Each year, the Musk Ox Farm in Palmer, Alaska, reopens for the summer season on Mother’s Day Sunday. That’s the day they introduce the new babies to the public. If you’ve never made the trip out, it’s just one short hour from Anchorage to Palmer. Such a great family day trip! On Mother’s Day 2016, I’ll be there, too, signing copies of The Itchy Little Musk Ox. Come by between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m., and say hi, or bring your own copy if you’d like me to personalize it. The Farm has a whole day of fun planned, so don’t miss it. For more info, click here.
I’m not a librarian, but I think of them so highly. These men and women possess a passion for reading, but more . . . they understand the way reading affects how children see the world and themselves. They are encouragers. I love the printed word, the look, smell, and feel of a book, it’s true. But no matter the delivery, it’s content that’s key to opening young minds and stimulating the love of reading.
In a couple of weeks, members of the Alaska Library Association will meet in Fairbanks for their annual conference. Look for me in the Exhibitor’s Hall, representing Graphic Arts Books in their booth. I’ll have sneak-a-peek copies of Bobbie the Wonder Dog there, as well as other samples of what’s new for Spring 2016, and a whole catalog of other excellent books. If you’re at the conference, please stop by! Speakers include young adult authors Debby Dahl Edwardson and Matt de la Pena. They’re going to be sensational, I know. (Can’t wait!) Click here for more on the conference and an outstanding roster of other presenters: AKLA Conference.
Sled Dog Wisdom is back for a second edition in a bigger format that includes photos. Thanks, Epicenter Press, for reprising this collection of mushers’ stories and quotes. When I first gathered the material for this book, I asked dozens of mushers, competitive and recreational, about the unique relationship between a musher and his or her sled dogs. I wanted to know, “What you have learned from owning and running sled dogs?” Some of them laughed at themselves; others took a more serious route. (The Zen of mushing? Yeah, kinda.) Anyway, their answers were all over the place. You can order Sled Dog Wisdom at any of your favorite bookshops, in person or online. I hope you like it!
I had heard of “devoted dog” stories, but when I delved into the history of a certain collie mix named Bobbie, I could only repeat what hundreds of thousands had already uttered: “Are you kidding? Really?” That’s because this dog, having become separated from his owners during a cross-country journey in summer 1923, resolved to retrace his route and head west, back home to Frank and Elizabeth Brazier. Bobbie would walk nearly three thousand miles during a six-month period (much of it in the dead of winter), all the way from northern Indiana to Silverton, Oregon, and into the restaurant that his people operated. They had given him up for dead, naturally, and he looked like the walking dead when he finally arrived.
In an age before social media, Bobbie’s wondrous journey made for sensational headlines across the country. He even made it into “Ripley’s Believe it or Not!” and attracted huge crowds during appearances.
My newest picture book about Bobbie will release in early April from WestWinds Press of Portland, Oregon. That may seem like a long time to wait, but I’m already revving up for the big celebration that will mark the event. And, of course, I’ll be available for author visits and talks anywhere in the country–but especially along Bobbie’s route.
So if you’re a librarian, media specialist, animal rescue operation, or shelter, start thinking ahead to April and see if this new book could be part of your school or organization’s plan to get kids reading and thinking about amazing animals. Let’s put our heads together. Click here to learn more about author visits.
I’m so glad to be back in Anchorage, ready to visit schools, libraries, and get involved with big events like Alaska Book Week. It’s coming up the first week of October, when you’ll find Alaskan authors all over the state engaged in booksignings, talks, classroom visits, public presentations, and author fairs. Here’s what my schedule looks like so far:
Saturday, October 3: Reading for early elementary children at Mountain View Library, 120 Bragaw, Anchorage. I’ll be sharing The Itchy Little Musk Ox for the read-to-me kids up to 2nd grade, and then I’ll read Charlie & the Blanket Toss for the children in 2nd-4th grades. Come on in and bring a brother or sister! If you own any of my other children’s books and would like me to sign them, bring them to the library, okay?
Sunday, October 4: Meet me at Barnes & Noble in Midtown Anchorage from 1-4 p.m.! They carry many of my books for children as well as adults. But now that Charlie & the Blanket Toss is an Alaska Battle of the Books selection for Alaskan 2nd-graders, we expect to see a big stack of them on the table. I’d love to see you there.
Saturday, October 10: Come down to the Loussac Library for 1:30 p.m. storytime, where I’ll be sharing a couple of books. Again, if you have a book that I’ve written, bring it to the library and I’d be happy to personalize and sign it for you. I love to meet my young readers.
I’ll update this calendar as other signings/talks shape up. Keep watching! And please, wherever you are in Alaska, join in the fun of Alaska Book Week–I’m betting there’s a special salute to books and Alaskan authors somewhere near you.
If your school or library (or another group in your town or village) would like to participate, click here for ideas on how to get involved!
A good part of my last three years has been dedicated to structuring, developing, and editing two epic books, each of which has a special tie to the year 1967.
The first book is IDITAROD®: The First Ten Years, a 400-plus-page compendium of stories, photos, artwork, and statistics surrounding those early years of the Anchorage-to-Nome race with sled-dogs. Compiled by “The Old Iditarod Gang,” the first-person memories come from the idea people, the trailbreakers, fundraisers, administrators, pancake-makers, artists, pilots, photographers, water-carriers, and a host of other volunteers–and the early mushers themselves. Make no mistake, this isn’t a light read. The hardbound edition weighs a full SEVEN pounds! Funded with Kickstarter help, and unveiled at the 2015 Iditarod, the book has been flying off the shelves. Consider it for yourself and the other mushing fans in your life. It’s beautiful as well as packed with great reading.
How was it tied to 1967? Well, the first race on the Iditarod Trail was held in 1967, as part of the Alaska Purchase Centennial celebration. Cities and towns/villages all over Alaska had been invited to come up with ideas to take advantage of federal funding. The Mat-Su Committee (headed by “Mother of the Iditarod” Dorothy Page) joined Joe Redington Sr.’s vision of calling attention to the area’s mushing history and the trail that runs through it. Joe Sr. and his son Joee cleared a portion of the trail for that shorter stage-race, which would memorialize Leonhard Seppala, the famed Nome musher who had recently died. The Centennial Race was the inspiration for organizers and participating mushers to broaden the race to a 1,000-mile run to Nome.
Now jump ahead to 2015, today, when I received an advance copy from the printer of the second book that’s also been my work-life these last three years: The View from the Future–2017: Fifty Years after the Alaska Purchase Centennial.
The old Alaska State Museum was one of forty-two community enrichment projects that were constructed with federal and matching funds back in 1967. The centennial of the U.S. purchase of Alaska was the first big thing since statehood in 1959. Some chose to build community centers, or medical facilities, to restore totem poles, or build libraries and museums…or organize a sled-dog race. In Juneau, the grand Alaska State Museum stood as testament to the efforts of the local committee. Over time, the state’s library, archives, and museum were one administrative division, but by necessity, the holdings were kept in separate buildings. It was clear that a new facility to reunite the Division of Libraries, Archives, and Museums was necessary.
As part of the mitigation for deconstructing the State Museum, state leaders wanted a book that would reflect back on the people and projects all over the state that were part of the 1967 Alaska Purchase Centennial. So we contracted with six writers and six photographers–probably many of your favorites. The writers: George Bryson, Nick Jans, Debra McKinney, Nancy Lord, Kathleen McCoy, and Dermot Cole. The photographers: Mark Kelley, Clark James Mishler, Matt Hage, Jim Lavrakas, Jeff Schultz, and Charles Mason. The six writer-photographer teams spread across the state and visited far-flung communities, asking, “What became of your Purchase Centennial project? Was it worthwhile? Is it still in use? Who were the people behind this great idea?” What they brought back, in words and spectacular images, appears in this beautifully designed book, with a Foreword by historian Terrence Cole, Ph.D.
While the print book is now finished, a small group of us continues to work on an enhanced eBook that will be released on July 1. It will be downloadable on most devices.
To order individual copies of either book, contact Taku Graphics in Juneau, Alaska. Click here.
For those of you who’ve read One Man’s Wilderness, by Sam Keith, you’ve probably also seen the video spin-off of the Dick Proenneke story on PBS (titled Alone in the Wilderness). Years after the death of author Sam Keith, his family discovered a complete manuscript among his papers. Now the “lost” manuscript is finally in print: First Wilderness by Sam Keith was a joy to edit, and I’m looking forward to joining Sam’s daughter, Laurel Lies in two upcoming events. Please come if you can: Powell’s City of Books in Portland, Saturday, Sept. 27, at 4 p.m. And on Sunday, Sept 28, 3 p.m. we’ll be at Elliott Bay Book Company in Seattle.
A new release from Alaska Northwest Books, First Wilderness is available at your favorite online or storefront bookstore.
I’m excited by the prospect of introducing children to life in the Far North with my newest children’s book, due out at the end of this summer. Charlie and the Blanket Toss is about a fun-lovingÂ little boy living in Barrow, Alaska, along the Arctic Ocean. Charlie loves learning all about his IÃ±upiat heritage from his elders and teachers. And he can’t wait for the upcoming whaling festival that will feature dancing and drumming, plenty of good Native food, plus the traditional Blanket Toss. Charlie wants so badly to be tossed high into the air, too, but secretly he’s afraid. Will this be the year that he follows generations before him? Everybody else seems to think so, but he’s not so sure!
Readers, young and old, will learn the meaning and pronunciation of several IÃ±upiaq words in this warm story about family, tradition, and Native Alaskan culture. The wonderful illustrator is Sarah Martinsen, who lives and works in Barrow. We’re both very grateful to Fannie Akpik and Katherine Itta-Ahgeak, who were our guides in matters of Inupiat culture and history. (Thank you so much!)
I hope you love Charlie as much as we do! You can pre-order a book atÂ your favorite bricks-and-mortar or online bookstore even now. And we’ll be doing some special events once the book is released. I’ll keep you posted!
I’m so pleased that KTUU’s gave my new book some on-air time. They did such a wonderful job. So grateful!
Congratulations to Dallas Seavey, who won Iditarod 2014, one of the most grueling races in the books.
I’m joining many teachers and guest speakers all across the country as weÂ recognize the upcoming World Read-Aloud Day through “Skype in the Classroom.”Â I can’t wait to see how it’s going to go!
On Wednesday, February 26, I’ll be reading The Itchy Little Musk Ox to Ms. Oldham’s students at Willow Crest Elementary in Anchorage. We’re beginning a half-hour of reading and chatting at 9:15 a.m. Alaska time, so if your early elementary class elsewhere in the country would like to join us, it’s so easy! Please register for my lesson at https://education.skype.com/projects/7810-the-itchy-little-musk-ox-the-book-and-the-beast. It’ll be fun.
It’s all part of World Read-Aloud Day, with the Children’s Book Council and LitWorld, putting their resources behind the event, which is now it its fourth year. The actual Read-Aloud Day is Wednesday, March 5, and I’ll be visiting an Oregon classroom on that day.
Even if you don’t take part in a Skype lesson, if you have a special kid in your life, make sure to celebrate March 5 by sitting down with a book and then talking about it afterward.
And know that millions of others will be doing the same thingÂ onÂ that day.