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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: Julie Flett, Most Recent at Top [Help]
Results 1 - 11 of 11
1. New Voice: David A. Robertson on When We Were Alone

By Cynthia Leitich Smith
for Cynsations

David A. Robertson is the first-time children's author of When We Were Alone, illustrated by Julie Flett (Portage & Main Press, Jan. 6, 2017)(available for pre-order). From the promotional copy:

When a young girl helps tend to her grandmother’s garden, she begins to notice things about her grandmother that make her curious. Why does her grandmother have long braided hair and wear beautifully coloured clothing? Why does she speak another language and spend so much time with her family?

As she asks her grandmother about these things, she is told about life in a residential school a long time ago, where everything was taken away.

When We Were Alone is a story about a difficult time in history and, ultimately, a story of empowerment and strength.

What first inspired you to write for young readers?

So much of my writing is aimed at creating social change, especially in the area of relations between First Nations people and non-First Nations people.

I believe that change comes through education; what we learn from history, and its impact on contemporary society. In Canada, we have a long history of mistreatment concerning the First Nations people. As Canadians, we need to learn about this history. So, my work tries to educate in this way.

In terms of young readers, I believe that change comes from our youth. These are the people who shape our tomorrows, and they need to walk into tomorrow informed on the important issues and histories. If they do, we’ll be in a pretty good place.

What was your initial inspiration for writing this book?

graphic novelist-writer of Irish-Scottish-English-Cree heritage
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission in Canada looked at the history of the residential school system, and its impact, and from that research, including residential school survivor testimony and documentation, it came up with a list of recommendations.

One of those recommendations was that the residential school system’s history needed to be taught in school as early as kindergarten.

When I saw this, I recognized that there weren’t many resources for teachers (i.e. books) that addressed the residential school system for younger learners.

So, I set out to write one, and that’s how When We Were Alone came about.

I wanted kids at that young age to learn about the system in a way that they could understand and engage with.

What were the challenges (literary, research, psychological, logistical) in bringing the text to life?

For me the challenges mostly involved sensitivity and appropriateness. This is a difficult history to tell, especially to younger learners. So, I needed to tell the story in a good way.

It took a lot of research and consultation, it took finding the right rhythm in the passages to connect with readers, and we needed to find the right illustrator, too, which we did in Julie Flett.

Of course, writing these stories always has a psychological effect on you as the writer, too. Understanding that the kids you are writing about really went through these things is tough. But knowing that kids will be learning and growing and sharing makes it worth it.

What model books were most useful to you and how?

Also illustrated by Julie Flett
I have the benefit of having five children. So, I’ve read my share of children’s books. This helped in terms of finding a good structure for When We Were Alone, and rhythm.

These two things are very important, and there are certainly some commonalities in books that really work in terms of how they are told, not just what is told in them.

What advice do you have for beginning children’s-YA writers?

Read a lot of children’s books, or YA books. Figure out styles, structures, approaches from the best. Once you’ve done that, you’ll be ready to write a good story that really connects with your reader.

It always comes down to reading first, and then hard work and a bit of skill.

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2. Recommended: WE SANG YOU HOME by Richard Van Camp and Julie Flett

In the last month or so I've been using the phrase "being loved by words" or "being loved by a book." I don't know if that works or not. Some might think it sounds goofy. It does, however, capture how I felt, reading the stories in Love Beyond Body, Space, and Time: An LGBT and Two Spirit Science Fiction Anthology. It is definitely a book I recommend to young adults.

The emotions it brought forth in me are spilling over again and again, of late. I don't know what to make of that tenderness that I feel, but it is real.

Around the same time that I read the anthology, I got an electronic copy of We Sang You Home by Richard Van Camp and Julie Flett. I had that same response to it. Indeed, there were moments when I was blinking back tears! Now, I've got a copy:


I've thought about it a lot since first reading it, trying to put words to emotions. Richard Van Camp and Julie Flett are Native. I've read many of their books and recommend them over and over. Working together on this one (their first one is Little You), or apart, the books they give us are the mirrors that Native children need.

Just look at the joy and the smile of the child on the cover! That kid is loved, and that's what I want for Native kids! To feel loved by words, by story, by books.

We Sang You Home is a board book that, with very few words on each page, tells a child about how they were wanted, and how they came to be, and how they were, as the title says, sang home where they'd be kissed, and loved, and... where they, too, would sing.

Here's me, holding We Sang You Home. See the joy on my face? Corny, maybe, but I wanna sing. About being loved, by this dear board book.


I highly recommend We Sang You Home. Published by Orca in 2016, it is going to be gifted to a lot of people in the coming years.

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3. Snow! – Picture-book reading list from around the world

Snow – love it or dread it, I think most adults would agree at least that for children there’s something very special about it. And there are also some very special picture books around too. Here, in no particular order, is a small selection of snowy stories set around the … Continue reading ...

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4. Richard Van Camp and Julie Flett on winning the American Indian Library Association's 2016 Picture Book Award


I asked Richard Van Camp and Julie Flett for a response to the news that their exquisite board book, Little You, had won the 2016 Picture Book Award from the American Indian Library Association.

Richard said:
 "I've always wanted to work with Julie Flett so I'm honoured to receive this high honor with her and our team at Orca Books!"

Julie said:
It's really exciting to hear that Little You is being honored along with the other books listed. Wow, thank you, committee!"

Congratulations to both of you, Richard and Julie! 

Several books by Richard Van Camp and Julie Flett are amongst AICL's Best Books lists, so do click on over there and see what else they've done.

I hope they work together on additional books!

Before hitting the upload button for this post, I want to point readers to another huge plus for Little You. At Orca's blog, I learned that is available in South Slavey, Bush Cree, and Chipewyan:






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5. Monique Gray Smith and Julie Flett's MY HEART FILLS WITH HAPPINESS

I've read My Heart Fills With Happiness by Monique Gray Smith, illustrated by Julie Flett, many times. I can't decide--and don't need to, really--which page is my favorite!

For now--for this moment--I just got off the phone with my daughter, Liz. She's not a little girl anymore. She's an adult, making plans for the the coming months as she finishes law school. She makes me so darn happy! When she was little, she liked "spinny skirts." We made several so she'd always have a clean one to wear to school. So, the cover of My Heart Fills With Happiness reminds me of those days with Liz, as she spun about in her spinny skirts.



Like I said, though, I just got off the phone with her, and as I think of her walking about in the many places she's going to be in May and June and July, I'm reminded of holding her hand as the two of us walked here, and there, oh those years ago! That memory, and this page, are so dear!



I love the page that shows a little girl dancing, her shawl gorgeously depicted as she moves. I love the page where the little boy holds a drumstick in his hand and sits at the drum. I love the page of the kids waiting for their bannock to be ready to eat. I'd love to meet the two Native women who created this book so I could thank them, in person.

My Heart Fills With Happiness got a starred review from Publisher's Weekly and another one from School Library Journal. From me, it gets all the stars in the night sky. Today is its birthday (to use the language I see on twitter). Get a copy, or two, from your favorite independent store.

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6. WHEN WE WERE ALONE by David Alexander Robertson and Julie Flett

When We Were Alone is one of those books that brought forth a lot of emotion as I read it. There were sighs of sadness for what Native people experienced at boarding schools, and sighs of--I don't know, love, maybe--for our perseverance through it all.


Written by David Alexander Robertson and illustrated by Julie Flett, When We Were Alone will be released in January of 2017 from Highwater Press. I read the ARC and can't wait to hold the final copy of this story, of a young children asking her grandmother a series of questions, in my hands.

The story is meant for young children, though of course, readers of any age can--and should--read it.

It opens with the little girl saying:
Today I helped my kókom in her flower garden. She always wears colourful clothes. It's like she dresses in rainbows. When she bent down to prune some of the flowers, I couldn't even see her because she blended in with them. She was like a chameleon. 
"Nókom, why do you wear so many colours?" I asked. 
That child, wondering about something and then asking that "why" question is the format for the story. To this first question, her grandmother says that she had to go to school, far away, and that all the children had to wear the same colors. They couldn't wear the colourful clothes they did before they went to that school. Here's Julie Flett's illustration of the children, at school. I can't look at this illustration without my heart twisting:



Twisting at the expressions on their faces and wondering what they felt, and then I feel a different kind of emotion as I read the next page and look at the next illustration, because the grandma tells the child what they did to be colourful again. They rolled in the leaves, when they were alone:


There's a page about why she wears her hair so long, now, and why she speaks Cree, now. And, a page about being with family. Each one evokes the same thing. Tenderness. And a quiet joy at the power of the human spirit, to survive and persevere in the face of horrific treatment--in this case--by the Canadian government.

Stories of life at residential or boarding school are ones that Native people in the US and Canada tell each other. In Canada, because of the Truth and Reconciliation project, there's an effort to get these stories into print. I'm glad of that. We haven't seen anything like the Truth and Reconciliation project in the U.S., but teachers and libraries need not wait for something similar to start putting these books into schools, and into lesson plans.

When We Were Alone is rare. It is exquisite and stunning, for the power conveyed by the words Robertson wrote, and for the illustrations that Flett created. I highly recommend it.

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7. If you are in Vancouver ...

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8. LITTLE YOU, written by Richard Van Camp, illustrated by Julie Flett

Richard Van Camp has another terrific book out... I've written before about his board books, his picture books, and his young adult novel, The Lesser Blessed. That guy has a gift with words. He does not disappoint. Richard, by the way, is Dogrib (Tlicho) Dene from Fort Smith, Northwest Territory, Canada. Check out his page at Goodreads.

Little You is his third board book. This one is illustrated by Metis artist, Julie Flett. I wrote about her alphabet book, Owls See Clearly at Night. Her work is gorgeous.

His words and her art. Stunning. Here's the cover:



And here's just one page from inside:




Each page of text has a few words on a crisp white background. I imagine myself reading that page to my little Liz, hugging her tight as I do, as we gaze at the family that Flett depicts so lovingly on that page and throughout the book. Sometimes we see just the babe, or the babe and mom, or the babe and dad... This book is sweet as can be. 

Little You is published by Orca Books. It'll be released April 1, 2013.

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9. Julie Flett's WE ALL COUNT: A BOOK OF CREE NUMBERS

There's a new board book out by Cree Metis artist, Julie Flett, and like her other ones, it is a winner!





Like her previous works, We All Count: A Book of Cree Numbers is a bilingual board book. In this one, the numbers 1-10 are presented in English and Cree.

Flett's collage work is gorgeous. I love the quiet and bold colors she uses in her compositions. Here's the page for number 1. The text reads "One prairie dog perching."




And here's the page for number 10, where the text reads "Ten elk crossing." 





Flett's book is excellent for parents, teachers, or librarians to read to young children. Obviously, this is a counting book, so counting will happen, but the words!

Prairie dogs perching! Can you imagine showing the child you're reading to, how to perch like a prairie dog? On the page for number three, aunties are laughing. The joy on their faces is, well, joyful! Laugh along with them! Those owls on the cover? They're six owls spotting. It'd be great fun to pause on that page, and peer about, spotting things nearby.

I really like this book. I'm as joyful as those aunties! The pages in Flett's book provide a chance to do something that extends the reading itself, enriching what a young child knows about words and actions.

Though I'm sure Flett didn't have diversity in mind when she came up with the title, We All Count, the title and her book do a beautiful job of saying We--people who are Indigenous or who speak Cree--we count, too.

Your book is brilliant, Julie Flett! Kų́'daa! (That is 'thank you' in Tewa, my language.)

We All Count: A Book of Numbers is highly recommended. Written and illustrated by Julie Flett, it was published in 2014 by Native Northwest.


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10. Julie Flett Depicts Debbie Reese in TEACHING TOLERANCE

Some weeks ago, Dave Constantin at Teaching Tolerance got in touch with me for an article that came out yesterday: Rewriting History--For the Better. They wanted art for the article and got in touch with Julie Flett, who read it and wrote to me with an idea.

She wanted to show someone reading to children, and thought she'd like to show ME reading to children. I was speechless. And of course, I was thrilled! I love her work.

Julie asked me for photos of me reading to kids. The only photo I have is one of me reading to our daughter when she was a baby. Here's that photo (if you're wondering about the book, we're looking at illustrations in a children's literature textbook).



I sent her more recent photos, too. As we exchanged email about the art she was working on, she asked about a book that I'd like to be reading in the art, and I chose Simon Ortiz's The People Shall Continue. Permissions to use that worked out beautifully. Here's a screenshot of a portion of the article, and Julie's illustration of me:



I'm humbled, and delighted, and excited... a flood of emotions are racing through me! Thank you, Julie! This is a gift that I'll treasure always.

I've written about Julie's work several times and am pleased as can be to be in her portfolio.

Read the article in Teaching Tolerance, and order Julie's books for your home, classroom or library collection:
We All Count: A Book of Cree Numbers
Wild Berries
Lii Yiiboo Nayaapiwak Iii Swer/Owls See Clearly at Night
Little You (written by Richard Van Camp)


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11. Review: Dolphin SOS, by Roy Miki & Slavia Miki and Julie Flett

Dolphin SOS, written by Roy Miki and Slavia Miki, illustrated by Julie Flett, afterword by Richard Cannings (Tradewind Books, 2014)

 

Dolphin SOS
written by Roy Miki and Slavia Miki, illustrated by Julie Flett, afterword by Richard Cannings
(Tradewind … Continue reading ...

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