Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Books for the Alaska State Museum's Discovery Room

The Discovery Room in the Alaska State Museum is home to the good ship Discovery, and is a space where kids can explore, create, and discover Alaska's art and culture. The Museum's curatorial and exhibits teams are continually adding new treasures to this room, including kid-centered exhibits, dress-up clothes, activities, and books, so if you came by last summer and didn't see enough for kids, come on back and check it out.
A rare quiet moment in the kids' Discovery Room at the Alaska State Museum.

Before we opened, the Museum's Visitor Services Manager asked me for help selecting 40 books that would be entertaining and educational for kids, teens, and their adults. Challenge accepted! I borrowed piles of books from libraries around the state, read reviews in Library Journal, School Library Journal, Booklist, Publisher's Weekly, and Kirkus Reviews on Academic Search Premier, and asked other librarians for advice.

Here are the books that we selected, with links to Alaska's Joint Library Catalog where available.
  • Alaska's First People by Judy Ferguson.
  • Animal: The Definitive Visual Guide edited by David Burnie and Don E. Wilson. This huge animal encyclopedia has facts and habitat maps about animals from around the world. I would have loved this book as an 8-year old.
  • Anna's Athabaskan Summer by Arnold Griese, illustrated by Charles Rabin.
  • Arctic Lights, Arctic Nights by Debbie Miller, illustrated by Jon Van Zyle.
  • Are Those Animals Real? by Judy Cutchins and Ginny Johnston. The Wonderwall exhibit at the Museum's entrance contains taxidermy of Alaskan animals, and explaining them has been a challenge for Museum staff. This book provides kid-friendly information about preparing animals for exhibit.
    The Wonder Wall exhibit of Alaskan animals at the Alaska State Museum.
    Talking with kids about Alaskan animals is fun, but answering the question, "Are these animals dead?" can be awkward.
  • Benny's Flag by Phyllis Krasilovsky, illustrated by Jim Fowler. The story of Alaska's state flag, designed by thirteen-year old Benny Benson in 1927. The illustrator is a Juneau artist whose work is in the Alaska State Museum's collection, along with Benny's original entry.
  • Berry Magic by Terri Sloat.
  • Big Alaska by Debbie Miller, illustrated by Jon Van Zyle.
  • Big Enough Anna, by Pam Flowers, illustrated by Bill Farnsworth. This true story about the author's solo journey in the polar north features a little dog who became the lead dog, and is a favorite of our former director.
  • Born to Run: Athletes of the Iditarod, by Albert Lewis. Everyone likes a dog portrait, and the sled dogs and their mushers featured in this coffee table book are full of character.
  • Carrying on Irregardless: Humour in Contemporary Northwest Coast Art, by the Bill Reid Gallery of Northwest Coast Art.
  • Charlie and the Blanket Toss, by Tricia "Nuyaqik" Brown, illustrated by Sarah "Anuyaq" Martinsen.
  • A Child's Alaska, by Claire Rudolph Murphy, photographed by Charles Mason.
  • Children of the Midnight Sun, by Tricia Brown, photographed by Roy Corral.
  • A Children's Guide to Arctic Birds, by Mia Pelletier, illustrated by Danny Christopher. This beautifully illustrated Canadian title, published in Nunavut, includes scientific illustrations and Inuktitut words for many birds featured in the Museum's exhibits.
  • Dance on a Sealskin, by Barbara Winslow, illustrated by Terri Sloat. Our exhibits curator loved the illustrations of a young girl wearing a Yup'ik dance outfit with headdress, parka, boots, and dance fans, as she danced for the first time.
    Dance fans and drums like these are featured in the book Dance on a Sealskin.
  • Eye of the Needle by Terri Sloat and Betty Huffmon. 
  • Frog Girl by Paul Owen Lewis. Historical Librarian Sorrel Goodwin recognized Frog Girl as an example of balancing old and new traditions in storytelling and visual art in his webinar, "Selecting children's literature that accurately depict Native experiences."
  • Gone Again, Ptarmigan, by Jonathan London, illustrated by Jon Van Zyle.
  • Great Serum Race, by Debbie Miller, illustrated by Jon Van Zyle. 
  • Heroes and Heroines in Tlingit-Haida Legend, by Mary Beck.
  • How Raven Stole the Sun, by Maria Williams, illustrated by Felix Vigil.
  • I Would Tuck You In, by Sarah Asper-Smith, illustrated by Mitch Watley.
  • Kitaq Goes Ice Fishing, by Margaret Nicolai, illustrated by Dave Rubin. 
  • The Lamp, the Ice, and a Boat called Fish, by Jacqueline Briggs Martin, illustrated by Beth Krommes. The story of the Karluk expedition to explore the polar north in 1913, with an emphasis on the Inupiaq family who helped the explorers survive.
  • Lucy's Dance, by Deb Vanasse, illustrated by Nancy Slagle.
  • Mammoths and Mastodons: Titans of the Ice Age, by Cheryl Bardoe. Developed in conjunction with an exhibit at Chicago's Field Museum, this book introduces readers to these fascinating animals that once roamed Alaska. The Museum's orientation area features an unusual display of mammoth tusks.
    Mammoth tusks in the orientation area are beautifully displayed but can be out of context for kids.
  • My Wilderness: An Alaskan Adventure, by Claudia McGehee. Rockwell Kent, the renowned painter and woodblock printer, spent a winter on Fox Island in 1918-1919 with his son Rocky. This illustrated account is told from Rocky's point of view.
  • North, the Amazing Story of Arctic Migration, by Nick Dowson, illustrated by Patrick Benson. Sara Lee, our resident Science-on-a-Sphere expert, is working on creating customized datasets that relate to this book.
  • The Raven and the Totem, by John Smelcer. One of the Museum's most popular publications series were booklets of Alaska Native myths and legends. This book compiles the stories into a single collection.
  • Recess at 20 Below, by Cindy Lou Aillaud. Created by a P.E. teacher from Delta Junction, this photo book shows Alaskan kids getting ready for recess in all weather.
  • Solomon's Tree, by Andrea Spalding, illustrated by Janet Wilson and Victor Reece. Based on a true story about a Tsimshian boy and his uncle who create a mask out of a log from the boy's favorite tree.
  • Stickeen: John Muir and the Brave Little Dog, adapted by Donnell Rubay, illustrated by Christopher Canyon. The true story of John Muir's dog, Stickeen, is a perennial favorite for Alaskan visitors, and this version is adapted for young readers with beautiful illustrations.
  • Tattoo Traditions of Native North America: Ancient and Contemporary Expressions of Identity, by Lars Krutak. Selected specifically for teenage visitors, this book explores traditional tattoos around the world and accompanies the tattoo brushes on display in the Clan House exhibit.
    Tattoo brushes, face stamp, and other adornments are on exhibit in the Clan House.
  • Ten Rowdy Ravens, by Susan Ewing, illustrated by Evon Zerbetz. Zerbetz is the creator of We Are Written in the Layers of the Earth, the large glass mural in our Reading Room, and her bold, colorful style is reflected in this fun counting book.
    We Are Written in the Layers of the Earth by Evon Zerbetz, is the centerpiece of the Library and Archives area on the second floor.
  • Togo, by Robert Blake. Everyone knows the story of Balto, but Leonhard Seppala's lead dog Togo was every bit as heroic during the serum run that inspired the Iditarod.
  • Whale Snow, by Debbie Dahl Edwardson, illustrated by Annie Patterson.
  • Whaling Season, by Peter Lourie. Profiles John George, a scientist studying bowhead whales in Utqiagvik.
  • Wild Tracks! A Guide to Nature's Footprints, by Jim Arnosky. Kids in Alaska have the opportunity to see a lot of animal tracks, and this book contains actual size illustrations of a variety of animals.
  • Yak and Gnu, by Juliette MacIver, illustrated by Cat Chapman. Although neither of the title animals are found in Alaska, this fun rhyming book introduces readers to different watercraft, including kayaks and canoes, which are featured prominently in the Museum's exhibits.
    Model watercraft, including a kayak like Yak's and a canoe like Gnu's. Full-size versions are on display throughout the Museum.
This is just a sample of the great Alaska children's books out there. If you've got a favorite that's not on this list, please share!

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