April 30, 2010
By Kara Briggs, American Indian News Service
NOTE: The National Museum of the American Indian is a Tanka retail partner and offers Tanka products in all of its gift shops and cafes.
Washington, D.C. -- "Meet Christopher: An Osage Indian Boy from Oklahoma" has been named the Best Middle School Book for 2009 by the American Indian Library Association.
Author Genevieve Simermeyer selected her cousin as the focus of the book, the fourth in the My World series published by the Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian. Christopher Cote lives in Skiatook, Okla., a town on the border of the Osage reservation. Simermeyer, who is the museum's school programs manager, and Katherine Fogden, who is a museum photographer and Mohawk, traveled to Oklahoma to document Christopher's life.
"I think what makes him interesting is that he is a lot like every other kid in his school," Simermeyer said. "He's in the band, he likes to play the trombone. He very much has a sense of not having to be only one thing or another. Participating in all the extracurricular activities doesn't impinge on being an Osage person. They are all a part of who he is; he doesn't feel like one thing is more important than the other."
Christopher was 11 when the author began her research by chatting with him on the phone. Producing the book took over two years, and now Christopher is a freshman in high school. Simermeyer said he is proud to be the protagonist, and his family is proud of his willingness to share his life story.
But the book isn't only about a boy, it's also about his multigenerational Osage family. One scene describes Christopher going with his parents and older brother to Osage language class at the library. His family stopped routinely speaking Osage when his great-grandmother was a young girl.
The book explains, "One of our teachers, Mr. Lookout, told us that we are pioneers in re-learning Osage. Our class has people of all ages in it -- kids, teenagers, adults and elders -- and all of us are excited to be hearing and speaking our original language."
Two other books received awards from the American Indian Library Association. Lurline Wailana McGregor's "Between the Deep Blue Sea and Me: A Novel" (Kamehameha Publishing) was named Best Young Adult Book; and Thomas King's "A Coyote Solstice Tale" (Groundwood Books), illustrated by Gary Clement, was named Best Picture Book.
"Meet Christopher: An Osage Indian Boy from Oklahoma" can be purchased by going to the museum's website, at http://AmericanIndian.si.edu/MeetChristopher, or from Council Oak Books at www.counciloakbooks.com.
For more information: National Museum of the American Indian
Posted with permission from the National Museum of the American Indian.
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