I wrote a book! Earlier this year, Best Beginnings, Alaska’s Early Childhood Investment, released Seasons of Alaska, four board books highlighting Alaska Native talent. Best Beginnings and editor Tricia Brown collaborated with Alaska Native writers and photographers contributed to four books focused on the seasons for ages 0-3 years old.
Authors include Joni Spiess of Nome/Anchorage, Yaari Toolie-Walker of Savoonga/Anchorage, Angela Y. Gonzalez of Huslia/Anchorage, and Carla Snow of Bethel. Featured photographers include Esther Pederson of Nome, Ian Merculieff of St. Paul Island/Anchorage, Carol Maillelle of Togiak/Anchorage, Taylor Booth of Nome, Greg Lincoln of Bethel, Jacqueline Cleveland of Quinhagak, and Cheryl Kriska of Fairbanks. Congratulations to the photographers and fellow authors!
I was fortunate to collaborate on one of the books, BUTTON UP! Fall in Alaska! Carla Snow wrote Bye-Bye Ice! Springtime in Alaska. Joni Spiess wrote Mittens and Mukluks! Winter in Alaska. Yaari Toolie-Walker wrote Let’s Play Out! Summer in Alaska. Three of the authors were present to debut the books at the at the AAEYC Conference. We each got to share a little bit about the book with question from our editor and Best Beginnings Executive Director Abbe Hensley. It’s so important for more Alaska Native and Indigenous people to share their stories and perspectives. Representation truly matters.
We used the photos as inspiration writing the books. I loved the rich photography from the fall season, so it was very helpful in helping the story come to life. I write it in early fall last year, so I feel like it was very timely. I love being out on the land in the fall time. I tied in my Koyukun Athabascan culture and beliefs into the book. For instance, one line reads, “With luck, I will learn to pluck ducks.” In our culture, we have a cultural belief about luck and being humble. We don’t like to say things like, “Today, I’m going to catch some ducks.” That’s considered giving yourself or others bad luck.
Another line is “We remember where we are from with the beat of the drum,” Grandpa says. Whenever I hear the beat of the drum, I feel a strong calling and connection to my culture. It makes me feel strong and helps me to remember where I come from.
It’s exciting to think of an infant and toddler learning about themselves and their culture in a book. Books are very instrumental in self-esteem. It’s so important for a child to see books with other kids who look like them. This did not exist when I was a baby, and it’s so awesome that Best Beginnings is putting in the hands of so many young Alaskans – Native and non-Native.
“I think it’s cool that children from a young age get to learn about the value of indigenous people.” – Ermelina Gonzalez
Author Carla Snow shared her thoughts about being a part of the collaboration.
“What an honor to be a part of a project that I hope will inspire other Alaska Natives who maybe don’t even know this is something they would like to do. When I got asked to be a part of it, I thought, ‘Who am I to do something like this?’ And then I realized all of the kids this could inspire, including my own 12-year-old daughter, who used to dream of publishing her own books when she was very little. I decided this is a time to step up, as scary as it was. As soon as I saw the amazing photos that I would be captioning I was so happy and inspired. These were all very familiar settings and activities that rural families would be familiar with. These were things I was familiar with! I have never seen baby books like these before and only wished they were around when my kids were babies. I’m excited to see what else Best Beginnings and my fellow authors come out with! I’m really appreciative for Abbe Hensley and Tricia Brown for this opportunity.”
I recently did a live reading of the book on the Alaska Native Virtual Gathering Place on Facebook (about 23 minutes in). I’m really excited to hear some of the other authors are writing more books in English and their Native languages. I can’t wait to see what they create. If you’re thinking of writing a book, do it!
Where can you get the books? You can buy the set or one book at a time on Amazon. If your child is receiving books from the Dolly Parton Imagination Library in Alaska, then you may have already receive the book. Learn more about the Seasons of Alaska series from Best Beginnings.
Thank you to Sue Gamache for connecting me with Tricia Brown, editor of the series. Enaa baasee’ for your support and encouragement.