Among this year's crop of Alaskan children's books are two books by Fairbanks author Judy Ferguson, illustrated by Nikola Kocic. "Alaska's Secret Door" tell the story of a young boy who calls the banks of the Tanana River home, and how he and his family follow a toy boat he carved down the Tanana and up the Yukon River, meeting people and wildlife along the way. The story effortlessly weaves Alaska history, geography, and traditional ways of life into the trip on board the small, three-person canoe.
"Alaska's Little Chief" lets us meet 93-year-old Athabascan David Salmon who recalls memories of his childhood - going by dogsled with his father to learn how to trap and hunt; when the mission house burned down; and when he and his sister met his father's new wife for the first time.
Deb Vanasse's "Under Alaska's Midnight Sun" tell a story about the excitement that surrounds the longest day of the year above the Arctic Circle, through the experiences of a young girl who will, for the first time, get to stay up and celebrate the never-ending day for the first time. Jeremiah Trammell's illustrations combine realistic portraits of wildlife and scenery with cute, bigheaded children who just breathe joy and excitement. It made a test-audience in the capital city insist on the necessity of going to Barrow for the summer solstice.
"Alaska Animal Babies," also by Vanasse, with photographs by Gavriel Jecan, is a perfect starter book for preschoolers or beginner readers with a love for animals. The photos show the playfulness of polar bear cubs and wolf pups, mergansers hitching a ride on their mom's back and a musk ox calf looking skeptical, if not frightened. The brief texts that accompany the animal photos give nuggets of knowledge that will stick with reading children just because it's so brief.
Judy Ferguson: "Alaska's Secret Door" Illustrated by Nikola Kocic. Glas Publishing, 2004; Judy Ferguson: "Alaska's Little Chief" Illustrated by Nikola Kocic. April 2005.
Deb Vanasse: Under Alaska's Midnight Sun. Illustrated by Jeremiah Trammell. Sasquatch Books, 2005; Deb Vanasse & Gavriel Jecan: "Alaska Animal Babies", Sasquatch Books, 2005.