2022 AILA Youth Literature Awards Announcement

Three books: Apple skin to the Core, Healer of the Water Monster, and Herizon on a table

For Immediate Release
January 24, 2022

AILA announces 2022 American Indian Youth Literature Awards
CHICAGO — Today American Indian Youth Literature Award winning titles were highlighted during the American Library Association (ALA) Youth Media Awards, the premier announcement of the best of the best in children’s and young adult literature.
Awarded biennially, the award identifies and honors the very best writings and illustrations for youth, by and about Native American and Indigenous peoples of North America. Works selected to receive the award, in picture book, middle grade, and young adult categories, present Native American and Indigenous North American peoples in the fullness of their humanity in present, past and future contexts.


The 2022 American Indian Youth Literature Award winner for best Picture Book is “Herizon,” written by Daniel W. Vandever (Diné), illustrated by Corey Begay (Diné), and published by South of Sunrise Creative. Herizon follows the journey of a Diné girl as she helps her grandmother retrieve a flock of sheep. Join her venture across land and water with the help of a magical scarf that will expand your imagination and transform what you thought possible. The inspiring story celebrates creativity and bravery, while promoting an inclusive future made possible through intergenerational strength and knowledge.

The committee selected five Picture Book Honor(s) titles including:
“Diné Bich’eekę Yishłeeh (Diné Bizaad)/Becoming Miss Navajo (English),” written by Jolyana Begay-Kroupa (Diné), designed by Corey Begay (Diné), and published by Salina Bookshelf, Inc.
“Classified: The Secret Career of Mary Gold Ross, Cherokee Aerospace Engineer,” written by Traci Sorell (Cherokee), illustrated by Natasha Donovan (Métis), and published by Millbrook Press.
“Learning My Rights with Mousewoman,” written and illustrated by Morgan Asoyuf (Ts’msyen), and published by Native Northwest.
“I Sang You Down From the Stars,” written by Tasha Spillet-Sumner (Cree and Trinidadian), illustrated by Michaela Goade (Tlingit & Haida), and published by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, a division of Hachette Book Group.
“We Are Still Here! Native American Truths Everyone Should Know,” written by Traci Sorell (Cherokee), illustrated by Frané Lessac, narrated by a cast of Cherokee, Navajo, Choctaw and Chickasaw Tribal representation, and published by Charlesbridge Publishing, Inc. / Live Oak Media.

The 2022 American Indian Youth Literature Award winner for best Middle Grade Book is “Healer of the Water Monster,” written by Brian Young (Diné), cover art by Shonto Begay (Diné), and published by Heartdrum, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers. When Nathan goes to visit his grandma, Nali, at her home on the Navajo reservation, he knows he’s in for a summer with no running water and no electricity. That’s okay, though. He loves spending time with Nali. One night, Nathan finds something extraordinary, a Holy Being from the Navajo Creation Story – a Water Monster- in need of help. With electric adventure and powerful love, Brian Young’s debut novel tells the tale of a seemingly ordinary boy who realizes he’s a hero at heart.

The committee selected five Middle School Book Honor(s) titles including:
“Ella Cara Deloria: Dakota Language Protector,” written by Diane Wilson (Dakota), illustrated by Tashia Hart (Red Lake Anishinaabe), and published by Minnesota Humanities Center.
“Indigenous Peoples’ Day,” written by Katrina M. Phillips (Red Cliff Band of Lake Superior Ojibwe), and published by Pebble, an imprint of Capstone.
“Jo Jo Makoons: The Used-to-Be Best Friend,” written by Dawn Quigley (Turtle Mountain Band of Ojibwe), illustrated by Tara Audibert (Wolastoqey), and published by Heartdrum, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.
“Peggy Flanagan: Ogimaa Kwe, Lieutenant Governor,” written by Jessica Engelking (White Earth Band of Ojibwe), illustrated by Tashia Hart (Red Lake Anishinaabe), and published by Minnesota Humanities Center.
“The Sea in Winter,” written by Christine Day (Upper Skagit), cover art by Michaela Goade (Tlingit and Haida), and published by Heartdrum, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.

The American Indian Youth Literature Award for best Young Adult Book is “Apple (Skin to the Core),” written by Eric Gansworth (Onondaga), cover art by Filip Peraić, and published by Levine Querido. The term “Apple” is a slur in Native communities across the country. It’s for someone supposedly “red on the outside, white on the inside.” In Apple (Skin to the Core), Eric Gansworth tells his story, the story of his family, of Onondaga among Tuscaroras, of Native folks everywhere. Eric shatters that slur and reclaims it in verse and prose and imagery that truly lives up to the word heartbreaking.

The award committee selected five Young Adult Book Honor(s) including:
“Elatsoe,” written by Darcie Little Badger (Lipan Apache Tribe), cover art and illustrations by Rovina Cai, and published by Levine Querido.
“Firekeeper’s Daughter,” written by Angeline Boulley (Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians), cover art by Moses Lunham (Ojibway and Chippewa), and published by Henry Holt Books for Young Readers / Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group.
“Hunting by Stars,” written by Cherie Dimaline (Metis Nation of Ontario), cover art by Stephen Flaude (Métis), and published by Amulet Books, an imprint of ABRAMS.
“Notable Native People: 50 Indigenous Leaders, Dreamers, and Changemakers from Past and Present,” written by Adrienne Keene (Cherokee Nation), illustrated by Ciara Sana (Chamoru), and published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House.
“Soldiers Unknown,” written by Chag Lowry (Yurok, Maidu and Achumawi), illustrated by Rahsan Ekedal, and published by Great Oak Press.

Members of the American Indian Youth Literature Award jury are AILA President Aaron LaFromboise, Blackfeet Nation, Browning, Montana; Chair Vanessa ‘Chacha’ Centeno, Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, Sacramento, California; Co-Chair Anne Heidemann, Mount Pleasant, Michigan; Lara Aase, San Marcos, California; Catherine Anton Baty, Big Sandy Rancheria, Austin, Texas; Naomi Bishop, Akimel O’odham, Tucson, Arizona; Joy Bridwell, Chippewa Cree Tribe, Box Elder, Montana; Erin Hollingsworth, Utqiaġvik, Alaska; Janice Kowemy, Laguna Pueblo, New Mexico; Sunny Day Real Bird, Apsaalooke Crow Tribe, Billings, Montana; and Allison Waukau, Menominee and Navajo, Minneapolis, Minnesota.

The American Indian Library Association is a membership action group that addresses the library-related needs of American Indians and Alaska Natives. Members are individuals and institutions interested in the development of programs to improve library cultural and informational services in school, public, and academic libraries. AILA is committed to disseminating information about Indian cultures, languages, values, and traditions to the library community. https://ailanet.org/