Wednesday, September 06, 2006

American Indian Library Association’s “American Indian Youth Literature Award”

For many years, individuals with the American Indian Library Association have worked toward establishing an award for outstanding children’s books about American Indians. Yesterday (September 5, 2006), they announced the first three recipients of the award.

Here is the portion of their press release with details about the books:


"Beaver Steals Fire: A Salish Coyote Story," by the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes, illustrated by Sam Sandoval, and published by the University of Nebraska Press is the winner for the picture book category. Accompanied by rich watercolor illustrations, the text relates a culturally vital tale from the Salish people of Montana about the significance of the gift of fire and how it should be respected.

Louise Erdrich is the winner of the middle-school award for "The Birchbark House," published by Hyperion Books for Children. Setting her book in the middle 19th century, Erdrich paints a detailed portrait of Ojibwa life through the experiences of 7-year-old Omakayas who lives on the Island of the Golden Breasted Woodpecker on Lake Superior. "The Birchbark House" was Erdrich's first novel for young readers, and the first book she has illustrated. She is a member of the Turtle Mountain Band of Ojibwa and lives with her two daughters in Minnesota.

The young adult award is "Hidden Roots," written by Joseph Bruchac and published by Scholastic Press. The book is set within the historical framework of the Vermont Eugenics Program, a Native American sterilization program in the 1930s, and tells the story of the haunting effects of this shameful and tragic deed on one of the Abenaki families victimized by it. Author of more than 70 books for adults and children, Bruchac is of Abenaki ancestry and is a nationally recognized professional storyteller living in Greenfield Center, New York.


Thank you, AILA, for establishing this award. Awards do a lot for the longevity of a book. As demonstrated on this blog, and by people who've done this work for many decades, some pretty awful books get printed again and again. They’re hard to displace, but I am hopeful that awards like this one will help change that. We must not forget, though, that the bottom line is sales. All three books are available from Oyate.

If we don’t buy these books for ourselves, for our children, for their friends, for their teachers, they will go out of print, even if they are designated as award winners.

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