Meet the terrific Alaska Native kids from Children of the Midnight Sun and its recently released sequel, Children of the First People. Click HERE to launch the full story from KTVA-TV’s Sunday magazine, “Frontiers with Rhonda McBride.” (Photo © Roy Corral)
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.
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!
I’m really glad to be invited to events like our local “Beyond the Stacks,” organized by the Anchorage group called Friends of the Library. I’m betting there’s an FOL in your neck of the woods, too. If you’re in Southcentral Alaska on Saturday, April 6, would you buy a ticket and attend this outstanding event? I’ll be one of about thirty authors hosting tables, and dinner will be excellent. It’s from 4:30 to 9:30 p.m. at the Anchorage Marriott, 820 W. 7th Ave.
I’m a huge fan of Alaskan artist Ray Troll (I have Troll T-shirts that are older that most high school graduates), so I’m excited that he’s the keynote speaker this year. We’ll have giveaways, a silent auction, book-signings, and, again, RAY TROLL. Even if you can’t make it, please think about giving to your local library. These folks need all the help they can get.
Click here to see more on the amazing line-up of authors who will be attending. I hope to see you there!
Our warm thanks to the Children’s Book Council for recognizing our book in its list of showcased books … the theme this winter is “Helping Hands.” Look for Charlie and other honored books at their showcase website by clicking here.
As I write, several schools in Southcentral Alaska are closed for the year and administrators and educators have worked hard to rearrange students populations at other schools. The major earthquake that shook Anchorage on November 30 happened while I was 400 miles away, visiting schools in Fairbanks. While I was calmly setting up for a day of speaking to kids at Weller Elementary, back at home, the entire region was shaking. After all, we do sit on the northernmost edge of the Pacific Ring of Fire.
Suddenly, I got a text from my husband saying his building had been evacuated and he was hurrying home to our granddaughter. The power was out (so our well doesn’t work either) and officials were urging people to turn off their natural gas. My family gathered at my brother’s place, where there was a generator. All day long, my phone was dinging with friends and family checking in. The report on damage at our house was minimal–just a whole lot of pick-up, clean-up waiting for me, as everything on top shelves made a jump.
I was scheduled to fly home that evening, but a temporary airport closure and further flight delays changed that plan. When I was leaving Fairbanks the next day, the airport gift shop clerk seemed surprised that I didn’t feel the earthquake. The antique airplane that hangs above travelers at one end of a concourse had been swaying in the air during the quake, she said. She had been at her barrista job at the time, and was trying to keep everything from falling off the shelves. More than 400 miles away from the epicenter.
Strong aftershocks arrived regularly that night and for days afterward, and everybody has been edgy for the last couple of weeks. Even something as simple as the dog shifting her spot in the car’s back seat can make my heart leap. But likewise we are feeling thankful. No one died, and most of what was broken can be fixed…except perhaps for ragged nerves.
Thank you all for thinking of Alaska, and for your prayers.
I know, I know, it’s not even Halloween yet! We’re talking back to the early Christmas ads at my house, too. But I’ve already been invited to Holiday Bazaars and craft shows that start in late October. And besides, I’m friends with Santa all year long.
So, just a heads up–if you want a signed copy of one of my Christmas books, or any other books of mine, check my web calendar. I’ll be making appearances at special events and schools around Anchorage and Fairbanks from now through the end of the year. For me, the Christmas season begins this Saturday, Oct. 27, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. with an invitation from the Alaska Woman’s Club. Their annual Bazaar is held at Anchorage’s Pioneer Schoolhouse, so come down to 437 E. Third for this popular event. I hope to see you there!
Remember the mid-1990s? Cell phones really were the size of bricks, and selfies required a tripod and a timer. My first personal email address was newly minted, and I was trying to conceive just how the Worldwide Web might be useful to me. But travel in Alaska was essentially the same: by air, ferry, or a handful of highways.
From early 1995 to May 1996, photographer Roy Corral and I crisscrossed Alaska for thousands of miles to interview and photograph eight kids for our book titled Children of the Midnight Sun. It was the first and only overview of Alaska’s diverse Native peoples, written just for kids. In 1998, the 48-page book introduced young readers to eight remarkable boys and girls, all between eight and twelve years old, each representing a unique Alaska Native heritage.
To choose the kids, we relied on the help of culture camp leaders, village mayors, principals, and parents. Our subjects had to be bold enough to speak freely with a stranger and discerning enough to share cultural knowledge. We wanted a mix of genders, seasons, and traditions. What had they learned from their elders? Their favorite time of year and why? Their favorite foods and places? What did they want to be someday? The result was an intimate portrait of each child against the larger backdrop of ancient culture and place. It beautifully captured Alaska of the times.
As the book’s twentieth anniversary approached, we began work on a second edition of Children of the Midnight Sun with a new generation, choosing ten kids who face entirely different challenges while staying grounded by the best of their traditions. We’ve added in three smaller, often overlooked Alaska Native groups this time.
Twenty years ago, Roy and I used our Alaska Permanent Fund Dividends to buy MarkAir coupons (remember them?!), enabling us to fly into remote villages. We were both employed full-time, and we spread out the trips over two years, investing our dollars and vacation time to get around. Today, the air and ferry expenses were ours to figure out—while we’re both freelancers, and the PFD has become a pale version of its old self. But the hospitality we experienced has not changed.
Since January 2017, we’ve interviewed and photographed children in Chenega Bay, Hydaburg, Metlakatla, Kotzebue, Bethel, Hoonah, Fort Yukon, and Unalaska. There’s still one last trip to go: We’ll meet a child from the Siberian Yupik culture, either on St. Lawrence Island or in Nome.
I’ve written nine of the ten profiles and the Graphic Arts Books editor is already at work on my manuscript. Roy’s sneak peek photos are sensational (I do take a few snapshots for my own memories, as I did twenty-three years ago). We’ll be sharing more soon, including answers to questions about the kids in the first edition–where are they now? Watch for the new edition in early 2019!
I’ve tried writing a long work of fiction. I wasn’t as bad as this guy, but I was no good at it. Generating ideas, creating vivid characters, and sustaining a story arc for a 32-page children’s book, that I can do. My young readers have connected at the heart level with an itchy little musk ox, a kitty named Groucho, and an Inupiaq boy named Charlie. However, most of my writing is non-fiction. While non-academic, my true stories for children incorporate fiction storyteller techniques to write non-fiction. Bobbie the Wonder Dog, Patsy Ann of Alaska, and Zig the Warrior Princess are examples of that melding in creative non-fiction.
(A quick aside: Anchorage-area parents, you’re invited to bring your school-aged children to the Loussac Library at 3 p.m. Saturday, March 17, for my presentation titled “Amazing Dogs,” followed by a craft project.)
Right now, I’m deep into writing an all-new edition of Children of the Midnight Sun, a non-fiction, photo-illustrated children’s book that sheds light on the unique qualities of Alaska’s Native populations as told by the children. My creative partner, Roy Corral, and I compiled a list of ten villages (or towns) to visit. To date, we’ve nearly completed our travels all over the state to interview and photograph one child from each of Alaska’s Native groups. The kids are all between 8 and 12 years old, and each is a beautiful reflection of his or her ancient Alaskan ancestry–they’re young, but believe me, they have been listening to their elders and other teachers.
I can’t wait to introduce this new book in early 2019. In the meantime, back to my word-working!
I’m looking forward to reading Bobbie the Wonder Dog to an audience of Oregonians during a noon-hour talk on Friday, January 12, at the Albany Public Library. I’ll share details about Bobbie’s walk across America and the research I undertook to write his story, even connecting with descendants of Bobbie’s family. We’ll also talk about Cary Porter’s amazing illustrations and how the book came together. Thank you to my hosts, the Friends of the Library. As usual, I’m traveling with a suitcase full of books. I’d love to see you there.
Ninety-four years ago this month, Bobbie was enduring a solo crossing of the Rocky Mountains. He would swim across the North Payette River and follow the Snake River canyon until crossing into Oregon on a railroad bridge.
Five months had passed since he became separated from his family during a vacation in Indiana. Presuming him lost, adopted, or dead, the brokenhearted Frank and Elizabeth Brazier drove home on the “auto trails” in their Overland Red Bird. Meanwhile, Bobbie made up his mind to walk back. Six months to the day after he was lost, nearly three thousand miles later, Bobbie walked up the main street of town, into the restaurant the Braziers operated, climbed the stairs to their living quarters, and jumped on Frank’s sleeping form in bed. He howled and yipped like a dog hit by a car, off and on, throughout the day. As one local journalist wrote, “nor was he the only one who wept.”
That writer was Albany journalist Charles Alexander, who met the dog after his return, and who chronicled Bobbie’s remarkable journey in a 1926 book for adults titled Bobbie a Great Collie of Oregon.
Describing the dog’s entry into Oregon from the north, Alexander wrote, “On the dawn that Bobbie crawled into Portland, winter had laid down its severest and least expected barrage. Only a powdery snow lay here and there, but the moist earth was frozen and a biting wind sawed at the few and startled Oregonians who were abroad in the outer streets.
“Bobbie came down the Columbia Highway; he had made his westing, he was near home now, and he knew it; but he left a crimson trail behind him, and the edged wind cut through the bag of bones he had become.”
What makes this story particularly heart-rending, I think, is the truth of it and the purity of a dog’s love. Bobbie was not a cartoon character with superpowers, just an average-looking farm dog who (as it turns out) possessed incredible natural abilities coupled with a supreme will to get back to his man.
Next month, on the anniversary of his return, I’ll write about Bobbie’s last two weeks of travel, and the heroic old woman who kept him alive in Portland so he could make his final push.
Bobbie continues to inspire, as he did the child who sent me this letter last year after reading Bobbie the Wonder Dog. What he learned: ” . . . don’t never give up on my goll and eney thing is posable if you don’t giv up.”
A long while ago, I teamed up with Iditarod photographer Jeff Schultz for an Epicenter Press book titled Iditarod Country: Exploring the Route of the Last Great Race. It was released in February 1998. After a good, long life, that book went out of print years ago.
Since then, Jeff went on to publish more Iditarod books, calendars, posters, and fine art prints. And he continued to spend part of every March photographing the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race. Meanwhile I pursued my own book-publishing career as a writer and/or editor, including more books that showed off Jeff’s talents, among them Iditarod Silver (Epicenter), The Iditarod Fact Book (Epicenter) Iditarod: Images of Sports (Arcadia), Sled Dog Wisdom (Epicenter), Iditarod: The First Ten Years (Old Iditarod Gang), The View from the Future (State of Alaska), and Chasing Dogs (Jeff Schultz Photography).
Last March, twenty years after we first worked together on Iditarod County, Jeff invited me to write the text for his latest book venture, Icons of the Iditarod, a 144-page journey through five decades of the race. It features 195 of Jeff’s stunning photos along with my profiles of the legendary people, dogs, and even inanimate objects (think bunny boots, sleds, and headlamps!) that are forever connected to the race.
The project filled up most of 2017, and once again we got to work with Elizabeth Watson, the same book designer who brought Iditarod Country to life twenty years ago. We’re so excited that the official release date is just a few days away. First Jeff will be fulfilling orders from his Kickstarter supporters. But you can still jump on the Jeff Schultz Photography website to get your copy. Click here to order, with my hope that you’ll love it!
Meanwhile, a little trip down memory lane . . .