Honoring Alaska's Indigenous Literature
Criteria for analyzing Alaska Native
By Jennie McLean
Is this book truthful and respectful? Would anything in this book
embarrass or hurt a Native child? Is anything in this book
stereotypic thinking in a non-Native child?
NAME OF BOOK: The Year of Miss
BRIEF OVERVIEW OF WHAT THE BOOK IS ABOUT AND WHERE IT COMES FROM?
This book is about a teacher that comes into a
small Indian village on the Yukon River after many teachers have come
and gone. The children in the village are all wondering how long this
teacher is going to stay.
WHAT REGION OR TRIBAL GROUP IS THIS BOOK PORTRAYING?
I know the author of this book and she was a
teacher and has lived in the village of Ruby for many years. I
believe she is writing this story about the Yukon River area around
Ruby down to Nulato. This group of Indians belongs to the Doyon
Region and each village has there own tribe. The front cover of the
book shows the school house with the name Koyukuk School above the
door. This is a very small village on the Yukon River between Galena
and Nulato. The first school was built in 1939 in Koyukuk and today
91% of the village is Native. In 2003 there were 22 students
attending the school.
FRONT COVER OF BOOK AND ILLUSTRATOR: Cover
illustration copyright 2000 by Peter Knorr. Looked on the internet to
find more information on Peter Knorr but couldn't find any. The
picture on the cover seems to depict the children in that year of
1948 correctly. I looked at pictures of my grandmother and the
dresses and such seem to be depicted correctly.
INFORMATION FROM BOOK SELLERS SUCH AS AMAZON OR OTHERS ON WHAT THE
BOOK IS PORTRAYING: This is what was stated in
the information on this book in the Amazon Book Order on the
... Touching Story of Miss Agnes--A Pattern for
Teaching Miss Agnes is the first teacher who doesn't
repel at the smell of fish....okay, so she has sinus problems and
can't smell very well. She ...
AWARDS GIVEN FOR BOOK:
IRA Notable Book for a Global Society
A Junior Library Guild Selection
ABA Kids' Pick of the Lists
Smithsonian Notable Book for Children
Riverbank Review Children's Book of Distinction finalist
A School Library Journal Best Book
AUTHOR: Kirkpatrick Hill
Good points: 'Kirkpatrick Hill was raised in
Fairbanks, Alaska. She graduated from Syracuse University with majors
in English and education, and for the past thirty years has been an
elementary school teacher, spending most of her time in one-room
schoolhouses in the Alaskan "bush". Her two previous books,
Toughboy and Sister and Winter Camp, also take place in
the Alaskan wilderness and have been immensely popular both in the
United States and abroad."
Bad points: About the Author was short and
sweet. It could of gave more information on where she got the story
from is it from a story of a family that actually went through
Good points: The picture on the front cover
I thought depicted the school house and the children of the village
very well. That is how they dressed during that time. I asked my
cousin Colleen Stickman and she said that is what the children looked
like then by the pictures that she seen of her mother as a young
Bad points: It gave the name of the
illustrator of the front cover but did not give any information about
him and his work at drawing. Did he follow a picture of children
during this time would have been nice to know.
Information about Illustrator: stated above
in the illustrations section.
INFORMATION FROM AN ELDER FAMILIAR WITH THIS TIME AND PLACE?
I asked my cousin who has lived in the village
of Nulato her whole life except to go to college. She would know
about how they lived during this time because her mother Dorothy
Sommer grew up during that time here in the village of Nulato and it
is only 33 miles from Koyukuk.
PRONUNCIATION OF NATIVE WORDS IN BOOK: could they sound out the
words by showing it in parentheses ( ).
Hill used a few words in the Athabascan
language and it would have been nice if she had in parentheses how to
sound out the words. If a teacher was to read this story out loud to
a class she would not know how to say some of the words because this
was not done in this book. She did however explain what each word
meant in the story after it was used.
LOOK AT PICTURES:
Properly illustrating what the book is about and the people that it
LOOK FOR STEREOTYPES:
Look at both the writings and pictures to see if they are
stereotyping the culture which the book is about.
LOOK FOR LOADED WORDS:
Are racist adjectives used to refer to Native peoples? Is language
used as to insult Native peoples? Is the language respectful?
LOOK FOR TOKENISM
Are Native people depicted as stereotypically alike, or do they just
look just like whites with brown faces? Are they depicted as genuine
LOOK FOR DISTORTION OF HISTORY
Is the time and place of the history in the story correct? Does it
depict the right clothing, language, and way of life for that time
and place in history? Is the U.S. government only "trying to help"?
Are there Native heroes who are admired because of what they have
done for their own people? Are they elders shown as people that were
greatly respected by the community?
LOOK AT THE LIFESTYLES
Are Native cultures presented in a condescending manner? Are there
paternalistic distinctions between "them" and "us"?
Are the Natives in the book respected and does it show respect for
the complexity of their societies, values, religions, morals and
connection to past and present?
LOOK FOR STANDARDS OF SUCCESS
Are the Natives portrayed as a helpless and
less of a person compared to a priest, teacher, or other non Native
person that seems to know what is "good for them" (the Natives).The
story was very well written. The students were shown as excited about
learning in the school setting. The part that was upsetting to me in
the book was the little girl Fred saying that her mother was angry
about the children going to school because she couldn't seek English.
It says in the book on page 14, "I
was so happy to be going to school again. Mamma was mad. She was
slamming things around. She didn't see the use of school. It made
her mad to have me gone all day when I could be helping her at
home." I remember people back in
these days as being gentle and patient with children. My cousin
Dorothy said that Grandma encouraged the children to go to school and
learn the English language but Grandma only spoke to them at the
house in Indian. I think it is sending the wrong message here to
children about the mother seeing no use in children attending
LOOK AT THE ROLE OF WOMEN, MEN AND ELDERS
Do the women do all the work? Are the men lazy? Are the elders
treated with respect or are they looked upon as a burden to the
people? Are the customs of the elders valued?
LOOK AT THE EFFECTS ON A CHILD'S SELF-IMAGE
Is there anything in the story that would hurt or embarrass a Native
child? Are there one or more role models with whom a Native child can
identify? Are the children encouraged to succeed by their elders and
OVERALL VIEW OF THE BOOK AND RATED BETWEEN 1 -
I really love all the books that Kirkpatrick
Hill has written. There were a few things that I would change but
that is my opinion. I feel that this is an excellent book and should
be used in the classroom. She depicted the Native people very
accurately for that time and she did not jump back and forth like
other books that I have read, that would change from different times
and apparel and such. I have read this to all the different age
groups here in Nulato and all the children love this series of books.
I would rate this book on a scale of 1 - 10 as an 8 or 9.
The book reviews are a result of students enrolling in special topics course
Ed 493 Examining Alaska Children's Literature taught by Esther A. Ilutsik
in the Spring of 2004.
The book reviews are written by the students and are a reflection of their
own analysis of the books and have not been altered in any way. The reviewers
have given permission to share the book reviews on the HAIL website.