Local Author Writes 'Teaching Story'
By Thomas Bohn
A boy is seating beside the Kobuk River, watching the water flow past, from mountains to ocean. "The river was always going somewhere, and I never tired of watching it," the boy says. He is curious about its beginning and its end, wants to know where all the water comes from, and where it goes.
"My mother told me the river began in the mountains to the north and ended in the ocean to the west. But this I had never seen."
So begins Nome Resident Jim Magdanz' newly published children's book Go Home, River. Magdanz' story follows the young boy on this journey, to the mountains in the north and down through river valleys, to the ocean's shore.
"It's a teaching story," Magdanz says. "Stories are a wonderful way to learn... For four and five year olds, the idea that there is water in the air all the time, but that you can't always see it... or that there is a cycle of water, always falling, freezing, flowing, evaporating... this is important stuff to learn!"
The story takes place in northwest Alaska, along the Kobuk River and among the mountains of the Brooks Range. Magdanz bases his tale on his own experiences with his sons Grant and Reid. Their questions about the river and about the lives of the Iñupiat Eskimo indigenous to the region fueled Magdanz' writing. The young boy in the story is an Iñupiat who travels along the Kobuk River with his mother and father, on their way to a traditional trade fair.
"The fair still takes place today," Magdanz points out. "Traditionally, it occurred about ten miles northwest of Kotzebue, at a place known traditionally as Sisualik. Now it occurs in Kotzebue. It goes on for over a week in early July, and it's very festive. Probably half of the people who get involved are from the immediate region and the rest come from all over the state. Today the trade fair is sort of allied with Fourth of July festivities, but it's much older than that. It's been going on for centuries.
© 1996 The Nome Nugget. Used by Permission.