Flett’s success at B.C. Book Prizes unprecedented
November 02nd, 2017
Vancouver-based Cree/Metis author, visual artist, and illustrator Julie Flett has done it again. Set in the Nicola Valley, with text by Nicola I. Campbell, A Day with Yayeh (Tradewind 2017), illustrated by Julie Flett, has been shortlisted for the Christie Harris Illustrated Children’s Literature Prize. It’s a picture book about a girl who spends a day gathering edibles such as herbs and mushrooms with her grandmother from the world around her.
Formerly of Penticton, Flett is easily one of the most successful book illustrators in B.C. you’ve never heard of–and her success at the annual B.C. Book Prizes is unprecedented.
First, Flett provided illustrations for Earl Einarson’s children’s story, The Moccasins (Theytus, 2004), winner of the Christie Harris Illustrated Children’s Literature Prize. [See Earl Einarson entry]. Then she won the Christie Harris Illustrated Children’s Literature Prize in 2011 for her picture book, Owls See Clearly at Night: A Michif Alphabet (Lii Yiiboo Nayaapiwak lii Swer: L’alfabet di Michif) (Simply Read Books 2010). It was also shortlisted for the Governor General’s Award for Children’s Literature and nominated for the Neustadt Prize.
Flett received her second Christie Harris Illustrated B.C. Book Prize in April of 2015 for Dolphin SOS (Tradewind 2014), co-authored with Roy Miki and Slavia Miki. Based on true events, Dolphin SOS recounts the story of three dolphins trapped in an ice-covered cove on the coast of Newfoundland. After the government fails to provide assistance, some young boys take matters into their own hands in order to save the distressed dolphins. Dolphin SOS was also nominated for the Marilyn Baillie Picture Book Award 2015 and was cited with an honourable mention for the 2015 Amelia Frances Howard-Gibbon Illustrator’s Award.
In 2017, the B.C. Book Prize that stresses the role of the illustrator, the Christie Harris Illustrated Children’s Literature Prize, was presented to author Monique Gray Smith—who contributed 71 words of text—and illustrator Julie Flett for their collaboration on My Heart Fills With Happiness (Orca). Both appeared on stage but Gray Smith did all the talking. No mention was made of the fact that it was Flett’s third win in that category in seven years.
Recently Flett won yet another major literary prize — a Governor General’s Award for Children’s Literatue for When We Were Alone (HighWater Press / Portage & Main Press) with text by David Alexander Robertson.
When We Were Alone by Flett and Robertson is about a young girl who helps tend to her grandmother’s garden, but begins to notice things about her grandmother that make her curious. Why does her grandmother have long braided hair and wear beautifully coloured clothing? Why does she speak another language and spend so much time with her family? As she asks her grandmother about these things, she is told about life in a residential school a long time ago, where everything was taken away. When We Were Alone is a story ultimately about empowerment and strength.
Flett’s When We Were Alone had already won the McNally Robinson Book for Young People Award; received Honourable Mention for the Alcuin Society Children’s Award; was chosen for CCBC Choices 2017 picture books for school-age children best-of-the-year list by the Cooperative Children’s Book Center; was selected by The Canadian Children’s Book Centre for Best Books for Kids & Teens and signified as a title of exceptional caliber; and as was designated one of Bank Street College of Education Best Children’s Books of the Year.
When We Were Alone was also a finalist for the TD Canadian Children’s Literature Award organized by The Canadian Children’s Book Centre. Other books nominated by B.C. authors were The Skeleton Tree (Tundra Books) by Gabriola Island’s Iain Lawrence and A Day of Signs and Wonders by Victoria’s Kit Pearson.
Julie Flett latest book is Black Bear Red Fox: Colours in Cree Board book (Garfinkel Publications). Black Bear Red Fox is a detailed explanation of how colour words work in Cree, from the Cree Literacy Network.
For more on Julie Flett’s extensive list of other literary prizes she’s won, visit ABCBookWorld.