Virtual Institute 2020

An #alsc20 Highlight by Jennifer Minehardt

Institute Graphic Plain

Wow, what an awesome two days spent at this year’s virtual ALSC National Institute! There were so many wonderful programs to choose from over the course of two days. I’m excited to go back and watch some of the sessions I missed! With that being said, I can’t wait to talk about this amazing new book, We Are Water Protectors, written by Carole Lindstrom and illustrated by Michaela Goade.

We spent a wonderful hour and fifteen minutes listening to the author and illustrator talk about their work and their different processes and how they came to collaborate on this book together. This is an own voices story told by both an indigenous author and illustrator. The author told us that this book is her love letter to the people of the Standing Rock movement as well as all the indigenous people that are fighting to protect their water sources as well as the earth. We are water protectors is a fictional story but is based on actual events. This story is based on the Dakota Access Pipeline which directly affects the Sioux Tribe. This wasn’t something that was popularized in mainstream media but was more so in social media. The Sioux Tribe at Standing Rock led a peaceful stand for their land, water, and all living things. The pipeline was in service for three years before a judge ordered in March of 2020 that a full environmental impact review needed to be completed and the pipeline must be emptied while the review is completed. 

This protest at Standing Rock, along with the author’s Ojibwe Tribe Culture, laid the foundation for the book. In Ojibwe Culture, women are considered the protectors of water. There is a prophecy called the “Seven Fires Prophecy” which foretold of a black snake that if not treated with care, would come and destroy the earth.

Michaela Goade, a member of the Tlingit Tribe, spent her time illustrating this book by the ocean which was immensely helpful when she got stuck. The Tlingit are known as the people of the tides which she said is maybe why she was so drawn to this story. Her process started with sketches. She would record herself reading the story and then play it back while on walks in order to get the rhythm of it. Next were the watercolors paints as well as some digital editing. All in all, taking about a year and a half to complete all the spreads. She threw herself into research, reading and watching as much as possible to get a feel for the environment of the protests. She saw water as the main character of this book, not as something that is static but always moving and changing.

Both Carole and Michaela talked about the emotional toll of writing a story such as this one but expressed such gratitude for the love and feedback they have gotten thus far. If you haven’t seen this book yet, it’s a must read for this year! For more information and resources check out the Macmillan Site (which includes an activity kit)!

Jennifer Minehardt, Senior Children’s Librarian, NYPL – Roosevelt Island Branch Library, New York, NY.

As part of receiving a Friends of ALSC Institute Scholarship, recipients were asked to submit written pieces on their learnings and experience at #alsc20 to share with members and readers. Please note that as a guest post, the views expressed here do not represent the official position of ALA or ALSC.

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