the bowhead whale from extinction but has disappeared and not been heard from.  So Lincoln makes the long trip from Boston, Massachusetts, to Barrow, Alaska, to find his uncle.

Lincoln hopes that Vincent can tell him where to find his uncle, for he was the man whom Uncle Jack had planned to see when he went to Alaska.  However, Vincent cannot, or will not, give Lincoln a straight answer, but predicts that a whale is coming to Lincoln that will end two years of waiting and suffering for Vincent’s people.  So Lincoln goes whaling with Ologak’s crew. Despite his Ologak blood, many of the Eskimos resent him as a tanik or white person.  At the same time, Lincoln develops a liking for Patsy or Ukpik (Little Owl), the thirteen year old granddaughter of Weir Amaogak, Vincent’s partner and the mayor of Barrow Borough.  Can Lincoln bridge the gap between tanik and Inupiat in his relationship with Little Owl?  Does he ever make friends with the other young Eskimos?  What happened to Uncle Jack?  And will a whale really come to him?

Though I did not like Jean Craighead George’s Newbery Medal winner Julie of the Wolves, I did enjoy her Newbery Honor book My Side of the Mountain and its sequels.  Water Sky has nothing any more objectionable than references to “pee.”  Some squeamish stomachs may get a bit queasy at descriptions of the food eaten in the whaling camp, but readers will learn a lot about Eskimos, whales, and Arctic life in general.  There is also some discussion of the evil effects that alcohol and drugs have had among the Eskimos in modern times.  This was one of the “Outstanding Science Trade Books for Children 1987 (NSTA/CBC).”  The School Library Journal called it “A beautifully written book that addresses the issues of conservation and cultural heritage.”

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