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The first AILA American Indian Youth Literature Awards were presented during the Joint Conference of Librarians of Color in 2006. Awarded biennially, the AIYLA identifies and honors the very best writing and illustrations by Native Americans and Indigenous peoples of North America. Books selected to receive the award present Indigenous North American peoples in the fullness of their humanity. In odd-numbered years, nominations are encouraged in fiction or nonfiction and may include graphic novels; for picture books, the award is for both author and illustrator. Awards are granted in even-numbered years. Authors/illustrators may win the American Indian Youth Literature Award in the categories Best Picture Book, Best Middle Grade Book, and Best Young Adult Book. In addition, up to five awards may be selected as Honors books in each category.
Herizon by Daniel Vandever; Corey Begay (Illustrator)
Herizon follows the journey of a young Diné girl as she helps her grandmother retrieve a flock of sheep with a magical scarf that transforms the world she knows.The inspiring story celebrates creativity and bravery, while promoting an inclusive future made possible through intergenerational strength and knowledge.
Current AILA YLA Young Adult Winner
Apple by Eric Gansworth
How about a book that makes you barge into your boss's office to read a page of poetry from? That you dream of? That every movie, song, book, moment that follows continues to evoke in some way?
The term "Apple" is a slur in Native communities across the country. It's for someone supposedly "red on the outside, white on the inside."
Eric Gansworth is telling his story in Apple (Skin to the Core). The story of his family, of Onondaga among Tuscaroras, of Native folks everywhere. From the horrible legacy of the government boarding schools, to a boy watching his siblings leave and return and leave again, to a young man fighting to be an artist who balances multiple worlds. Eric shatters that slur and reclaims it in verse and prose and imagery that truly lives up to the word heartbreaking.
Current AILA YLA Middle School Winner
Healer of the Water Monster by Brian Young
Brian Young's powerful debut novel tells of a seemingly ordinary Navajo boy who must save the life of a Water Monster--and comes to realize he's a hero at heart. When Nathan goes to visit his grandma, Nali, at her mobile summer home on the Navajo reservation, he knows he's in for a pretty uneventful summer, with no electricity or cell service. Still, he loves spending time with Nali and with his uncle Jet, though it's clear when Jet arrives that he brings his problems with him. One night, while lost in the nearby desert, Nathan finds someone extraordinary: a Holy Being from the Navajo Creation Story--a Water Monster--in need of help. Now Nathan must summon all his courage to save his new friend. With the help of other Navajo Holy Beings, Nathan is determined to save the Water Monster, and to support Uncle Jet in healing from his own pain. The Heartdrum imprint centers a wide range of intertribal voices, visions, and stories while welcoming all young readers, with an emphasis on the present and future of Indian Country and on the strength of young Native heroes. In partnership with We Need Diverse Books.
Current AILA YLA Honors Books
Picture Book Honor Books
Becoming Miss Navajo by Jolyana Begay-KroupaAs a little girl, Jolyana Begay-Kroupa dreamed of becoming Miss Navajo. After years of learning the language, culture, and traditions, her chance finally comes to take on the important role.The skills she learned help her in tough competitions but will they be enough to earn her the crown of Miss Navajo? Witness the inspiring true story of what it takes to become Miss Navajo and how the competition is only the beginning.Filled with pictures taken during the 2001-2002 Miss Navajo Nation competition.
Classified by Traci Sorell; Natasha Donovan (Illustrator)Mary Golda Ross designed classified airplanes and spacecraft as Lockheed Aircraft Corporation's first female engineer. Find out how her passion for math and the Cherokee values she was raised with shaped her life and work.
Cherokee author Traci Sorell and Métis illustrator Natasha Donovan trace Ross's journey from being the only girl in a high school math class to becoming a teacher to pursuing an engineering degree, joining the top-secret Skunk Works division of Lockheed, and being a mentor for Native Americans and young women interested in engineering. In addition, the narrative highlights Cherokee values including education, working cooperatively, remaining humble, and helping ensure equal opportunity and education for all.
Learning My Rights with Mousewoman by Morgan AsoyufThe tiny but mighty Mousewoman is a legendary figure in the oral and visual practices of Northwest Coast Indigenous cultures. She is both grandmother and oracle, able to travel in and out of the spirit world. Mousewoman sits on young people’s shoulders in crucial times, whispering advice and knowledge. She protects and guides young people by helping them avoid or escape bad situations, and is never afraid to stand up to bigger beings. This book brings to life the timeless lessons of Mousewoman—lessons that embody the principles outlined in the UN Declaration on the Rights of the Child and the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. A first of its kind, this book empowers children to become proudly aware of their rights.
I Sang You down from the Stars by Tasha Spillett-Sumner; Michaela Goade (Illustrator)As she waits for the arrival of her new baby, a mother-to-be gathers gifts to create a sacred bundle. A white feather, cedar and sage, a stone from the river . . . Each addition to the bundle will offer the new baby strength and connection to tradition, family, and community. As they grow together, mother and baby will each have gifts to offer each other.
Tasha Spillett-Sumner and Michaela Goade, two Indigenous creators, bring beautiful words and luminous art together in a resonant celebration of the bond between mother and child.
We Are Still Here! by Traci Sorell; Frane Lessac (Illustrator)Twelve Native American kids present historical and contemporary laws, policies, struggles, and victories in Native life, each with a powerful refrain: We are still here! Too often, Native American history is treated as a finished chapter instead of relevant and ongoing. This companion book to the award-winning We Are Grateful: Otsaliheliga offers readers everything they never learned in school about Native American people's past, present, and future. Precise, lyrical writing presents topics including: forced assimilation (such as boarding schools), land allotment and Native tribal reorganization, termination (the US government not recognizing tribes as nations), Native urban relocation (from reservations), self-determination (tribal self-empowerment), Native civil rights, the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA), religious freedom, economic development (including casino development), Native language revival efforts, cultural persistence, and nationhood.
Honor Picture Book
Ella Cara Deloria by Diane WilsonThe Minnesota Humanities Center presents Minnesota Native American Lives, three stories of exceptional individuals across sports, language, and government! Ella Cara Deloria loved to listen to her family tell stories in the Dakota language. She recorded many American Indian peoples' stories and languages and shared them with everyone. She helped protect her people's language for future generations. She also wrote stories of her own. Her story is a Minnesota Native American life.
Indigenous Peoples' Day by Katrina M. PhillipsIndigenous Peoples' Day is about celebrating! The second Monday in October is a day to honor Native American people, their histories, and cultures. People mark the day with food, dancing, and songs. Readers will discover how a shared holiday can have multiple traditions and be celebrated in all sorts of ways.
Jo Jo Makoons: the Used-To-Be Best Friend by Dawn Quigley; Tara Audibert (Illustrator)
Minnesota Native American Lives: Peggy Flanagan by Eden Bart (Editor)Peggy Flanagan is the Lieutenant Governor of Minnesota. This is the second-highest office in the state. She is the first Native woman to hold such a high elected statewide office in the United States. Her whole life she knew that the school system doesn't tell American Indian stories in a true way. Peggy is working hard to change how Native peoples' stories are told and to make life better or all Minnesotans. Her story is a Minnesota Native American life. The Minnesota Native American Lives Series includes biographies of Charles Albert Bender, Ella Cara Deloria, and Peggy Flanagan. Read all three! Book jacket.
The Sea in Winter by Christine DayIt's been a hard year for Maisie Cannon, ever since she hurt her leg and could not keep up with her ballet training and auditions. Her blended family is loving and supportive, but Maisie knows that they just can't understand how hopeless she feels. With everything she's dealing with, Maisie is not excited for their family midwinter road trip along the coast, near the Makah community where her mother grew up. But soon, Maisie's anxieties and dark moods start to hurt as much as the pain in her knee. How can she keep pretending to be strong when on the inside she feels as roiling and cold as the ocean? The Heartdrum imprint centers a wide range of intertribal voices, visions, and stories while welcoming all young readers, with an emphasis on the present and future of Indian Country and on the strength of young Native heroes. In partnership with We Need Diverse Books.
Youth Literature Honor Book
Elatsoe by Darcie Little Badger; Rovina Cai (Illustrator)A Texas teen comes face-to-face with a cousin's ghost and vows to unmask the murderer.
Elatsoe--Ellie for short--lives in an alternate contemporary America shaped by the ancestral magics and knowledge of its Indigenous and immigrant groups. She can raise the spirits of dead animals--most importantly, her ghost dog Kirby. When her beloved cousin dies, all signs point to a car crash, but his ghost tells her otherwise: He was murdered. Who killed him and how did he die? With the help of her family, her best friend Jay, and the memory great, great, great, great, great, great grandmother, Elatsoe, must track down the killer and unravel the mystery of this creepy town and it's dark past. But will the nefarious townsfolk and a mysterious Doctor stop her before she gets started?
A breathtaking debut novel featuring an asexual, Apache teen protagonist, Elatsoe combines mystery, horror, noir, ancestral knowledge, haunting illustrations, fantasy elements, and is one of the most-talked about debuts of the year.
Firekeeper's Daughter by Angeline BoulleyEighteen-year-old Daunis Fontaine has never quite fit in, both in her hometown and on the nearby Ojibwe reservation. She dreams of a fresh start at college, but when family tragedy strikes, Daunis puts her future on hold to look after her fragile mother. The only bright spot is meeting Jamie, the charming new recruit on her brother Levi's hockey team.
Yet even as Daunis falls for Jamie, she senses the dashing hockey star is hiding something. Everything comes to light when Daunis witnesses a shocking murder, thrusting her into an FBI investigation of a lethal new drug.
Reluctantly, Daunis agrees to go undercover, drawing on her knowledge of chemistry and Ojibwe traditional medicine to track down the source. But the search for truth is more complicated than Daunis imagined, exposing secrets and old scars. At the same time, she grows concerned with an investigation that seems more focused on punishing the offenders than protecting the victims.
Now, as the deceptions--and deaths--keep growing, Daunis must learn what it means to be a strong Anishinaabe kwe (Ojibwe woman) and how far she'll go for her community, even if it tears apart the only world she's ever known.
Hunting by Stars (a Marrow Thieves Novel) by Cherie DimalineYears ago, when plagues and natural disasters killed millions of people, much of the world stopped dreaming. Without dreams, people are haunted, sick, mad, unable to rebuild. The government soon finds that the Indigenous people of North America have retained their dreams, an ability rumored to be housed in the very marrow of their bones. Soon, residential schools pop up--or are re-opened--across the land to bring in the dreamers and harvest their dreams.
Seventeen-year-old French lost his family to these schools and has spent the years since heading north with his new found family: a group of other dreamers, who, like him, are trying to build and thrive as a community. But then French wakes up in a pitch-black room, locked in and alone for the first time in years, and he knows immediately where he is--and what it will take to escape. Meanwhile, out in the world, his found family searches for him and dodges new dangers--school Recruiters, a blood cult, even the land itself. When their paths finally collide, French must decide how far he is willing to go--and how many loved ones is he willing to betray--in order to survive. This engrossing, action-packed, deftly-drawn novel expands on the world of Cherie Dimaline's award-winning The Marrow Thieves, and it will haunt readers long after they've turned the final page.
Notable Native People by Adrienne Keene; Ciara Sana (Illustrator)An accessible and educational illustrated book profiling 50 notable American Indian, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian people, from NBA star Kyrie Irving of the Standing Rock Lakota to Wilma Mankiller, the first female principal chief of the Cherokee Nation Celebrate the lives, stories, and contributions of Indigenous artists, activists, scientists, athletes, and other changemakers in this beautifully illustrated collection. From luminaries of the past, like nineteenth-century sculptor Edmonia Lewis--the first Black and Native American female artist to achieve international fame--to contemporary figures like linguist jessie little doe baird, who revived the Wampanoag language, Notable Native People highlights the vital impact Indigenous dreamers and leaders have made on the world.
This powerful and informative collection also offers accessible primers on important Indigenous issues, from the legacy of colonialism and cultural appropriation to food sovereignty, land and water rights, and more. An indispensable read for people of all backgrounds seeking to learn about Native American heritage, histories, and cultures, Notable Native People will educate and inspire readers of all ages.
Soldiers Unknown by Chag Lowry; Rahsan Ekedal (Illustrator)The Klamath River, 1918. The native Yurok people of Northern California have been untouched by the savage world war raging in Europe--until now. Three cousins are called to serve a nation that has given little but cruelty to their people. Thrust into battle on the Western Front, these young men struggle to preserve their humanity while facing the unspeakable horrors of the greatest military conflict ever known.