June 21 is National Aboriginal Day! Here’s a round-up of some of the newer books I’ve come across lately about Canadian First Nations kids, and a few other links. (Caveat: I can only speak to their authenticity about the people and cultures they are about based on professional resources like reviews and such, not first-hand knowledge. Any comments from anyone who knows more are that welcome…)
The inspiration of my subject line comes from a book I’ve already talked about Lacey and the African Grandmothers, a book based on true events about a Siksika Blakfoot girl from Southern Alberta who manages to make a difference in the lives of people halfway around the world. Lacey’s awesome, and so is the book. Go read!
Another recent read is The Contest by Caroline Stellings, which is quintessentially Canadian as only a book about a half-Mohawk girl who wants to enter a Anne of Green Gables look-alike contest can be!
Lest you think I’m leaving out the boys, another recent(ish) title is Goodbye Buffalo Bay, by northern Alberta Cree author Larry Loyie, an autobiographical story that continues on from As Long As The Rivers Flow, which takes place the summer before he leaves for residential school, and the prequel When the Spirits Dance. Goodbye Buffalo Bay is split into two halves. The first is about Larry’s time in the harsh residential school, and the second is about his life afterwards as a young man. It’s a matter-of-fact look at adversity that doesn’t shy away from any harsh realities, but man, there are some laugh-out-loud funny moments here, too. Also, you can find an interview with Larry Loyie over at Paper Tigers.
For another look at residential schools, BC Salish, Nsilx and Métis author Nicola Campbell has two stunning picture books, Shi-shi-etko and a sequel, Shin-Chi’s Canoe. There’s also a short film version of Shi-shi-etko and you see the trailer on Youtube. Shin-chi’s Canoe was a finalist for a 2008 Governor Generals award for illustration, and Shi-shi-etko was a finalist for the 2006 Ruth Schwartz Children’s Book Award.
There is a new book in the This Land is Our Storybook series from Fitzhenry & Whiteside, a series about the daily lives of kids living in the Northwest Territories. I love ’em! They meet my “shiny with lots of colour photos” preference for kids’ nonfiction, the text lets the kids speak in their own voice about their own lives and culture, and is much more personal (and interesting!) than your standard report-writing type nonfiction. The books are all bilingual, in English and the traditional language of each kid’s family. Come and Learn With Me/Éwo, séh Kedįdįh is about Sheyenne Jumbo, who lives in Sambaa K’e (Trout Lake), and is written in English and Dene. The sheer exuberance of Sheyenne in the photo on the cover just makes me grin right along with her!
On the teen side of things, I attended a great conference session on aboriginal books for teens by Edmonton librarian Lindy Pratch, who has shared her line-up of titles on Shelfari. Take a look for a fantastic bunch of books, from middle school up through adult fiction and poetry.
I was quite thrilled to discover Eagle Crest Books, who do levelled readers featuring First Nations kids (I think they’re based in BC) in both English and French. I think they’re potentially most useful for schools and classrooms, but are also a good addition to a public library beginning reader collection, too!
Another thing that thrills me is the First Nations Communities Read program… though it worries me a bit that the most recent info on the site is still from the 2009 program. I hope it’s still running in 2010… you can see previous years’ featured books at the Canadian Children’s Book Centre.