Whale of a Tale

Enrichment Activity: "Whale Snow"

Whale Snow is a story about the relationship between the Iñupiaq people and the bowhead whale. The story is fiction; that is, it is not a traditional story passed down orally, although it is set in a part of the country where whales and whaling are essential to human livelihood.

You can purchase the book or see the illustrations in the Iñupiaq version of the book, available by following the link below.

In the story, Amiqqaq, a young boy, and his father visit a whaling camp on the frozen ocean and he perches on top of a dead bowhead whale. Amiqqaq comes to realize the whale's spirit lives in the fellowship of his people as they feast on the whale. Amiqqaq's grandmother explains that the whale has changed into the "fat snow;" snowflakes as big as birds and massive ice chunks as big as houses around their village.

Have students perform Whale Snow by using the readers' theatre script which has roles for 20 student actors and is available at the author's website (link below).

To visit the Whale Snow author's website and download the Readers' Theatre Script, go to http://www.debbydahledwardson.com/whale_snow_89219.htm

View this video clip showing community members pulling a bowhead whale onto shore ice to help students visualize the action in Whale Snow.

Have students fill in the appropriate columns on Handout B and Handout C. Then in class discussion compare and contrast this story with the tradditional whale stories set in Alaska, Canada, Hawai`i and Massachusetts. Consider: How does this story, which was made up by the author based on her intimate knowledge of the culture, compare with the traditional stories students have read? Guide students to consider the following:

  • Main characters

  • The whale as a character

  • Setting

  • Descriptive language

  • When the story takes place

  • Spiritual dimensions or understandings in the story

  • Message or teaching of the story

  • Whether the story is sacred or not