Labrador classrooms receive books about an inspirational pilot

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An illustration by François Gauvreau from the children's book, The Kuujjuaq Christmas Candy Drop.

More than 30 Inuit classrooms in Labrador will receive a special delivery from Ottawa this month.

Each classroom will receive a copy of the children’s book, The Kuujjuaq Christmas Candy Drop, written by Linda Brand, on behalf of the Canada Aviation and Space Museum.

“The book centres around legendary Inuk bush pilot Johnny May, and his unique way of sharing the holiday spirit,” explains Brand, interpretation officer for community programs at the museum. “This pilot is a wonderful role model – who hails from the students’ own community.

“It’s an uplifting and inspiring story, written for Inuit youth across Canada.”

The books will be distributed in honour of Giving Tuesday – a new Canadian movement for giving and volunteering – on Nov. 28. Following Black Friday and Cyber Monday, Giving Tuesday is a day where charities, companies, and individuals join together to share commitments, rally for favourite causes and think about others. This year, the Canada Aviation and Space Museum purchased the books for donation, while employees pitched in to cover the shipping costs.

The recipient schools are located in the Labrador communities of Postville, Makkovik, Rigolet, and Nain. Brand says she hopes the books will be an engaging, educational tool for the teachers to use in their classrooms for years to come.

The story is set around the Candy Drop, an annual tradition initiated back in 1965 that the residents of Kuujjuaq – a village in Nunavik, Quebec – look forward to during the holidays. May, who was born in Kangiqsualujjuaq – an Inuit village at the mouth of the George River in northern Quebec – is a long-time resident of Kuujjuaq and is well known among the town’s 2,500 residents for his Santa-like drops on Christmas Day.

“It started with just candy, but over the years it has really evolved,” says Brand, explaining that the Kuujjuaq recreation committee fundraises money to buy items for the drop by holding bingo games. “Now they drop winter clothing items, and sometimes envelopes with coupons to redeem for big-ticket items.”

Released in 2015, The Kuujjuaq Christmas Candy Drop was translated into Inuktitut by May’s daughter, Ida Saunders. The book is available in both English/Inuktitut and French/Inuktitut. It is available for purchase at the Aeronautica Boutique in the Canada Aviation and Space Museum, or through the museum’s online store.

The book also served as the inspiration for an animated holiday television special, The Great Northern Candy Drop, which will air on CBC on Dec. 17 at 7:30 p.m. Produced by Amberwood Entertainment, The Great Northern Candy Drop was written by Canada's Kris Pearn (Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2, Arthur Christmas, Shaun the Sheep) and animated by Ottawa's Jam Filled Entertainment.

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Sonia Mendes

Sonia Mendes is the English Writer/Editor for Ingenium. She loves digging behind the scenes to tell the quirky, colourful stories of museum life and all things related to science and innovation.