Author: Jǿrn Riel

by: Mary Joy BAsañez

The Shipwreck is the 1st volume of the Inuk Quartet that was written by Jørn Riel and illustrated by Helen Cann. It was first published in the United States by Barefoot Books, Incorporation in 2011. Being written for young people, The Shipwreck is analytically challenging for kids to read it, for it contains profound words that needs to be scrutinize.Riel’s message is heavily illustrated with full-page bold, stylized watercolors, some double-page spreads and occasional vignettes, this transitional chapter book employs a large font and very generous white space.  Although the language is a bit stilted and the message far from subtle, this Danish translation, first in a four-part series, will appeal to those seeking adventure, strong friendship and survival stories at a lower reading level than usual. First publish in Denmark in 1979, Jørn Riel’s remarkable adventure story evokes the traditional life of the Inuit people in a captivating way. The Shipwreck is the first volume in his celebrated Inuk Quartet. This edition marks his debut in the English-speaking world.



Reil’s novel looks at a child’s adventurous life that portrays a young boy named Leiv.Leiv Steinursson- the main character of the story lives in Iceland and was fortunate enough to be saved by two Inuits when shipwrecked happened. The two Inuits were Apuluk and Narua.  Narua that means “ seagull”  in other language is a beautiful, smart and adventurous young lad. She was always then accompanied by her older brother- Apuluk. Apuluk is only a year older than Narua. Before shipwreck happened, Live was sailing with Thorstein to the sea to their way to Greenland. Thorstein Gunnarson – the man who killed Leiv’s father , was an accomplished seafarer and  took care of Leiv even when Leiv has a great desire of killing him. The other characters of the story was  Leiv’s uncle Helge who like gold and silver very much, and he wants things in the world he didn’t need at all, the old Shilli who doesn’t like Leiv in their tribe and often interrupt Leiv when he’s telling a story about his life on Iceland and lastly, Flax- Leiv’s horse that witnessed Leiv’ tears on the third  page of the first chapter.



In 1000 C.E., Leiv Steinneurson, a young Viking who was left home to avenge his father’s murder traveled with the Norsemen to Greenland. You wouldn’t believe it but he did. At first, he was there to kill Thorstein because he thinks that Thorstein wouldn’t be able to run once they were out of the sea. However, he was all wrong since Thorstein never wanted to have a fight though he has his men with him so subsequently; Leiv ended up helping the men on deck and learn a bit of seamanship. Once they were a mile or two away from Greenland, the weather suddenly turned nasty, and hail lashed the boat along with the blue and drifting ice in the morning. Leiv, who was a little bit frightened decided to jump over the ice floes to get into the other ships but unfortunately, the fog came rolling in so he didn’t see how huge the floe he was standing on was. Later, he found himself floating and managing not to fall on the iceberg with fingers almost frozen stiff. And before he died on the frostiness, the two Inuits found him lying on the pole.

Apuluk and Narua know they cannot bring Leiv home with them. Their tribe’s Shaman believes foreigners are evil spirits. The two of them rely on their wits to help Leiv survive. Through their adventures together, Leiv discovers a way of life which is marked by tolerance, friendship and a profound respect for the natural world. At first, the Inuits want nothing to do with Leiv, but because he demonstrates that he knows how to hunt, speaks their language fluently and seems peaceful, they accept him and treat him like he was just like one of them. This is a harsh adventure tale: Leiv loses several toes due to frostbite and Apuluk is attacked by a polar bear. From its opening scene of a blood feud started by Leiv’s father’s killing and the rigors of Arctic life, the characters act as adults despite their adolescent ages. The Inuit life is idealized, in comparison to the warlike, possession-hungry Norse culture. Narua is portrayed as a fearless young woman, but then she only wants a needle when the three young people find the Norse settlement near the end. Is Riel’s message a little heavy?  Heavily illustrated with full-page bold, stylized watercolors, some double-page spreads and occasional vignettes, this transitional chapter book employs a large font and very generous white space.


Art and Delivery

Riel uses descriptive words to describe the setting of the story, how the event goes on, what the character does , what the scene looks like, and it’s very interesting because the reader can imagine the scene and reader can really picture out what’s happening in the story.

The art that Riel endowed was superb and a convincing story of an adventurous teenage boy, a seafarer and a fearless hunters.  Aside from using descriptive words, Riel also provides definition to the weighty words that was evidently translated from Danish.


Final Verdict  

With the nice and adventurous stories of Leiv, the first Inuk Quartet is ♫♫♫♪ out of ♫♫♫♫♫ notes for me. Tough it is not the nicest book I’ve ever read, I think it’s worth a time spending for. It’s just the beginning of all books, make sure to follow the next books of Jørn Riel!




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