Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Highly Recommended! Awâsis and the World Famous Bannock, by Dallas Hunt and Amanda Strong

I settled in to do some reading last night. I reached for Dallas Hunt's Awâsis and the World Famous Bannock. Amanda Strong's illustrations drew me in as I turned the pages, following Awâsis as she sets out to take her her grandma's world-famous bannock to a relative. 

Image result for awasis and the world famous bannock

Illustrated by Amanda Strong (you absolutely must watch her stop animation videos!) and published in 2018 by Highwater Press, I'm pleased as can be to recommend it. Here's the description:
During an unfortunate mishap, young Awâsis loses Kôhkum’s freshly baked world-famous bannock. Not knowing what to do, Awâsis seeks out a variety of other-than-human relatives willing to help. What adventures are in store for Awâsis?
Like I said, I was reading along, enjoying the story. Awâsis talks to several animals on her way. Instead of the English words for them, Hunt gives us the Cree ones. When I got to her conversation with Ayîkis (frog) I smiled to see her words in bold and capital letters because Ayîkis is far away and Awâsis has to shout.  

Then, I got to the page where she comes to Ôhô (Owl), who is drifting off to sleep. Awâsis speaks softly. The font is smaller. I like that, too. Ôhô wakes up and looks at Awâsis... and then I read this sentence and sat right up!
They swiveled their head back and forth and hooted.
They?! THEY?! (Yeah, I am using bold and capital letters to convey my delight...) Here's that page:

Right away I started writing to friends in children's literature to ask if they've seen a gender neutral pronoun before in a children's picture book. The answer so far? No. This might be the first time a writer has put a gender neutral pronoun in a children's picture book. 

The one exception I've come across so far is a nonfiction picture book, They, He, She, Me: Free to Be! by Maya Christina Gonzales and Matthew Smith Gonzales, published in 2017. Are there others? If you know of one, let me know.

For now, I'm going to shout about this book to friends and colleagues in children's literature. Published in 2018 by Highwater Press, Awâsis and the World Famous Bannock by Dallas Hunt and Amanda Strong is highly recommended! 

And make sure you check out the recipe and pronunciation guide at the end of the book... and the video, too! 

Last bit of info: Hunt is a member of Wapisewsipi (Swan River First Nation) in Treaty 8 territory in Northern Alberta, and Strong is Michif out of the unceded Coast Salish territory also known as Vancouver, British Columbia. That's from the book flap. 

Below, I will list other picture books that colleagues recommend. If the book is by a Native writer, I'll note that writer's nation. 

Gonzales, Maya, (2014). Call Me Tree/Llamame arbol. Children's Book Press.

Thom, Kai Cheng and Kai Yun Ching, (2017). From the Stars in the Sky to the Fish in the Sea. Arsenal Pulp Press. 


Anonymous said...

If there is no neutral singular gender pronoun in the Cree language, then why is okay for "they" to be imposed on a book about the Cree people?


Pronouns [Cree]

A pronoun is a word that substitutes for a noun or a noun phrase, such as ``I,''``you,''``them,''``it,''``ours,''``who,''``which,''``myself,'' and ``anybody.

In Cree there are pronouns. These pronouns can be demonstrative, interrogative or personal pronouns.

Demonstrative, Interrogative and Personal Pronouns

-Demonstrative adjectives

1. Unrestrained in showing love and affection toward somebody
2. Serving to show proof of truth
3. Referring to a particular person or thing, for example, ``this,'' ``that,'' ``these,'' and ``those''
-A demonstrative word or phrase, for example, ``this,'' ``that,'' ``these,'' or ``those''

-Interrogative adjectives

1. Questioning or seeming to question somebody or something
2. Consisting of or used in asking a question

1. a word or particle that is used to form a question, for example, ``who,'' ``what,'' or ``where''
2. the form of a sentence that is used to ask a question
Personal Pronouns

Personal pronouns are person indicators which are independent: I, you, them.

Singular Plural

niya = I
niyanán (excl.) = we/us (excluding you)
kiya = you
kiyánaw (incl.) = we/us (inuding you)
kiyawáw = you /your (pl.)
wiya = her/him
wiyawáw = them
wiyawa = her/his _ _ _
wiyawáwa = their _ _ _

Unknown said...

I don't understand the issue, Anonymous. From what I can see by a quick Google, Dallas Hunt, the author, is Cree (http://umanitoba.ca/faculties/arts/departments/native_studies/people/index.html). Nothing is being "imposed." A member of the Cree is stretching and changing the language. People do that all the time with their own languages--hence the use of singular "they" in English. Why is it a problem here?


Emily C said...

Looks like a lovely book! I first encountered singular they in the Lumberjanes comic series, and then in the chapter book series that came out starting last year. Barney uses they/them/theirs, after becoming a member of the Lumberjanes camp — they had previously been at the Scouting Lads boy's camp, but always felt more comfortable being a Lumberjane. If you look in the Amazon previews for this issue, you can see their new cabin mate introducing them and briefly explaining what pronouns are before launching back into the story. https://www.amazon.com/Lumberjanes-Vol-9-Kat-Leyh/dp/1608869571

TAndracki said...

Anonymous, a better question would be asking why Cree people were imposed to use gendered pronouns in the first place. You'll notice in the copy-and-paste job that you've done that there isn't a separate pronoun for "he" or "she" or "her" or "him": wiya refers to any third person, whether they are male, female, or otherwise gendered.

Using "they" in the singular is actually more in line with the Cree language—of which the author is a revitalization proponent.

Erika said...

I've been noticing so many wonderful bilingual books in Cree lately. I wonder if there are plans to translate them into more Native languages? The reservation in my library's service area is right on the border, so Cree materials are still relevant (and the boys who drum tell me the languages are not too far apart), but I'd so love to have some of these in Ojibwe. I'm aware of Birchbark and Wiigwaas Press, but I get the impression they're very small and not putting out new materials at the kind of pace that Orca and Highwater do. Is there something particular to the Canadian publishing world that they seem to have leaped ahead of US publishers in this area?

Debbie Reese said...

E. Ternes:

The Canadian government provides funds that the US does not do. That, I believe, is why we see so much more published in Canada than in the US.


Thea said...

"from the stars in the sky to the fish in the sea" by kai cheng thom is a picture book that includes they a character who uses they pronouns. Granted, its more About gender identity than an example of matter-of-fact inclusion. It does equate nonbinary gender identity with being a magical creature to an extent, which I know can be problematic, but it was also written by a trans femme author of color. Anyway, always looking to boost books by trans* authors, especially ones that focus on nonbinary identity.


Val O. said...

"A girl called Echo" also has a character referred to with the pronoun "they", and the prefix "Mx".