Sealaska Heritage

NEWS_Baby Raven Reads volume to be Alaska’s featured children’s book at national event

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Shanyáak'utlaax̱: Salmon Boy to represent state at National Book Festival

Sept. 13, 2021

The Alaska Center for the Book has singled out Sealaska Heritage Institute’s (SHI) Baby Raven Reads book Shanyáak'utlaax̱: Salmon Boy as the state’s featured children's book at this year's National Book Festival.

The festival, which is sponsored by the Library of Congress, is an annual literary event in Washington, DC, that brings together best-selling authors and thousands of book fans for author talks, panel discussions, book signings and other activities. Every year the National Book Festival also hosts the Parade of States where each state is represented by a state library, a state center for the book or humanities organization which showcases a local book or author. Because of COVID, this year’s event will be virtual.

The board of directors chose Shanyáak'utlaax̱: Salmon Boy in part because it particularly fits this year’s theme, "Open a Book, Open the World,” said board member Sue Sherif.

“We feel like Shanyáak'utlaax̱ will open some new doors for kids and parents in the rest of the country,” Sherif said.

Shanyáak'utlaax: Salmon Boy is a bilingual children's story that teaches about respect for nature, animals and culture. It comes from an ancient Tlingit story that was edited by Johnny Marks, Hans Chester, David Katzeek and Nora and Richard Dauenhauer. This book is part of the award-winning Baby Raven Reads, a Sealaska Heritage program for Alaska Native families with children up to age 5 that promotes early language development and school readiness. Twenty-nine books have been published through the program since 2016.

SHI President Rosita Worl called it an honor to represent Alaska on a national stage.

“We developed our Baby Raven Reads series so Native children would see themselves accurately mirrored in literature, but we also know non-Native students read them. This recognition underscores our parallel goal to promote cross-cultural understanding on a national level,” Worl said.

The book was illustrated by Tlingit artist Michaela Goade, and in 2018, it won the American Indian Youth Literature Best Picture Book Award from the American Indian Library Association. An expanded version of the story featuring audio in Tlingit and Goade’s illustrations is available on SHI’s YouTube channel. Goade in 2021 won the Caldecott Medal for her illustrations in another children’s book.

The 2021 National Book Festival is scheduled Sept. 17-26.

The Alaska Center for the Book, a 501c3 nonprofit corporation, was founded in 1991 to stimulate public interest in literacy throughout Alaska through the spoken and written word. The center is affiliated with the national Center for the Book, which has a presence in all 50 states, as well as the District of Columbia and the U.S. Virgin Islands. These Center for the Book affiliates carry out the national Center’s mission in their local areas, sponsor programs that highlight their area’s literary heritage and call attention to the importance of books, reading, literacy and libraries. The center also honors people and institutions through its annual Contributions to Literacy in Alaska (CLIA) Awards.

Sealaska Heritage Institute is a private nonprofit founded in 1980 to perpetuate and enhance Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian cultures of Southeast Alaska. Its goal is to promote cultural diversity and cross-cultural understanding through public services and events. SHI also conducts social scientific and public policy research that promotes Alaska Native arts, cultures, history and education statewide. The institute is governed by a Board of Trustees and guided by a Council of Traditional Scholars, a Native Artist Committee and a Southeast Regional Language Committee.

CONTACT: Amy Fletcher, SHI Media and Publications Director, 907.586.9116,

Caption: Cover of “Salmon Boy: Shanyáak'utlaaxcourtesy of Sealaska Heritage Institute.

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