AILA announces 2022 American Indian Youth Literature Awards

For Immediate Release
Mon, 01/24/2022


Communications and Marketing Office

ALA Media Relations


CHICAGO — Today American Indian Youth Literature Award winning titles were highlighted during the American Library Association (ALA) Youth Media Awards, the premier announcement of the best of the best in children’s and young adult literature.  

Awarded biennially, the award identifies and honors the very best writings and illustrations for youth, by and about Native American and Indigenous peoples of North America. Works selected to receive the award, in picture book, middle grade, and young adult categories, present Native American and Indigenous North American peoples in the fullness of their humanity in present, past and future contexts.

According to 2022 jury members Allison Waukau and Vanessa Centeno, “We are seeing more books created by connected groups of Native and Indigenous, storytellers, authors, illustrators, translators, editors, narrators, and publishers, and it brings us joy and anticipation for the younger generations who will see themselves reflected in our own stories, expressions, communities, and teachings. This year's recognition includes an audiobook narrated by a Native American cast and an Indigenous language picture book. We are pleased to include an audiobook which honors and connects us back to our storytelling ways. We hope readers and listeners receive as much comfort, laughter and healing as we did with these stories.” 

The 2022 American Indian Youth Literature Award winner for best Picture Book is “Herizon,” written by Daniel W. Vandever (Diné), illustrated by Corey Begay (Diné), and published by South of Sunrise Creative. Herizon follows the journey of a Diné girl as she helps her grandmother retrieve a flock of sheep. Join her venture across land and water with the help of a magical scarf that will expand your imagination and transform what you thought possible. The inspiring story celebrates creativity and bravery, while promoting an inclusive future made possible through intergenerational strength and knowledge. 

The committee selected five Picture Book Honor(s) titles including: 

“Diné Bich’eekę Yishłeeh (Diné Bizaad)/Becoming Miss Navajo (English),” written by Jolyana Begay-Kroupa (Diné), designed by Corey Begay (Diné), and published by Salina Bookshelf, Inc.

“Classified: The Secret Career of Mary Gold Ross, Cherokee Aerospace Engineer,” written by Traci Sorell (Cherokee), illustrated by Natasha Donovan (Métis), and published by Millbrook Press.

“Learning My Rights with Mousewoman,” written and illustrated by Morgan Asoyuf (Ts’msyen), and published by Native Northwest. 

“I Sang You Down From the Stars,” written by Tasha Spillet-Sumner (Cree and Trinidadian), illustrated by Michaela Goade (Tlingit & Haida), and published by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, a division of Hachette Book Group.

“We Are Still Here! Native American Truths Everyone Should Know,” written by Traci Sorell (Cherokee), illustrated by Frané Lessac, and published by Charlesbridge Publishing, Inc. / Live Oak Media. 

The 2022 American Indian Youth Literature Award winner for best Middle Grade Book is “Healer of the Water Monster,” written by Brian Young (Diné), cover art by Shonto Begay (Diné), and published by Heartdrum, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers. 

When Nathan goes to visit his grandma, Nali, at her mobile home on the Navajo reservation, he knows he’s in for a summer with no running water and no electricity. That’s okay, though. 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 something extraordinary. A Holy Being from the Navajo Creation Story – a Water Monster – in need of help. Together, Nathan and the Water Monster named Pond must figure out how to cure the mysterious illness that plagues Pond. With the help of other Navajo Holy Beings, Nathan is determined to save his new friend – and help Uncle Jet heal from his own pain. With electric adventure and powerful love, Brian Young’s debut novel tells the tale of a seemingly ordinary boy who realizes he’s a hero at heart.

The committee selected five Middle School Book Honor(s) titles including:

“Ella Cara Deloria: Dakota Language Protector,” written by Diane Wilson (Dakota), illustrated by Tashia Hart (Red Lake Anishinaabe), and published by Minnesota Humanities Center. 

“Indigenous Peoples’ Day,” written by Katrina M. Phillips (Red Cliff Band of Lake Superior Ojibwe), and published by Pebble, an imprint of Capstone.

“Jo Jo Makoons: The Used-to-Be Best Friend,” written by Dawn Quigley (Turtle Mountain Band of Ojibwe), illustrated by Tara Audibert (Wolastoqey), and published by Heartdrum, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.

“Peggy Flanagan: Ogimaa Kwe, Lieutenant Governor,” written by Jessica Engelking (White Earth Band of Ojibwe), illustrated by Tashia Hart (Red Lake Anishinaabe), and published by Minnesota Humanities Center.

“The Sea in Winter,” written by Christine Day (Upper Skagit), cover art by Michaela Goade (Tlingit and Haida), and published by Heartdrum, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.

The American Indian Youth Literature Award for best Young Adult Book is “Apple (Skin to the Core),” written by Eric Gansworth (Onondaga), cover art by Filip Peraić, and published by Levine Querido. 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 straddles two worlds. Eric shatters that slur and reclaims it in verse and prose and imagery that truly lives up to the word heartbreaking. 

The award committee selected five Young Adult Book Honor(s) including:

“Elatsoe,” written by Darcie Little Badger (Lipan Apache Tribe), cover art and illustrations by Rovina Cai, and published by Levine Querido.

“Firekeeper’s Daughter,” written by Angeline Boulley (Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians), cover art by Moses Lunham (Ojibway and Chippewa), and published by Henry Holt and Company, an imprint of MacMillan Children’s Publishing Group.

 “Hunting by Stars,” written by Cherie Dimaline (Metis Nation of Ontario), cover art by Stephen Gladue (Fishing Lake Métis Settlement), and published by Amulet Books, an imprint of ABRAMS. 

“Notable Native People: 50 Indigenous Leaders, Dreamers, and Changemakers from Past and Present,” written by Adrienne Keene (Cherokee Nation), illustrated by Ciara Sana (Chamoru), and published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House. 

“Soldiers Unknown,” written by Chag Lowry (Yurok, Maidu and Achumawi), illustrated by Rahsan Ekedal, and published by Great Oak Press.  

Members of the American Indian Youth Literature Award are AILA President Aaron LaFromboise, Blackfeet Nation, Browning, Montana; Chair Vanessa 'Chacha' Centeno, Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, Sacramento, California; Co-Chair Anne Heidemann, Mount Pleasant, Michigan; Lara Aase, San Marcos, California; Catherine Anton Baty, Big Sandy Rancheria, Austin, Texas; Naomi Bishop, Akimel O’odham, Tucson, Arizona; Joy Bridwell, Chippewa Cree Tribe, Box Elder, Montana; Erin Hollingsworth, Utqiaġvik, Alaska; Janice Kowemy, Laguna Pueblo, New Mexico; Sunny Day Real Bird, Apsaalooke Crow Tribe, Billings, Montana; and Allison Waukau, Menominee and Navajo, Minneapolis, Minnesota. 

The American Indian Library Association is a membership action group that addresses the library-related needs of American Indians and Alaska Natives. Members are individuals and institutions interested in the development of programs to improve library cultural and informational services in school, public, and academic libraries. AILA is committed to disseminating information about Indian cultures, languages, values, and traditions to the library community.