Hardbound or softbound?

Most libraries and schools prefer to buy hardbound editions of children’s picture books. So do families with kids who are a bit rough on books. Some people pick hardbound books because they’re building a nice kidlit collection, or other little ones are in line to handle those books.

These thoughts came to mind recently when West Margin Press advised that they will be releasing a softbound edition of Bobbie the Wonder Dog (one of my favorite stories, by the way) in April 2021. So while I’m sad to see that beautiful hardcover go out of print (get yours now!), Bobbie will still be going strong in a softbound version. It’s been nearly a century since Bobbie’s remarkable walk across the country. In the winter of 1923-24, this hardy Scotch collie walked thousands of miles to reunite with his family, from Indiana to Oregon, after they accidentally separated during a vacation. The story is all the more moving because it’s true.

In Alaska, the decision about what edition to buy has to do with how our population more than doubles in a typical summer. The 2020 summer was anything but normal, but usually more than a million tourists visit our state between September and May. We love showing off where we live and the visitors boost the economy while making memories. Those visitors buy books! Many are grandparents who’re roaming the world in retirement; some are families with the kids along; then there are the singles with beloved nieces and nephews. And that’s where the hardbound/softbound question comes into play. Someone like me, who often meets readers and signs books at market stalls and other events, knows instantly that tourists are careful about how much their gifts weigh. So often I meet them after their tour company has possession of their checked bags, and now it’s just the carry-on to contend with. Softbound books can win out in those debates.

Speaking for myself and my fellow Alaskan authors, we can’t wait to see you in person again. It’s really fun chatting and signing books at Anchorage’s Saturday Market, and learning about where people have come from on their big trip. We’re hoping to be back in summer 2021. In the meantime, teachers and librarians, shoot me an email if you’re interested in a Zoom or Skype visit. I’d love to share Bobbie’s story.

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Ninja-Worthy Games

See that guy on the book cover? Can you do that? Me neither. Even if you’re the top athlete in your school, I seriously doubt you’ve developed the right muscles, the special balance, or pain tolerance, or downright stamina that you need to accomplish the Alaskan High Kick, as this particular game is called.

Kicking a sealskin ball while doing an upside-down one-handed handstand is one of dozens of challenging games that have been practiced in Alaska for hundreds of years. They’ve changed little, thanks to the elders, senior athletes, and officials who’re intent on keeping their histories and traditional play intact.

My creative partners and I decided it was important to pull together a book for middle-graders and up, to catalog the often-played games today, and how they mirror or remember the Alaska Native ways of subsisting in this part of the world. Certain actions recall strength required for hunting moose, pulling fish, creeping up on seal-breathing holes, and the endurance required to be successful at feeding one’s family from the land, rivers, and ocean.

I was honored to partner with Joni Spiess in writing the book, which was recently released by the Snowy Owl imprint of the University of Alaska Press. Joni has firsthand knowledge as a coach and competitor from Nome who now lives and works in Anchorage. We were joined by the skilled photographer Roy Corral (who has collaborated with me on several other culture-based books). That awesome cover shot is just a taste of what’s inside.

One of my favorite parts of working on this book was enlisting a champion competitor to write the Foreword. Nick Iligutchiak Hanson is best known nationally as the “Eskimo Nina,” whose amazing balance, muscle, and physical endurance is regularly featured as a star of NBC’s American Ninja Warriors. In his Foreword, Nick shares the circumstances of growing up biracial in Alaska’s far northwest and how competing in the Alaska Native Games literally saved his life. His mission now is to pass along his message to depressed or suicidal kids: Through the discipline of sports such as the Alaska Native games, you can find the same meaning and hope as he did.

All of us are pleased that the Native Games are gaining in importance in schools across the state, even incorporated into the curriculum in the Anchorage School District. And that’s why we made sure each game was fully explained . . . plus how to do it yourself. Follow the safety instructions and don’t even try those that are intended for adults, okay? You’ll get there soon enough. In the meantime, listen and learn what the first Alaskans have to share with you, no matter where you live.

You can order a copy through your favorite bookseller, online or in person. Or go directly to the distributor, the University of Colorado Press, by clicking here to connect.

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Every State has a Book

We are thrilled to report that Children of the First People: Fresh Voices of Alaska’s Native Kids has been selected to represent Alaska at the 2020 National Book Festival. The annual festival is sponsored by the Library of Congress, and when I was on the board of the Alaska Center for the Book, I flew to D.C. with another member to greet visitors at the Alaska booth. We brought lots of literacy materials, copies of our state’s featured book, and tourism giveaways. Each state or possession has a table in the great hall–normally–but nothing is normal this year, of course.

The festival is entirely virtual for 2020, so registration and attendance will be through a series of links. Don’t miss a minute of readings, author talks, and interviews with your favorite authors, both national and regional.

Thanks for all your kind words and support for Children of the First People. My creative partner, Roy Corral, and I appreciate you all. It’s a looong way from the Aleutian Islands to Washington, D.C., right, Roy?

The island of Unalaska was one ten locations where we interviewed and photographed one of our Alaska kids. Here’s Roy visited an old WWII site.
Tricia Brown stands upon a big-gun turret, a relic from WWII on Unalaska Island in the Aleutians, an island chain that was attacked by the Japanese.

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Hello, National Book Festival!

Photographer Roy Corral are excited to learn that our book, Children of the First People, will represent Alaska at the 2020 National Book Festival in D.C. There are many firsts this year with COVID restrictions, and this is yet another first: the late September book festival will be a virtual event. So Roy and I created a video to show off our book to everyone around the country. Click here to view the video.

Metalakatla friends. Photo (c) Roy Corral.

The Library of Congress has established a Center for the Book in each of the states, and our Alaska Center for the Book has been active in the festival every year, sending representatives to represent literacy and other great organizations in Alaska. But that was before, when the event filled up a gigantic convention center with keynote speakers, readings, a sprawling bookstore, and book-signings nearly every hour. This year will be different.

As soon as I have details on how and where to access the festival and the amazing talent from all of the states, I’ll post the info.

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Go Bobbie!

We just heard that our book Bobbie the Wonder Dog is on the current list for second- and third-grade readers in America’s Battle of the Books. And having Brown as a surname has landed me right next to Judy Blume on the list. (OK, that was none of my doing, but what excellent company I have.) Bobbie has been very popular, and we love hearing from readers who’re enjoying it!

Bobbie the Wonder Dog shocked readers across America after walking from the Midwest to his home in Oregon, a distance of nearly 3,000 miles, in the winter of 1923-24.

America’s Battle of the Books is a voluntary reading list. Give the kids a head start on their Summer Reading Program and look for each year.

Frank Brazier poses with his best friend. (Drake Studio photo)
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New Board Books Highlight Alaska Native Talent

Photo by Taylor Booth
Photo by Ian Merculieff
Photo by Esther Pederson
Photo by Esther Pederson

I’ve been honored to serve as editor of a publishing project instituted by Best Beginnings here in Alaska. This amazing organization is a branch of Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library, and they mail free books to hundreds of families all over the state each month. Getting books into the hands of babies and preschoolers can make all the difference in their later success in school.

Nonetheless, for many Alaskan families something was missing in all of those wonderful books. That “something” was the faces of Alaska Native children and their families. Enter Best Beginnings director Abbe Hensley, who hired me to execute their vision for a series of board books based on the seasons in the Northland. The emphasis would be on rural life, and specifically Native family life in Bush Alaska. A federal grant from the Office of Child Care, Administration for Children and Families, funded that vision. We wanted the books to be completely Native-written and completely Native-illustrated.

The final team of authors and photographers are from all over the state and represent a variety of Native cultures. We cultivated the talents of authors Joni Spiess (Nome/Anchorage), Yaari Toolie-Walker (Savoonga/Anchorage), Angela Y. Gonzalez (Huslia/Anchorage), and Carla Snow (Bethel). Photo submissions came in from many talented photographers: Esther Pederson (Nome), Ian Merculieff (St. Paul Island/Anchorage), Carol Maillelle (Togiak/Anchorage), Taylor Booth (Nome), Greg Lincoln (Bethel), Jacqueline Cleveland (Quinhagek), and Cheryl Kriska (Fairbanks).

With the launch of the book series, some of those authors and photographers will join Best Beginnings leadership and me at the Anchorage Hilton Hotel during the annual Anchorage Association for the Education of Young Children (AAEYC) conference. Our panelists will talk about their creative process, but also touch on deeper issues of what it means for children to see their culture represented in a book, how it feels to be misrepresented or to view cultural misappropriation in other books, and they discuss the outlook for seeing more Alaska Natives in publishing.

Meanwhile, if you want a set of these groundbreaking books, contact Best Beginnings in Anchorage. Simply click here. Look around on their website if you are an Alaskan family with babies to preschoolers. Enroll your family in the program and get more information to help your baby grow!

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What are you doing now?

‘Cuse the Mess

I get that question often. Usually I can answer it with a quick, “Oh, I’ve got a couple of irons in the fire.” Sometimes authors aren’t free to talk about what’s coming up with a specific publisher, even if it looks like a contract is forthcoming. But if it’s not signed, it’s not real. I have one like that percolating right now. It’s a middle-grade nonfiction children’s book that’s currently under review. And I have a chapter book that’s under consideration by a respected agent. Fingers crossed. I kinda like that book.

Sometimes we can blab our news all over. So, allow me to blab. In the coming months, I’ll be appearing at several events, and I hope to meet you at one of them. Here’s a quick rundown:

Wed., Oct. 9: Photographer Roy Corral and I will give a talk titled “Bookends: Twenty Years of Collaboration in Children’s Books.” We’re the keynotes for the Anchorage Friends of the Library annual meeting, open to the public and scheduled to start at 5:30 p.m. The gathering is in the Ann Stevens Room of the Loussac Public Library. Roy and I begin our multi-media presentation at 7 p.m., and a book-signing will follow.
Sat., Oct. 12: In honor of Alaska Book Week, Barnes & Noble in midtown Anchorage is hosting Roy and me again during the Book Fair Day to benefit Bartlett High School. We’ll give an author/photographer talk at noon in the Fireplace area, and we’ll sign your favorite titles from 1-4 p.m.
Sun., Oct. 27: I’ve been invited to participate in an Author Brunch at Anchorage’s Crowne Plaza Hotel as part of the annual Alaska Cross Content Conference. So I’ll get to share a meal with teachers and librarians who influence literacy across the state. I love them already. A book-signing is part of our morning, too.

Sat., Nov. 9: from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., you’ll find me at the Mat-Su Marketplace held inside the Menard Sports Center in Wasilla, selling my books as well as helping my boothmate with her sales of glassware decorated with Alaskan wildflowers. I’m only there on Saturday of the weekend event.
Sat-Sun, Nov. 23-24: I’ll be back at booth 853 Holly Hollow inside the Dena’ina Center in downtown Anchorage. The Arts & Crafts Emporium draws hundreds of shoppers. This will be my third year, and I can’t wait.
Fri-Sat., Nov. 29-30: I’m a veteran of the ReadAlaska Book Fair that’s held annually in the days after Thanksgiving. We’re on the second level of the atrium in the Anchorage Museum at Rasmuson Center. Downstairs is the Polar Bazaar, where exquisite art and crafts are on sale. We book people, you’ll find upstairs from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. both days. No Sunday times this year, by the way. Look for me, please!

When I’m not manning a booth or meeting folks at a book-signing, trust me, I’m working on books. And loving it.

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We made the list!

We’re so pleased that Scholastic Teacher magazine included Children of the First People in its featured books for the Summer of 2019. Teacher friends, please check it out!

Here’s what Chris Borris and Pari Deshpande Cohen had to say: “We’ve chosen a variety of great books to help your students while away the summer days.

“Let’s get lost in a book. Summer is a time to slow down, to sink into the rhythms of a sun-soaked day. And a book is a perfect thing to have by your side. “It makes me feel like I’m in my own little fairytale,” said one 8-year-old girl, when asked why she loves to read. In the books we chose for this year’s 50 best—with the help of our wonderful teacher, librarian, and author reviewers—kids will find many differ­ent ways to immerse themselves in a story, whether through fiction or nonfiction. Maybe it will be an adventure involving Alastair and Aggie, two parrots trying to figure out what home is. Or a serious but very funny story about an immi­grant boy who bakes cakes to get over his father’s death. Or a riveting retelling of the rescue of a soccer team from a cave in Thailand. Help your young readers find a book and get lost!”

If you like to download a pdf of all fifty books broken down by grade level, click here.

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One great idea; two unforgettable books

Meet the terrific Alaska Native kids from Children of the Midnight Sun (1998) and its recently released sequel, Children of the First People (2019). The Anchorage Museum at Rasmuson Center hosted our release event, and we welcomed broadcast journalist Rhonda McBride. Roy and I remembered the challenges of setting up interviews and traveling to farflung villages and towns around our supersized state with so few roads. After interviewing me and Roy, Rhonda caught up with kids, some from each of the books published two decades apart, who were able to attend. McBride’s story appeared on KTVA-TV’s Sunday magazine, “Frontiers with Rhonda McBride.” (All photos © Roy Corral)

Released in 1998 – Selina (Haida)
20 years later – a new cast of kids
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It’s official! A new book is born.

Photographer Roy Corral and I are celebrating the long-awaited release of our new book, Children of the First People, and the launch party is going to be a sensation. Please join us on Saturday, April 20, beginning at 11 a.m. at the Anchorage Museum at Rasmuson Center, 625 C Street. We’re signing books beginning at noon. That Saturday is KidsDay at the museum–so admission for those twelve and under is free!

Tricia and Roy – NOW

Children of the First People profiles ten boys and girls, each one representing a unique culture that has thrived in the Far North for centuries: Iñupiat, Eyak, Yup’ik, Haida, Athabascan, Unangaxˆ (Aleut), Tlingit, Alutiiq, Tsimshian, and Siberian Yupik. The kids open up like Alaskan pen pals, sharing how they hunt and fish for healthy Native food, celebrate with traditional dancing and drumming, and compete in Native Youth Olympics. Still, like kids all over, they also watch their favorite NBA teams, shop for clothes online, and listen to new music.

10 Terrific Kids

At 11 a.m. on April 20, Roy and I will present a short film in the auditorium and we’ll introduce the great kids and parents who are represented in the book. We had traveled all over the state, in and out of Anchorage over a two-year period to meet these families. At the presentation, we will answer questions that we often hear, like “How did you pick the children?” “How long did it take?” “How did you get around Alaska?” “What happened to the kids from the first book–are you still in touch?” We get that question a lot. And we plan to bring everyone up to date in our presentation.

In fact, I’m happy to report that some of the “grown-up kids” from Children of the Midnight Sun will join us at the museum, too. Like the honored kids from the new book, they will participate in a mass book-signing that begins at noon, so you and your kids can come and chat with them yourself. Also, the Anchorage Museum is planning to feature Roy’s incredible photos in twenty enlargements from the first and second books. They’ll be exhibited around the main atrium on easels for the special event.

Won’t you come and join us for this exceptional book launch?

Tricia and Roy – THEN!


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