American Indians in Children's Literature (AICL)

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I don't think that AICL has ever gone six weeks without a post! The last post was on Monday, August 5th and frankly, I was surprised and a bit annoyed that six weeks went by without a new post.Here's why that happened.Back on Tuesday, May 28 of 2019 I wrote a post called Personal News: An Indigenous Peoples' History of the United States for Young People. Since then, the book came out and Jean and I have been to several places to talk about it.On August 9th, I was in California at the Indian Education for All conference hosted by the California Indian Culture and Sovereignty Center. I gave the keynote lecture there and signed books. It was the first book signing I've ever done. Doing that signing at a Native education gathering held on the lands of the Pala Band of Mission Indians made it memorable in a way that nothing else could. One of the people I met who added to it being so memorable is Mary Levi. I was wearing a traditional belt that day. Mary noticed and mentioned it because it is something that pueblo people recognize. As we talked, Mary told me that her mom met me a few years ago. I remember her mom, vividly, because we were talking about books illustrated by one of their family members, Fred Kabotie! Here's me and Mary:On August 25, Jean and I were together in Chicago at 57th Street Books for the official book launch. The event was memorable for many reasons. Our families were there, we sat together and signed books, and Elisa Gall gifted us cookies with the image of the book cover on them:On social media, some people thought they were decks of cards. Which, of course, gives us ideas on what a deck of cards about the book might include!Previous to the launch day, Jean and I had been talking about the need to create a companion website for the book. A day after the launch, I pulled it together (using blogger). The first blog post is a photo essay of the launch.The following week, we were at the Urbana Free Library in Urbana, Illinois. Then I was in Washington DC where I did the keynote for a Teach-In at the National Museum of the American Indian. From there I went to the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs where I met with librarians about collection development and gave two talks to students in teacher education courses. Meanwhile, Jean was at Third Place Books last night, and has another event coming up near there, next week.So... we've been busy! That's why there's been six weeks... SIX WEEKS!... with no posts to AICL. But we are definitely reading and drafting posts about old and new books, because that's what we do. Read, think, write.Oh! Before I hit "publish" on this post, I will add that An Indigenous Peoples' History of the United States for Young People is selling quite well! It is in its 7th printing. I think about 15,000 copies have been sold. Several times, we've gotten emails from people who said they can't get a copy because it is sold out at their store or on back order with an online bookstore. In my last email from Beacon (the publisher), I learned that more books are now available. I hope you'll buy one for our home, school, or university library! Here's a photo of the 7th printing (the lowest number in that string of numbers in a book tells you what printing the copy you're holding is part of).I hope you'll buy one for our home, school, or university library!

Debbie--have you seen Kathleen Arden's SMALL SPACES?
A reader wrote to ask if I've read Kathleen Arden's middle grade book, Small Spaces. It came out on July 9, 2019, as a reprint from Puffin Books. It first came out in 2018 from G. P. Putnam's Sons (an imprint of Penguin Random House).Here's the description:After suffering a tragic loss, eleven-year-old Ollie who only finds solace in books discovers a chilling ghost story about a girl named Beth, the two brothers who loved her, and a peculiar deal made with "the smiling man"--a sinister specter who grants your most tightly held wish, but only for the ultimate price.Captivated by the tale, Ollie begins to wonder if the smiling man might be real when she stumbles upon the graves of the very people she's been reading about on a school trip to a nearby farm. Then, later, when her school bus breaks down on the ride home, the strange bus driver tells Ollie and her classmates: "Best get moving. At nightfall they'll come for the rest of you." Nightfall is, indeed, fast descending when Ollie's previously broken digital wristwatch begins a startling countdown and delivers a terrifying message: RUN.Only Ollie and two of her classmates heed these warnings. As the trio head out into the woods--bordered by a field of scarecrows that seem to be watching them--the bus driver has just one final piece of advice for Ollie and her friends: "Avoid large places. Keep to small."And with that, a deliciously creepy and hair-raising adventure begins.The passage that prompted Sam's (they're the person who wrote to ask me about the book) question is on page 83 when Seth says to Ollie:"Come on, kid," said Seth. "There's always a ghost story. Look around. How long have people lived on this land? There's us, yeah, but before us, there were those people in that graveyard back there. Fanny Collar--you saw her, right?--on her grave it says that she married the first white child born in Evansburg--why do you think that was even a thing? Because before them, there were the Abenaki, and they had this land and farmed it and died on it and wrote their own ghost stories while people died of plague in the streets of London." I'm intrigued by that passage and will order a copy of Small Spaces. 

Debbie--have you seen SANTA CALLS by William Joyce?
A reader wrote to ask if I've read Santa Calls by William Joyce. I looked it up and here's what I found.It was first published in 1993 by Harper Collins. In the years since then, Scholastic published it, it was made into a board book, and a Braille edition was published, too. Then in 2017, it was published again by Atheneum Books for Young Readers. There are videos of Joyce talking about this edition. I think his art is fine but the Native content of the story... not fine.Using Amazon's look inside feature, I see that the main character is an orphan boy named Art Atchinson Aimesworth who lives with an aunt and uncle who run a Wild West Show. Art has a sister named Esther and his best friend is "Spaulding Littlefeets, a young Comanche brave." Here they are:Let's talk about that illustration and the information we are given. It is good that Spaulding is dressed much like Art. He's wearing braids, which is fine but they are thin as can be. That's odd. What is not good? Spaulding's last name, "Littlefeets," is a mockery of Native naming. And, using "brave" instead of "boy" marks Spaulding as different. Most dictionaries state the the word "brave" is outdated or offensive. It would have been great if--for the 2017 edition--Joyce (the author/illustrator) had replaced brave with boy.Also not great? Spaulding is wearing a headband. That's odd, too. Here's a look at that, from the next page:The story is set in 1908, in Abilene Texas. Art receives a box from Santa Claus. Inside is a flying machine that Art, Spaulding, and Art's sister, Esther, put together. The basket they're supposed to ride in is broken, so they use Spaulding's canoe instead. Why did a Comanche have a canoe? Comanches are a Plains nation. I suppose he might have had a canoe, but a horse would have been more accurate. The kids could have figured out something to use instead of a canoe.That's all I can see online. If I get a copy, I'll be back!

Highly Recommended: THANKU: POEMS OF GRATITUDE, illustrated by Marlena Myles; edited by Miranda Paul
I haven't studied book covers for edited books of poems before. This observation, therefore, might not hold water. Here's the cover for Thanku: Poems of Gratitude. HIGHLY RECOMMENDEDAs you see, Thanku: Poems of Gratitude is illustrated by Marlena Myles (Myles is Spirit Lake Dakota/Mohegan/Muscokee Creek) and edited by Miranda Paul.First, what I want you to notice is the order of the names of the people who illustrated and edited the book. Myles's name is shown first. I don't think I've seen that before... and I like it! I might look for information about that arrangement. It is unusual but elevates art and artists. In recent months I've seen many people ask us not to ignore the illustrator's name. There is a lot to notice, and praise, in Thanku! Teachers, especially, will find Miranda Paul's work (as the editor) exceptionally helpful. Unobtrusively on each page, there's a note about the kind of poem each one is, and the back matter includes definitions.Second, I love seeing the names of all the poets on the cover. And as you might guess, I'm thrilled to see names of Native women there!Kimberly Blaeser's poem is "Flights." Its format is "concrete (shape)." When I was teaching, kids really liked to study shape poems. The words in her poem are arranged in the shape of a bird in flight, as seen from above (or below). The color palette Myles chose for Blaeser's poem is one of the light pastels of the sky and clouds. Blaeser is an enrolled member of the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe.Students also like found poems. Carole Lindstrom's poem, "Drops of Gratitude" is a found poem. For it, Myles created a young woman in profile, gazing at three blocks of mostly-blacked-out words. The words that aren't left out are the poem Lindstrom wrote. She is Metis/Ojibwe and is tribally enrolled with the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians. I want to know what book she used to create her found poem! I'd love to see teens turn racist content in their textbooks into found poems that embody Indigenous resistance!The poem from Cynthia Leitich Smith (Muscogee Creek Nation) is "Stories for Dinner." It spans two pages, and in its verses, it spans time. The stories in the chant, free verse poem are about boarding school, war, and the "everyday heroes" who plan for future generations. I especially like Myles art for the second page. The "Water is Life" sign embodies those everyday heroes who are fighting for clean water.And then, there's Traci Sorell's (Cherokee Nation) cinquain, "College Degree." For it, Myles created what I think is a young Traci in a cap and gown, holding her college degree aloft, smiling broadly.When I got a review copy of Thanku, I took to Twitter to share my thoughts about it. In my review here, I've noted only four specific poems but there are so many others that I like! And I absolutely love the range of emotion and impact that Myles created for each poem.In short, I highly recommend Thanku: Poems of Gratitude, due out in September from Millbrook Press. It is #OwnVoices at its very best!-----Update: In a comment, Rie asked for more info about what found poems are. There are several ways to do them. The way that Carole chose is to take a page from an existing book, and black out some of the words. The ones that aren't blacked out form the poem. Below is a found poem using a page from Much Ado About Nothing. There's more examples on that page. Take a look:

Highly Recommended: AT THE MOUNTAIN'S BASE by Traci Sorell, illustrated by Weshoyot Alvitre
In February, 2018, Penguin announced it was launching a new imprint, Kokila, that would center "stories from the margins with books that add nuance and depth to the way children and young adults see the world and their place in it." On September 17 of this year (2019), Kokila will release At the Mountain's Base by Traci Sorell (she's a citizen of the Cherokee Nation). Illustrated by Weshoyot Alvitre (she's Tongva/Scots-Gaelic), it is an all-to-rare book: it is written and illustrated by Native people, and published by one of the Big Five publishers. Being published by a major publisher means a lot of visibility. The book will be sent to bloggers, copies will be given away at conferences, and review copies will be sent to the major review journals.HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!On the opening pages, the words and art invite us to come closer and closer with each page turn. It starts with us looking at a mountain, and then a hickory tree, and then a cabin, and then, we look in the window of that cabin and see a person sitting by a wood stove. That person is a grandmother, weaving. Her grandchild watches her fingers, weaving the strands of fiber that frame the illustrations up to this point in the story. But, this grandma is worrying, as she weaves. The grandchild is not the only person with the grandmother. Other members of the family are there, too, singing. On the wall behind them is a photograph of a woman in uniform that tells us what the worry is over. The song they sing is about the person in that photograph. Turning the page, we see--from above--the cockpit of an airplane. Inside the cockpit is the woman in the photograph. She's a pilot, and as she flies her plane, she prays for peace, because of the people inside that cabin at the base of that mountain. If I were to count the words in this book, I think there would be less than 50, but they carry so much power, so much beauty, so much strength! The art is that way, too. The colors and arrangement convey a quiet strength. Together, they are breathtaking!****The first paragraph of the author's note tells us that Sorell's poem is about a fictional Cherokee family but that Native women have served and continue to serve in wars, and that they receive strong support from their families. Note that Sorell (and I, in writing this paragraph) did not specify US wars. Sorell starts by saying that women have served in intertribal conflicts. Those pre-date the US. That's a seemingly small detail but it shifts that "center" from the US and US wars to Native people and the wars that our people have fought over time. The second paragraph tell us about a specific woman: Ola Mildred "Millie" Rexroat, who was an Oglala Lakota pilot in World War II. In 2009, she received the Congressional Medal of Honor, and in 2017 (a few months after her death), Ellsworth Air Force Base in South Dakota renamed and dedicated a building in her honor. ****Facing that author's note is the final illustration of the book. From behind, we see that pilot, walking up to the cabin at the mountains base. It is a stunning work of art. I highly recommend At the Mountain's Base by Traci Sorell and Weshoyot Alvitre. I hope you'll pre-order it. And thank you, Kokila, for bringing this book into the lives of Native and non-Native children. 

Virginia Mathews (Osage) had a hand in Margaret Wise Brown's THE RUNAWAY BUNNY
I am following up on my post, earlier today, about Virginia Mathews and Margaret Wise Brown. A brief recap: Mathews was an Osage librarian, and a leading advocate for Native peoples. Brown wrote two popular books, Goodnight Moon and The Runaway Bunny. In my previous post, I wondered about how Brown could create stereotypical material, given her friendship with Mathews.In his biography of Brown, Margaret Wise Brown: Awakened by the Moon, Leonard Marcus wrote that the two women visited museums together, in Paris. Among them was a trip to the Musée de Cluny... (p. 243-244):... where the author of The Runaway Bunny surveyed the famed Unicorn tapestries, the fifteenth-century allegorical hunting scenes that filled an entire gallery with a picture book writ large. On their way out of the Cluny, Margaret purchased a set of postcards of the tapestries. "Wouldn't it be interesting," she said to her companion, "to make up a new story to go along with the pictures?" [45] She wanted to reorder the scenes, she explained, in such a way that the unicorn might elude his captors. At a nearby stationer that Margaret knew, she bought a parchment album. Returning to her hotel, they began rearranging the cards.In time they had their story, and after inscribing it on the album's leaves Margaret said that it "would certainly be interesting to have the album bound in red leather." The reason I'm honing in on those passages is that, according to Marcus, Virginia Mathews had a significant role in the creation of The Runaway Bunny. I wonder if I can find any books or articles that say more about Mathews and her role in the creation of that book?Note: the passage above has "[45]" in it, which is a superscript in Marcus's book for a source note that reads "Virginia Mathews, 18 July 1984." It refers to an interview Marcus did of Mathews. Earlier in the notes section, there is a more complete reference to the interview: "Virginia Mathews, interview with author, Hamden, Conn., 18 July 1984."I also wonder why, in the recent exhibits on children's literature at NYC and Minneapolis, Marcus makes no mention of the influence Mathews and her father had on Margaret Wise Brown.

Virginia Mathews and Margaret Wise Brown
Upon learning about Mac Barnett and Sarah Jacoby's new picture book biography of Margaret Wise Brown, I asked some questions about what should be included in a children's biography. The story and illustrations in two of Brown's books are stereotypical. They are Little Indian (illustrated by Richard Scarry) and David's Little Indian (illustrated by Remy Charlip).My questions prompted me to take a look at Leonard Marcus's biography of her, Margaret Wise Brown: Awakened By the Moon. I wondered if there's information in it that might help me understand why she'd do such demeaning writing about Native people. Marcus's book was published in 1992 by Beacon Press.I came across something that surprised me. Margaret Wise Brown and Virginia Mathews were friends.First, some information about Mathews. She was Osage, and a significant leader in the American Library Association. In recognition of her work, the American Indian Library Association has a scholarship named after her. I received that scholarship when I was in library school. Here's a paragraph about her, from ALA News, on Feb 7, 2012:In 1971, Virginia Mathews, Lotsee Patterson and Charles Townley formed a Task Force on American Indians within the Social Responsibilities Round Table of the American Library Association. She was a member of the first OLOS Subcommittee on Library Service for American Indian People, which led to the founding of the American Indian Library Association in 1979. She was involved with the Library Project at the National Indian Education Association, which supported three demonstration library projects — Akwesasne Library and Cultural Center, the Rough Rock Demonstration School and the Standing Rock Tribal Library—and all three served as models for the early development of tribal libraries on reservations. She worked tirelessly with the National Council of Library and Information Services to create the first White House Pre-Conference on Indian Library Services in 1978 whose delegates attended the 1979 White House Conference on Libraries and Information Services. She was responsible for inclusion of Title IV for tribal libraries in the Library Services and Construction Act Reauthorization in 1984. This special status and funding for tribal libraries is retained in current Library Services and Technology Act legislation. She was the first American Indian to seek candidacy for the ALA presidency and was a proud member of the Osage Nation.All of that is about her work in the 1970s and later. Twenty years earlier she was in Europe. On page 242 of Leonard Marcus's biography of Brown, he wrote: Margaret generally traveled alone, meeting friends at various points along her itinerary. Among those she had arranged to see in Paris was Virginia Mathews, an American in her twenties whom she had known since the war. Mathews until recently had managed Brentano's children's book department. She was already a great admirer of Margaret's work when they met, and was soon equally impressed by her generosity of spirit. [...] She [Margaret] enjoyed her talks with Mathews, taking a particular interest in her family history. (Mathews, in contrast, learned very little about Margaret's family). Virginia's mother had attended Margaret's Swiss boarding school, the Chateau Brillantmont. Her father, a full-blood Osage Indian, was the tribe's historian. In 1945 John Joseph Mathews published a book of Osage nature lore, Talking to the Moon, which Margaret had soon read. Its title alone might well have struck a responsive chord in the writer who later that year would awaken one morning to compose the text of Goodnight Moon. I find that interesting for several reasons.First, some people say that knowing someone who is of a different racial or cultural background than you are can help you recognize stereotypes of those individuals race or culture. Second, some of us say that it is important to read #OwnVoices because that can help you avoid creating stereotypical content in your own writing. Margaret Wise Brown had a friendship with a Native person and read books by Native people--and yet, she created these two books: I'm going to see if I can find a copy of John Joseph Mathews's book, Talking to the Moon. Marcus suggests it influenced Brown to write Goodnight Moon. I'll be back!

Should biographies include an author's stereotypical thinking? Case in point: Barnett and Jacoby's THE IMPORTANT THING ABOUT MARGARET WISE BROWN
In May of 2019, Mac Barnett and Sarah Jacoby's picture book biography of Margaret Wise Brown came out from Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins. Titled The Important Thing About Margaret Wise Brown, it is getting glowing reviews. I haven't seen it yet.Many people have warm thoughts about Margaret Wise Brown's books. You probably remember Goodnight Moon and The Runaway Bunny. In their book, Barnett and Jacoby tell us that Brown wrote over 100 books.On page four, they tell us that authors are people who do the things other people do, like falling in love, going to the supermarket, making jokes, and making mistakes. The last line on page four is this:But which of these things is important? And to whom?Provocative line, isn't it? It draws from Brown's The Important Book (I think it came out in 1949). When I get Barnett's biography of her, will I see a page about mistakes that Brown made? If yes, what will that page be about? Is it anything to do with the stereotypical content of some of Brown's books?Here's some examples of that stereotypical content:In 1954, she wrote a Little Golden Book, titled Little Indian. Richard Scarry did the illustrations. In it, she wrote "The big Indian lived in a big wigwam and the little Indian boy lived in a little wigwam. The big Indian had a big feather in his hair and the little Indian boy had a little feather in his hair."In 1956, she wrote David's Little Indian. Remy Charlip did the illustrations for it. In it, David finds a real Indian--a little one--in the forest. Here's some words from it: "The boy and his Indian decided to become blood brothers, so they pricked their fingers and let their blood mingle together."The Kirkus review of David's Little Indian says it is the last book she wrote. She died in 1952. I was, frankly, surprised to see that those two are among the last books she wrote. Her most famous book, Goodnight Moon, came out in 1947. Leonard Marcus wrote a biography of her in 1992. He called it Awakened By the Moon. I wonder if he says anything about those two books? Does Barnett say anything about them? When I get his book, I'll be back.I titled this post, "Should biographies include an author's stereotypical thinking?" At the moment, I think the answer is yes. What do you think?

Recommended: THE GRIZZLY MOTHER and THE SOCKEYE MOTHER written by Hetxw'ms Gyetxw (Brett D. Huson); illustrated by Natasha Donovan
Teachers! Get The Grizzly Mother for your classroom--and ask your librarian to get in on the library shelves, too! Written by Hetxw'ms Gyetxw (Brett D. Huson) and illustrated by Natasha Donovan, it will be released on September 1, 2019 from Highwater Press.Gyetxw is of the Gitxsan Nation in British Columbia and Donovan is of the Métis Nation of British Columbia. The Grizzly Mother is nonfiction that begins with a section called "Awakening." As you might imagine, the contents of that section are about the grizzly mother and her cubs waking in the springtime. It concludes with "A Final Run" that takes place three years later at a salmon run.The final page in The Grizzly Mother is about the Gitxsan Nation. I especially like the first sentence. It begins with information about where the Gitxsan Nation is located and also says:... land that cradles the headwaters of Xsan or "the River of Mist," also known by its colonial name, the Skeena River.What I mean, of course, is "also known by its colonial name." It provides teachers and parents with the opportunity to teach children that Indigenous peoples were on this land already when Europeans arrived and colonized it. We need that factual information in nonfiction and fiction set in what is currently called North America.Gyetxw and Donovan worked together on The Sockeye Mother a few years ago. It got starred reviews and high praise from science teachers. See the gold seals on the cover? I anticipate similar praise will be forthcoming for The Grizzly Mother.Both books include Gitxsan words throughout, and both show the relationship between human beings and animals without romanticizing that relationship or anthropomorphizing the animals.Over at the Highwater Press web page for the The Sockeye Mother is a video of Gyetxw talking about the Gitxsan words in the book. He says them so that you can learn how to pronounce them when you read the book aloud. The video is also available on Youtube, which means I can insert it here!I highly recommend The Sockeye Mother and The Grizzly Mother published by Highwater Press. They are pitched at children in grades 5-7 but I think they can be used with younger children. And of course, picture books should be used with people of any age.

Infographic: Diversity in Children's Books 2018
You know that saying: "a picture is worth a thousand words"? We most often associate it with art but it applies to any image. Take a look at the 2018 Diversity Infographic that Dr. Sarah Park Dahlen shared on June 19th, 2019. The infographic displays CCBC's data using the "mirrors" part of the "windows, mirrors, and sliding glass doors" metaphor that Dr. Rudine Sims Bishop developed in 1991:If you click on the link above you'll go to her page, where you can download the image and use it in your work. I hope you do. This information needs as much visibility as we can give it.Let's zoom in on the Native kid on the far left:At the time the infographic was being designed, the Cooperative Children's Book Center (CCBC) had received and categorized 3,134 books. Of those, 23 had sufficient content to be included on CCBC's list of American Indians/First Nations books. But see the kid's frown? See his mirror? See a piece of it at his feet?The data shown in the infographic is strictly numerical. It does not capture the quality of books. His frown and the broken mirror convey more than a thousand words.In recent years I've tried to do a careful study of a specific aspect of the data. For 2018 data, I did a close look at the fiction and picture books published in the US. Every year, it is clear that most Native writers are finding that small publishers are interested in their work. For several reasons (none of them good), the major publishers seem not to care about Native #OwnVoices.Let's zoom in even further on that data and look at quality of picture books.In 2018, three picture books by Native writers/illustrators were published in the US. All three are from small publishers:Bowwow Powwow by Brenda Child, illustrated by Jonathan Thunder, and translated by Gordon Jourdain, was published by the Minnesota Historical Society. We Are Grateful: Otsaliheliga by Traci Sorell, illustrated by Frané Lessac (who is not Native), was published by Charlesbridge.First Laugh--Welcome Baby! by Rose Ann Tahe and Nancy Bo Flood (Flood is not Native), illustrated by Jonathan Nelson, was published by Charlesbridge.My research sample only had one book picture book in it by a non-Native writer:Tomo Explores the World written and illustrated by Trevor Lai, published by Macmillan.Now, let's do a comparison. The three by Native writers are doing precisely what we want children's books about Native people to do.They are tribally specific. That means that they depict a specific Native nation. Bowwow Powwow is an Ojibwe story; We Are Grateful:Otsaliheliga is a Cherokee book, and First Laugh--Welcome Baby is about a Navajo family. They include an Indigenous language. Tomo Explores the World does none of that. It is stereotypical in words, ideas, and illustrations. Earlier today I made this image to show what I mean:#OwnVoices is important. As you're out and about in the coming days, ask for books by Native writers--ask for them at your library and local bookstore, too. When you're there, show the librarian or bookseller the infographic. In short: share what you're learning. Help us provide more books by Native writers.

Mvskoke poet, Joy Harjo, named as U.S. Poet Laureate (And, #BringBackTheGoodLuckCatByJoyHarjo)
The last twenty-four hours of my social media feeds have been wonderful because so many people are sharing the news that Carla Hayden named Joy Harjo as the U.S. Poet Laureate.Most news headlines say "Native American" but I'm quick to name her nation, as it appears on her website:Joy Harjo was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma and is a member of the Mvskoke Nation.I've written about Joy's work several times. I have many of her books and CD's, but, as you might expect, I focus on her children's books. There are two: The Good Luck Cat and For A Girl Becoming. I especially like The Good Luck Cat because it is about a little girl and her cat, and because it is set in the present day. Here's the cover:And one of the interior pages:When I tweeted the news yesterday, I also suggested that people make sure they have The Good Luck Cat. I said they would probably have to get a used copy because it is out of print. I subsequently learned that the few used copies are very expensive. I know Joy was trying to get it back into print. So how about asking for it to be brought back into print? Will you join me in that?

Looking back: The American Indian Youth Literature Award
The American Indian Library Association (AILA) was founded in 1979. If you don't know about it, visit our website. There's a lot of resources there!I don't recall when I first became a member of AILA. It may have been in the 1990s, or early 2000s. One thing for sure: I was on the committee that drafted the criteria for its Youth Literature Award. I've got emails on an old Dell computer that has been in a drawer for years--that still works! It has emails from 1997-2006. Some of the people who are in those early conversations include Naomi Caldwell, Beverly Slapin, Carlene Engstrom, Victor Schill, Loriene Roy, Susie Hustad, Mahaleni Merryman, Stephanie Betancourt, Elayne Walstedter and me. I've not been on the committees that have selected books that win the award, choosing to do the in-depth reviews and work I do here on American Indians in Children's Literature. If you've never been on a book award committee, one thing you need to know: you will need to read a lot of books on specific timelines! Back in the 90s, I think, I was on the Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award committee. The boxes of books that arrived at my house, unending! I've been looking back at conversations that took place early on, and I'm glad to see that AILA's newsletters have included articles about the award. Here's a brief look back at what AILA did (note: I won't list books that won AIYLA's awards. You can see them by going to the AILA page for the awards.)The Fall, 2007 association newsletter included an article by Carlene Engstrom that included an image of the first seal. Here's a screen cap:And here's what it says:During the 2008 ALA Midwinter meeting in Philadelphia, AILA will announce the 2008 American Indian Youth Literature award winners. The awards will be presented in Anaheim, 2008, during the Annual ALA conference at a gala ticketed event that promises to be memorable. Keep your eyes posted for this event when ALA’s Conference Events come out about information on ordering tickets. The award was created as a way to identify and honor the very best writing and illustrations by and about American Indians in the field of children’s literature. It is presented in each of three categories—picture book, middle school, and young adult. Naomi Caldwell, chair of the AILA American Indian Youth Literature Award committee, says” We are thrilled to have this opportunity to honor authors and illustrators who best portray American Indian Culture for young readers. The rich literary heritage of this nation includes the oral and printed stories of its indigenous peoples. American Indian literature always has been and continues to be an integral part of our literary tapestry.” The first awards were presented during the Joint Conference of Librarians of Color, October 2006. The Picture Book Winner was Beaver Steals Fire by the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes, Middle School Winner went to Birchbark House, by Louise Erdrich, and the Young Adult Winner was Hidden Roots by Joseph Bruchac. ****The Winter 2008 newsletter included Naomi Caldwell's article, "A Short History and Promising Future: AILA Youth Literature Awards." There, she wrote that:The people on the committee that chose the 2006 winners were Naomi Caldwell, Victor Schill, Carlene Engstrom, and Gabrielle Kay. Each 2006 winner received a $500 monetary award and a plaque with the seal, designed by Corwin Clairmont (note: there's a 1993 article about his work in Tribal College.Funds for the plaques were provided by the Mashantucket Pequot Nation. The committee in 2008 included Caldwell and these individuals: Carlene Engstrom, D’Arcy McNickle Library, Salish Kootenai College; Gabriella Kaye, Mashantucket Pequot Museum & Research Center; Lisa A. Mitten, Choice Magazine; Sarah Kostelecky, Institute of American Indian Art; Cindy Carrywater, Montana State Library Commission; and Jolena Tillequots, School Library Media Specialist, Yakima Nation.Recipients of the 2008 award received the plaque, the monetary award, and a beaded medallion by Linda King (note: if I find a photo of the beaded medallion I'll add it.)****I love knowing these details! I gotta get some other work done and wanted to share that info before ALA next week. Oh! Follow AILA on Facebook. A few minutes ago they posted the new award seals. I'll paste them below. Aren't they gorgeous? And an important note from their FB page: If you are going to ALA annual make sure you stop by the ALA store and pick up AILA youth literature award seals for your library. They come in silver and gold and will be $14.50/ 24 pack. Limited quantities available at ALA annual. All proceeds help AILA sustain the awards! Not available online for ordering. Seals are new and were created to celebrate AILA youth literature awards joining the Youth Media Awards in 2020!Support AILA's work! Buy the seals directly from them.

Recommended! I CAN MAKE THIS PROMISE by Christine Day
I've read and most definitely recommend I Can Make This Promise by Christine Day. A review is forthcoming. Here's the description:In her debut middle grade novel—inspired by her family’s history—Christine Day tells the story of a girl who uncovers her family’s secrets—and finds her own Native American identity.All her life, Edie has known that her mom was adopted by a white couple. So, no matter how curious she might be about her Native American heritage, Edie is sure her family doesn’t have any answers.Until the day when she and her friends discover a box hidden in the attic—a box full of letters signed “Love, Edith,” and photos of a woman who looks just like her.Suddenly, Edie has a flurry of new questions about this woman who shares her name. Could she belong to the Native family that Edie never knew about? But if her mom and dad have kept this secret from her all her life, how can she trust them to tell her the truth now?The cover art by Michaela Goade is stunning!Day and Goade are Native. The book comes out on October 1st. Order it today!RECOMMENDED!AICL is pleased to recommendI Can Make This Promise

On July 13, 2015, I received an invitation to adapt An Indigenous Peoples History of the United States, for young adults. Written by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, I had already spent time with the book and was intrigued with the idea. Originally published by Beacon in 2014, it is packed with information and spans hundreds of years and thousands of miles.Was it possible, I wondered, to shape it into something that young adults and classroom teachers could use? I responded to the invitation by saying "only if Jean Mendoza can do it with me."Their answer was yes, and so, we got to work. A little over four years will have lapsed when the book is released on July 23, 2019. We worked several hours almost every day for three years, taking week-long breaks for holidays or vacation, revising the text.Jean and I are parents but we've also taught schoolchildren, and we taught in teacher education departments at the University of Illinois and elsewhere. We had children, teens, and teachers in mind every step of the way."Shall we do a map, here?" and "Maybe we need to add a definition box, right here..." and "Let's add a provocative question box, here!" are some of the things we'd say to each other as we worked.In a few weeks we'll have finished copies in hand. I can't wait to see the finished book! Right now, we've both got a bound ARC that doesn't have the index and some final revisions in it.I think we did some really good work. I know we'll be reading it with fresh eyes and groan about something we said or didn't say--that's the nature of writing--and will be keeping track of such things for (we hope) a second or third printing, or an updated version if the book sells well enough.I've been using Twitter to share some photos I've taken from inside the ARC:Navajo Long Walk, mapPo'pay, photoWalt Whitman's racist writingsIdentity, a caution about DNA testsAs of today it has gotten starred reviews from Kirkus and Booklist. That's cool, but we want to hear from readers. We are especially interested in hearing from Native readers (students, parents, teachers, scholars), especially about passages that have errors or other problems. Let us know! We look forward to hearing from you.****Back on July 3 to post reviews! On April 22, 2019, the book received a star from Kirkus. Here's an excerpt: With an eye to the diversity and number of Indigenous nations in America, the volume untangles the many conquerors and victims of the early colonization era and beyond. From the arrival of the first Europeans through to the 21st century, the work tackles subjects as diverse as the Dakota 38, the Ghost Dance and Wounded Knee, the American Indian Movement’s takeover of Alcatraz, and the Dakota Access Pipeline resistance. The June 1 issue of Booklist included a starred review. That review appeared online on July 2nd as Booklist's Review of the month. Here's an excerpt:There is much to commend here: the lack of sugar-coating, the debunking of origin stories, the linking between ideology and actions, the well-placed connections among events past and present, the quotes from British colonizers and American presidents that leave no doubt as to their violent intentions. Built-in prompts call upon readers to reflect and think critically about their own prior knowledge. Terms like “settler” and “civilization” are called into question. Text is broken up by maps, photographs, images by Native artists, propaganda, and primary-source texts that provide more evidence of the depth to which the U.S. economy was—and still is—rooted in the destruction of Indigenous lives. The July issue of School Library Journal (if the review is shared online, I'll be back with a link) includes a starred review, too! An excerpt (from the Barnes and Noble website):Source notes and a recommended list of fiction and nonfiction titles, picture books, and novels by Indigenous authors are in the back matter. VERDICT Dunbar-Ortiz's narrative history is clear, and the adapters give readers ample evidence and perspective to help them to engage with the text. A highly informative book for libraries serving high school students.Back on July 21 to add that the Cooperative Children's Book Center at the University of Madison named Indigenous Peoples' History as its Book of the Week on July 8, 2018.

When Professional Associations (like the International Literacy Assoc) Fail...
Yesterday I saw a tweet about the International Reading Association's blog post, #ILAchat: Why Students Need #OwnVoices Stories. I clicked on it and saw that, in the third paragraph, there was a link to their 2019 ILA Choices reading lists. As an advocate for #OwnVoices, I was excited to see what Native writers they had on their lists. I was naive. As you can see, the title of my blog post has the word "fail" in it. The book lists and the subsequent exchange I had with ILA were disappointing--and infuriating.There are three booklists on their site:Children's Choices: 2019 Reading List, with about 100 books on it.Teacher's Choices: 2019 Reading List, with about 30 books on it.Young Adults Choices: 2019 Reading List, with about 30 books on it.I looked at all three. Not a single Native writer. So, I tweeted to them. Here's a compilation of my thread to them:Hey, @ILAToday... I read your article on the importance of #OwnVoices... And I followed links to your bklists, and I guess #OwnVoices doesn't apply to Native people. Three booklists and zero Native writers?! Why?Even worse, your booklists include books that misrepresent Native people [actual tweet said writers; I meant people.] On example is LOVE, PENELOPE.  That bk is full of problematic imagery about Native people. My review: Not Recommended: Love, Penelope. Books that misrepresent Native people feed a cycle that works AGAINST Native writers because their stories and characters and content don't match the "Indian" stories/characters/content that White writers have in their books. THIS IS UTTERLY DISGUSTING.And you, YOU, ILA--an international literacy organization--are supposed to help kids. Is it your goal to miseducate kids about who Native people are?Is your goal to hurt Native kids and their sense of well-being with these problematic representations?ILA replied (I have screen captures of their tweets if anybody wants to see them). Here's one (see below for the entire thread):ILA could have said "You're right. We don't have any Native writers on the lists. We will examine the process by which we put those lists together so that this doesn't happen again."They didn't do that.They began a threaded reply to me:Thanks for your feedback. We have edited the blog post to better reflect how books are selected for inclusion on the #ILAChoices reading lists. Their edit (as near I can tell; I don't have the pre-edited post for comparison) was this note, at the bottom of the post:This blog post was edited on 5/8/2019 to more accurately reflect the process by which books are selected for the Choices reading lists. Publisher participation in the Choices lists, and the titles they choose to submit to the project, are at their discretion and not selected by ILA as could be inferred from the original writing.Their next tweet in the thread is this:Project participants read and vote on hundreds of titles that publishers submit across the three Choice projects. Titles selected to the list are determined solely by reader networks and not influenced by ILA or the publisher. That edit and that tweet sounded like they feel they are not responsible for books on the list. Doesn't that sound kind of... pathetic? These are their publications. This is their website. But content on it... not their fault if something's not right about them. My reply:So, ILA, it isn't your fault that these lists are the way they are? Ok. At the very least they should tell ILA how much your association could do to inform membership about Native writers, Native bks, and problematic representations. Later I saw that they had continued with their thread:We encourage contributions to our list by smaller and more diverse publishers and authors with specific language in our Call for Submissions form; however, publisher participation, and the titles they choose to submit to the project, are at their discretion.It's the same for our conference. Each year, publishers are invited to submit a list of authors they are willing to bring. We seek out additional pitches when necessary to include more diverse and representative authors. For example, we sought out @tim_tingle to be featured at #ILA18 and extended invitations to other Native American authors. Here is the slate for Author Meetups at #ILA19. [They provided a link; it has one Native writer listed.]We do the work because we believe it is important. We always encourage authors and publishers to participate across our venues and platforms.ILA believes that Children have the right to read texts that mirror their experiences and languages, provide windows into the lives of others, and open doors into our diverse world.And ILA believes that children have the right to choose what they read.The tweet that says they encourage contributions by smaller and more diverse publishers, is familiar. In 2012, the Children's Book Council launched a diversity initiative and a Goodreads bookshelf that had problematic books on it. Their initiative was going to be launched at the American Library Association's midwinter conference. Naomi Bishop attended their session and wrote up her thoughts. The reason I'm bringing that initiative up here, is because the CBC is involved with ILA's Children's Choices list:Children's Choices is cosponsored by the Children's Book Council and includes children's recommendations of approximately 100 titles.There was a lot of discussion about the Council. It is expensive to join and smaller publishers can't afford to be members. I don't recall where any of that ended up. If I recall right, CBC was very resistant to letting smaller publishers--like Lee and Low--put their books on that CBC Diversity Bookshelf. I may write to Jason (at Lee and Low) to ask him about it.ILA using CBC as they did--as they do, to make books available to kids for this Children's Choice project--means that the kids are getting books from major publishers, some of which have problematic content... like Love, Penelope. ILA's response is disappointing.I wish they had said (as noted above), that they didn't realize their lists had no Native writers on them, and that they would make sure that doesn't happen again. But there's more necessary!It is good that they invited Tim Tingle last year, and Traci Sorell this year, to their conference but what are they going to do about the fact that they offered a problematic book to children? I'm pretty sure that if Little Black Sambo had been sent to them by the CBC, they would have set it aside. We need that same sort of decision-making with respect to Native images.Instead of acknowledging any of their responsibility as educators, they are putting forth the "right to read" defense. I agree: children do have that right to read but let's not kid ourselves. Teachers have an educational responsibility. They make decisions on what books to use, all the time. They can't use every book. They make choices. Students in their classrooms have the right to read what they want to, but teachers are also teaching about racism, racist texts, and critical literacy.I'm incensed that ILA is floating the "right to read" in this particular exchange with me.And I'm further incensed that they're using Bishop's mirrors and windows metaphor in this exchange with me. Love, Penelope is not a mirror for any Native child. So why invoke her work in this exchange?There's an ILAChat twitter tonight (May 9). The topic: #OwnVoices. I plan to join in.ILA failed many times. They failed to notice that a book list on their website did not include Native writers. Then, they failed to acknowledge their own failure in not noticing the lack of Native writers. Then they failed in how they defended the book list. They threw CBC under the bus and they misused freedom to read and Dr. Bishop's metaphor.

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