Teachers are always looking for books to pair with required units of study. Most students in the 3rd or 4th grade study the indigenous cultures of their region. Quality picture books by indigenous creators are few and far between so I was thrilled to find Peace Dancer and Orca Chief by Roy Henry Vickers and Robert Budd.
Both books are traditional stories from the village of Kitkatla in British Columbia. This is the home town of the authors. Roy Henry Vickers is an artist and writer and Robert Budd is a historian. Roy holds a leadership position within his tribe. They belong to the Gitxaala Nation which is part of the larger language group known as the Tsimshian. Kitkatla is on the coast of British Columbia just east of the Islands of Haida Gwaii.
Peace Dancer is a traditional tale about the fate that befalls the people when children fail to respect a crow. It’s a flood narrative, which is interesting because so many ancient cultures have some kind of flood story. It gives the explanation for why a peace dancer is so important in a potlatch ceremony. In the author note, Roy Henry Vickers explains that he is the peace dancer for his community.
Orca Chief is also a story about the importance of respect for the natural world. In this story a group of disrespectful fishermen are taken under the sea to visit the Chief of the Orcas. After the fishermen apologize the Orca Chief forgives them and shows them ways to find many good things to eat–herrings, oolichan, and crabs.
Both books have stunning illustrations, combining a mainstream modern painting style with traditional formline art to represent the fish, birds and animals. They are vividly colored and brilliantly produced on the highest quality paper. If Vickers and Budd were Americans and therefore eligible, they would be contenders for the Caldecott with each of these books.
This week is small press week and it’s worth noting that these books are published by Harbour Publishing, a small independent publisher in British Columbia. They have been publishing the work of Vickers and Budd for many years. The pair has a new board book out this year called Hello Humpback.
When you are looking for diverse titles–especially by indigenous writers and artists–don’t forget the small presses.
One of my favorite things about being a bookseller is seeing hundreds of new picture books every year. There is so much talent in the picture book field and such creativity, I find it very inspiring. I’ve had my eye on one illustrator though who’s work I first saw in a modest little book called Fox’s Garden two years ago, and again in the stunning wordless book The Snow Rabbit last year. The artist is Camilee Garoche and she has a such a unique style it catches my eye every time.
She works in cut paper which is a style I’ve loved ever since my first glimpse of Nikki McClure’s work. But Garoche goes so much further. She cuts a paper scene, embellishes the scene with additional drawing and coloring. Then she lights the scene adding the element of shine and shadow, and then photographs the whole thing. The overall effect is completely enchanting with a depth I haven’t seen in other work.
She’s got a new picture book this year illustrating a song by Laurie Berkner. It’s called Pillowland and I can’t wait to introduce it to families at Annie Blooms Books who are looking for a unique bedtime story.
Ordinarily I recommend only children’s books on my blog, but in view of the fires which are burning hundreds of square miles of my home state, including some of my very favorite places in the wide world, I’d like to recommend a book by my friend Gary Ferguson. He has written dozens of books about the wilderness and its role in our lives. His book just out this summer is called Land on Fire. Its a well-researched look at how we got into our current cycle of catastrophic fires year after year, through decades of fire suppression and record draughts. It would be a great book group read and a worthwhile text for high school and even middle school science classes.
Thank you to the hundreds of firefighters, national guards, sheriffs, state patrolmen. coast guards, red cross personnel and volunteers, who have worked round the clock in brutal conditions to bring these fires under control and protect the people, land and wildlife we all treasure.
I’ve gone to the Willamette Writer’s Conference both as a participant and as a presenter for many years. More than a dozen years ago, before I had my first book contract I won a Kay Snow Award. At that conference I met the amazing and generous Kirby Larson, who had only one published book at that point and was a decade away from her Newbery Honor win for Hattie Big Sky.
Well all these years later I decided to enter the Kay Snow contest again with a story called The Last of the Name. It’s a tale dear to my heart about Irish immigration during the Civil War era. What a thrill to once again receive a 3rd place honor. I’m very much looking forward to once again spending time August 4th and 5th with my wonderful Portland writing community. I think there is still time to sign up workshops and pitching sessions with agents, film agents, and editors. Hope to see you there!
I have wrapped up the last of the meetings of the League of Exceptional Writers with a brilliant presentation by Kate Berube.
Heartfelt thanks to this year’s League Mentors, Janet Sumner Johnson, Kate Ristau, Susan Hill Long, Laura Stanfil, Fonda Lee, Elizabeth Rusch,
and Dan Gemeinhart
The League of Exceptional Writers is a free mentoring program sponsored by the Oregon SCBWI and Powells. Our goal is to help avid young writers and illustrators find their fellow book people and learn about the business and craft of making books. Our past mentors have included authors, illustrators, poets, comic book and graphic novel artists, editors and literary agents. They’ve presented League meetings on everything from how book cover art is chosen to how to write a hilarious scene or a drop dead scary one.
As the Youth Outreach Coordinator I am now looking for next years League Mentors. Every participating mentor will appear on a flyer sent out to schools and libraries all over the region. They will be put on Powells on line calendar and Powells will order in a copy of your book to feature during the presentation. For this reason mentors need to have a book in print in a format that Powells is able to sell. The exception would be editors, agents and art directors who would speak to the book-making profession. The Oregon SCBWI offers a modest honorarium for each mentor. Our league members especially love it when 2 writers present together so you are very welcome to propose a team presentation. Please email me with a proposed session topic and information about you and your books. email@example.com
When: Second Saturdays from October to May from 2-3pm
Where: The Cedar Hills Crossing Powells 3415 SW Cedar Hills Blvd. Beaverton, Oregon
Who: Young avid writers between the ages of 8 and 18 are invited. In practice most of them are between the ages of 10 and 16.
The calendar for the 2017-18 school year will be
Oct 14 Feb 10
Nov 11 Mar 10
Dec 9 Apr 14
Jan 13 May 12
Thank you for considering serving our young readers.
Heart of a Shepherd
Written in Stone
The Turn of the Tide