Monday, December 12, 2022

AICL's Year In Review for 2022

New! AICL's Year In Review for 2022

Each year, AICL puts together a list of books we recommend, that we call "Best Books." Our emphasis is on books by Native writers and illustrators published that year. 

"We" at AICL is two people: Debbie Reese and Jean Mendoza. AICL is not an association or an organization or an employer of any sort. It is a blog Debbie founded in 2006. In 2016, she invited Jean to join her as co-editor. We are two people with lived experience, knowledge, and expertise who study and write about depictions of Native peoples in children's books. 

The care we take, we think, is why AICL has a high profile as a reliable source of information. Our work helps educators, librarians, parents, professors, and editors at publishing companies. Our annual lists are not comprehensive. We can’t read every book in the year of its publication. 

This year’s list is different.

This year, we are departing from our goal of populating the annual Best Books list with recommended books published in that year. With the 2022 list, we will be listing books we recommend that were published in any year. Here’s why: these past few years have held challenges for both of us -- some of them positive! -- that have made it difficult for us to keep up with the new books coming out. We have some catching up to do. "So many new books by Native creators" is a good problem to have! We're so pleased by that development. In 2021, for example, we were unable to review Adrienne Keene's Notable Native People, but we did recommend it this year once we got a copy. And, one of our favorite books, Where Did You Get Your Moccasins, by Bernelda Wheeler, came out before we started doing annual Best Books lists. Wheeler’s book initially came out in 1986, and was reissued as an e-book in 2019. 

You will see both of those books on this year’s list. 

A word about the knowledge and lived experience we bring to our reading of books with Native content: there’s always something to learn. For example, we’ve changed how we alphabetize author/illustrator names in Indigenous languages, thanks to correspondence with a writer. That writer is Hetxw’ms Gyetxw. His English name is Brett D. Huson. We’ve included several of his books on our Best Books lists. Recently, he let us know that, for alphabetizing purposes, the usual “Surname comma First Name” does not work for the Gitxsan name. So on this year’s Best Books list, we use the Gitxsan name without treating the second word as a surname. And we put his English name after his Gitxsan name.

Finally, we want you to use books we recommend all year! Of course, you can use them during Native American Heritage Month but Native children are Native all year round, and they should see themselves in books, all year round. (And November’s not the only time non-Native children should see accurate, positive images of Native people, either!)  If you’re doing a classroom lesson or library programming on Native women in politics, include Deb Haaland: First Native American Cabinet Secretary by Doerfler and Martinez and She Persisted: Wilma Mankiller by Traci Sorell. Make room in your science curriculum for books like The Raven Mother by Hetx’wms Gyetxw (Brett D. Huson). Have students in art classes do illustrator studies of award winners Michaela Goade or Julie Flett. Most libraries have many patrons that come in for mysteries. Tell them about Sinister Graves: A Cash Blackbear Mystery by Marcie Rendon. 

We also hope AICL’s lists of recommended reading will inspire you to choose great books by Native creators as gifts during the holiday season, or any time. 

– Debbie and Jean

Comics and Graphic Novels 

Van Camp, Richard (Tłı̨chǫ Dene), The Spirit of Denendah Volume 1: A Blanket of Butterflies, illustrated by Scott B. Henderson and Donovan Yaciuk. Highwater Press (2015/2022), Canada. (This is Richard Van Camp's 2015 graphic novel, re-released in full color in 2022!)

Board Books 

We didn't read any board books during 2022.

Picture Books 

Albert-Peacock, Elizabeth (Ojibwe), Firefly: A Boarding School Story, illustrated by Anna Granholm (not Native). Black Bears and Blueberries Publishing (2022), US.

Coy, John (not Native), Shannon Gibney (not Native), Sun Yung Shin (not Native), and Diane Wilson (Dakota). Where We Come From, illustrated by Dion MBD. Carolrhoda (2022). US.

Davidson, Sara Florence (Haida), and Robert Davidson (Haida), Dancing with Our Ancestors, illustrated by Janine Gibbons (Haida). Highwater Press (2022), Canada.

Davidson, Sara Florence (Haida), and Robert Davidson (Haida), Returning to the Yakoun River, illustrated by Janine Gibbons (Haida). Highwater Press (2022), Canada.

Dumas, William (Cree), Amo's Sapotawan, illustrated by Rhian Brynjolson (not Native). Highwater Press (2022), Canada.

George, Bridget (Kettle & Stony Point First Nation) It's A Mitig!, illustrated by the author. Douglas and McIntyre (2022), Canada. 

Goade, Michaela (Tlingit, member of the Kiks.ådi Clan) Berry Song, illustrated by the author. Little Brown Books for Young Readers (2022), US. 

Goodluck, Laurel (Mandan, Hidatsa and Tsimshian member) Forever Cousins, illustrated by Jonathan Nelson (Diné). Charlesbridge (2022), US.

Sainte-Marie, Buffy (Cree), Still This Love Goes On, illustrated by Julie Flett (Cree-Metis). Greystone Kids (2022), Canada. Note from Debbie on Nov 12, 2023: I no longer recommend Buffy Sainte-Marie's work. For details, see About Buffy Sainte-Marie.

Spillette-Sumner, Tasha (Inninewak (Cree) and Trinidadian), Beautiful You, Beautiful Me, illustrated by Salini Perera. Owlkids (2022), Canada.

Thundercloud, Ria (Sandia Pueblo and Ho-chunk Nation) Finding My Dance illustrated by Kalila J. Fuller (not Native). Penguin Workshop (2022), US.

Vandever, Daniel W. (Dine'), Herizon, illustrated by Corey Begay (Dine'). South of Sunrise Creative (2021), US.

Wheeler, Bernelda. (member, George Gordon First Nation), Where Did You Get Your Moccasins, illustrated by Herman Bekkering (not Native). Highwater Press (2019), Canada. This e-book version of Wheeler's book was originally published in 1986 by Manitoba Education. 

Early Chapter Books

Quigley, Dawn. (Citizen, Turtle Mountain Band of Ojibwe) Jo Jo Makoons: Fancy Pants illustrated by Tara Audibert (Wolastoqey). Heartdrum (2022), HarperCollins, US.

For Middle Grades

Doerfler, Jill (White Earth) and Matthew J. Martinez (Ohkay Owingeh), Deb Haaland: First Native American Cabinet Secretary. Lerner (2022), US. 

Hetxw'ms Gyetxw/Brett D. Huson (Gitxsan), The Raven Mother, illustrated by Natasha Donovan (Metis). Highwater Press (2022), Canada. 

Keene, Adrienne (Cherokee), Notable Native People: 50 Indigenous Leaders, Dreamers, and Changemakers from Past and Present, illustrated by Ciara Sana (Chamora). Ten Speed Press (2021), US.

Sorell, Traci (Enrolled citizen of the Cherokee Nation), She Persisted: Wilma Mankiller illustrated by Gillian Flint and Alexandra Boiger. Philomel, (2022) US.

For High School

Gansworth, Eric (Enrolled member of the Onondaga Nation), My Good Man. Levine Querido (2022), US.

Rogers, Andrea (Cherokee), Man Made Monsters, illustrated by Jeff Edwards (Cherokee). Levine Querido (2022), US.

Cross-over Books (written for adults; appeal to young adults)

Harjo, Joy (Muscogee), Weaving Sundown in a Scarlet Light: Fifty Poems for Fifty Years. W.W. Norton and Company (2022), US.

Rendon, Marcie (White Earth Anishinabe), Sinister Graves: A Cash Blackbear Mystery. Soho Crime (2022), U.S. 

Zimmerman, Sam (Ojibwe)/Zhaawanoogiizhik,  Following My Spirit Home: A Collection of Paintings and Stories. Black Bears and Blueberries Publishing (2022), US.
Books Written by Non-Native People

Edwardson, Debby Dahl, Blessing's Bead, cover illustration by Nasugraq Rainey Hopson (tribally registered Inupiaq). Tu Books (2009/2022), US. (This is a re-release of Edwardson's 2009 novel for young people, with a new cover and Author's Note.)