Friday, March 15, 2019

A First Look at CCBC Data for 2018: Books published in the U.S.

A few days ago, the CCBC released data for the 3,703 books published in 2018 that they received.

I asked for a copy of the list of the books they placed on the Native American log. There are 59 books on it. Their list has some overlap with the books I receive or purchase for review on AICL. I have some books they don't, and vice versa. (Update on Saturday March 16: CCBC provides a chart of books published in the US. There, you see that they counted 25 books by Native writers. My information below is about 16 books. Reasons for the difference are at the bottom of this post.) 

I've spent time looking over their log and sorting the books into categories that help me make some observations.

Today's post is about the books published in the US. I am using the categories that CCBC uses: picture book, fiction, nonfiction.

Books by a Native writer/illustrator of a Native nation in the U.S. (Total = 16)

Picture Books = 3
  • Bowwow Powwow
  • We Are Grateful
  • First Laugh: Welcome Baby!

Fiction = 7
  • Sasquatch and the Muckleshoot
  • Two Roads
  • Give Me Some Truth
  • Apple in the Middle
  • Hearts Unbroken
  • When A Ghost Talks, Listen
  • A Name Earned

Nonfiction (biography and traditional stories) = 6
  • Chester Nez and the Unbreakable Code
  • Unstoppable: How Jim Thorpe and the Carlisle Indian School Football Team Defeated Army
  • How Raven Got His Crooked Nose: An Alaskan Dena'ina Fable
  • Raven and the Tide Lady
  • Raven Makes the Aleutians
  • Raven Loses His Nose

Who published the 16 books?
  • Two are published by a "Big Five" publishing house (Dutton/Penguin Random House, and Dial/Penguin). 
  • Fourteen are from small publishers (Minnesota Historical Society, Charlesbridge, Arthur A. Levine/Scholastic, North Dakota State University Press, Candlewick, RoadRunner, 7th Generation, Albert Whitman, Capstone, Alaska Northwest, and Sealaska Heritage.)

Books by a non-Native writer/illustrator with content about a Native nation in the U.S. (Total = 12)

Picture Books = 1
  • Tomo: Adventures in Counting

Fiction = 7
  • Willa of the Wood
  • Code Word Courage
  • Squirm
  • The Adventures of Tom Sawyer
  • Island War
  • Love, Penelope
  • Outlaws of Time: The Last of the Lost Boys

Nonfiction = 4
  • Jackson Sundown: Native American Bronco Buster
  • Secrets of American History: World War I, Fearless Flyers, Dazzle Painters, and Code Talkers
  • Of Dust and Blood: The Battle at Little Big Horn
  • Stories in the Clouds: Weather Science and Mythology from Around the World

Who published the 12 books?
  • Five are published by a "Big Five" publishing house (Macmillan, Disney/Hyperion, Knopf/Random House, HarperCollins, Simon Spotlight/Simon and Schuster).
  • Seven are from small publishers (Scholastic, Manga Classics, Holiday House, Abrams, Pelican, NBM, Whitecap).

Let's compare:
.17% of books by Native writers are published by Big Five publishers
.42% of books by non-Native writers are published by Big Five publishers

Said another way, the Big Five publishers published 7 books with Native content. Two are by a Native writer; the other 5 are not. The reason this is important is that Big Five publishers have more money to promote a book. This may mean that your library is likely to have more books about Native people than books by Native people, even though the CCBC list has more books by Native writers than non-Native writers on their list this year.

This post is only about the numbers of books published--not the quality of the books. In past years, books by non-Native writers, published by the Big Five had serious problems of bias or stereotyping. Of the five by non-Native writers published by the Big Five this year, I know for certain that Willa of the Wood and Squirm have serious problems and the Tomo books I've seen from past years also had serious problems. It is likely, then, that 3 of the 5 books from the Big Five are ones that misrepresent readers with respect to Native peoples. 


*CCBC lists four books by a writer whose name is unfamiliar to me: Jennifer Oxley. CCBC lists Oxley as being white/African American/Cherokee. She is not an enrolled citizen of any of the three federally recognized Cherokee nations. Until I learn a bit more about her, I will not count her books. Oxley is a filmmaker. The four books are spin offs from the Peg + Cat series and the Melia & Joe series on public television.)

Books by Native writers that I did not include in my analysis are:

  • Jamie is Jamie: A Book about Being Yourself and Playing Your Way; author's identity includes a nation that is not in the U.S.
  • A Day With Yayah; it came out in 2017 in Canada.
  • Welcome to Country: A Traditional Aboriginal Ceremony; author and book are Indigenous to Australia
That leaves 2 books. I've written to CCBC to see what the two might be. They might be books published by Orca, which is located in Canada and the US.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

An early look at the endpapers in FRY BREAD by Kevin Noble Maillard and Juana Martinez-Neal

Note on Oct 15, 2019: I highly recommend Fry Bread. A review is forthcoming. --Debbie

On Monday (March 11, 2019), I was on Twitter and saw this tweet about Fry Bread, written by Kevin Noble Maillard (he's a member of the Seminole Nation, Mekusukey band) and illustrated by Juana Martinez-Neal:

I knew this book was in the works and that it would be out this year. So, of course, I clicked on the link right away and read the interview! Here's the full cover (from John Schu's blog):

In the first part of the interview, Kevin talked about his joy at seeing the grandma and grandson on the cover. He said that we don't see that kind of cover--that pairing--on children's books, and as I sift through my memory, I think he's right. I cannot recall a cover of a Native grandma and her grandchild! Grandma's in Native families are so important. This is a delightful image!

Next, John Schu had a comment for Juana. As I read his words and Juana's reply, it was clear to me that he has learned a lot over the years since I first came to know him on Twitter. He said:
Juana, I think Fry Bread's endpapers are the most powerful endpapers I've ever seen.
What, you might be wondering, would make him say that? Juana replied:
Oh, this means so much! You have no idea. I normally figure out the endpapers for the book while I'm deep in the middle of sketching the interior spreads. But this book was different. While I was working on ideas and thumbnails for Fry Bread, the idea for what the endpapers should show came to mind. It was a feeling. I could see the children and parents following the names with their fingers looking for the name of their Nation or Tribe.
I was riveted with her words and what those endpapers might look like, so I wrote to Kevin to ask him. He told me how they made hundreds of phone calls to tribal offices to confirm the way they would be listed. I was even more intrigued! "Kevin, please... can I see them?" Soon after, he sent me the endpapers. And I did exactly what Juana said she imagined Native parents doing.... I looked and looked till I found Nambé (update on Friday March 15 at 11:05 AM: when the final copy is published, the letter e in Nambé will have the accent mark):

The endpapers at the front and back of the book are full of names of tribal nations. What you see there is an enlarged screen cap. On the actual page, our tribal name fills a tiny bit of space but in my heart, it is huge. I want that book in my hands right now so I can show it to people. Fry Bread comes out in October of this year.

I cannot wait to give this book to kids at Nambé. As soon as I get a copy of the book, I will be back with a full review.