June is always a busy time in my household! Year-end school activities, dance recitals, birthday celebrations and Father’s Day seem to make the month fly by. In addition, this year we are in the final stages of preparation for our trip of a lifetime – a 2 month boat trip from Vancouver, BC to Juneau, Alaska. Most people are excited for us: however there are definitely some people that think we are crazy (2 adults, 2 kids and 1 dog on a boat for 8 weeks!!!??) and wonder how the kids keep occupied during long passages. The obvious answer – books!!! As long as there is plenty of reading material on board we shouldn’t suffer mutiny.
Knowing that this trip will take us to many First Nation communities, I have attempted to select books which will enrich my children’s understanding of the First Nations people, their culture and history. Charlotte has some great resources in her post Aboriginal Illustrators and Writers and Debbie Reece has a wonderful blog entitled American Indians in Children’s Literature. Another resource is the American Indian Library Association (AILA) – an affiliate of the American Library Association (ALA). The ALA is holding their annual conference June 26 – July 2 in Anaheim, CA and on June 30th the American Indian Library Association presents their 2008 awards for Best Native American Picture Book, Best Middle School Book, and Best Young Adult Book to this year’s recipients. “This new literary award was created as a way to identify and honor the very best writing and illustrations by and about American Indians ” says the ALA. ” Books selected to receive the award present Native Americans in the fullness of their humanity in the present and past contexts”.
The following winners will each receive a cash award of $500 and a custom made beaded medallion. Reviews have been provided by the AILA Book Awards committee.
Picture Book Winner:
Crossing Bok Chitto: A Choctaw Tale of Friendship and Freedom by Tim Tingle, illustrated by Jeanne Rorex Bridge. Cinco Puntos Press, 2006.
A beautifully inspired story of a friendship between Martha Tom, a Choctaw girl and Li’ Mo, a slave boy and how their relationship brought wholeness and freedom to Mo’s family and also to many slaves. Bridge’s illustrations enhance the story by resonating the joy of friendship, the light of faith, and the leadership of children.
Middle School Winner:
Counting Coup: Becoming a Crow Chief on the Reservation and Beyond, by Joseph Medicine Crow. National Geographic, 2006.
This appealing autobiography of Dr. Joseph Medicine Crow (Absarokee) is a winner with the young and old. The author recounts his adventures and training as a traditional Crow warrior and his service as a decorated World War II veteran. Walk, run and ride with him as you learn first-hand about real-life on the Crow reservation before during and after encounters with newcomers. In a text that is not preachy, but and honest read, Joseph Medicine Crow tell how he over came many challenges to fulfill his role as Chief of the Crow Nation.
Best Young Adult:
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie. Little Brown Publishers, 2007.
A realistic, bitter-sweet yet, humorous look at the life of Arnold, a Spokane Indian teenager making his way in life on the reservation while attending an all white high school. Alexie brings to life the challenges many young native people experience as they learn to navigate and balance Indian life in a modern world. Part autobiography, Alexie’s Arnold reminds us of the complexities of coming of age, bigotry, bullies, loyalty to family and the meaning of love.
The winners will be in attendance at the gala reception on the 30th. The reception will also feature a traditional blessing and keynote address by Georgiana Sanchez and traditional cultural dancing by local California Native people. “We are grateful to have this opportunity to honor authors and illustrators who best portray Native American culture for young readers,” says Naomi Caldwell, Chair, AILA American Indian Youth Literature Award committee. “We celebrate the official recognition American Indian literature for youth. “