Manitoba

Manitoba author's picture book about motherhood, Indigenous tradition makes New York Times bestsellers list

Tasha Spillett-Sumner's picture book I Sang You Down From the Stars tells the story of a new mom who is preparing to welcome her first child into the world with Indigenous traditions.

Tasha Spillett-Sumner's I Sang You Down From the Stars tells the story of Cree mother preparing for her child

Tasha Spillett-Sumner's picture book features illustrations by the award-winning artist Michaela Goade. (Submitted by Tasha Spillett-Sumner)

A Manitoba author's latest book is debuting at No. 3 on a New York Times bestsellers list.

Tasha Spillett-Sumner's picture book I Sang You Down From the Stars is on the American news outlet's list of the current bestselling children's picture books

The book, illustrated by the award-winning Michaela Goade, tells the story of a new mom who is preparing to welcome her first child into the world with Indigenous traditions.

Spillet-Sumner's book just came out last week. On Wednesday, her editor called with the good news.

"I was at home of course nursing our daughter, who is 13 months and teething and quite miserable at the moment. She said I have some really special news for you. You're on the New York Times bestsellers list," Spillett-Sumner said.

"She said, 'For the rest of your life, you'll be there.' I was astonished. I was quite shocked."

Spillett-Sumner and her 13-month-old daughter, Isabella. Spillett-Sumner wrote her children's book while pregnant with Isabella. (Submitted by Tasha Spillett-Sumner)

Spillett-Sumner's daughter, Isabella, was born in early March 2020, just before Manitoba introduced public health orders to stop the spread of COVID-19.

"When I first started writing this book, I was pregnant with our own daughter, and I can't imagine the world she was going to be born into," she said. 

"So I feel like this book is also a way for me to reach out to other new families who are also welcoming new children into this unprecedented time that we could never have imagined."

She also says the meaning of the book for her has changed since she began writing it pre-pandemic.

"For me, it's a look back at a time, because it got swallowed by the pandemic," she said.

"It just allows me to go back to that time with fondness. Although there was a tough go at the beginning, there were a ton of special moments that were captured in the book."

Spillett-Sumner's first children's picture book is now a New York Times bestseller. (Sam Samson/CBC)

Spillett-Sumner, who is Inninewak (Cree) and Trinidadian, says she's proud to have a book for her daughter that reflects her culture.

"I think it's so important that people have access to Indigenous stories that are told from Indigenous people — from our own voices that highlight authentic teachings from our experiences," she said.

"I always say that we're the experts in our own experiences, and own-voice stories in picture books are so important."

While her name is the one on the bestsellers list, she says the book's success is shared by a wider community.

"My mom always says nothing great is accomplished alone and I think that's such an important teaching," she said.

She's especially thankful for "the people who shared traditional knowledge with me, who were part of my pregnancy and who have supported our family through the early part of our parenting," she said.

"This story belongs to our community."

WATCH | Tasha Spillett-Sumner's book hits New York Time's bestseller list:

Manitoba author's picture book about motherhood, Indigenous tradition makes New York Times bestsellers list

CBC News Manitoba

24 days ago
3:12
Tasha Spillett-Sumner's picture book, I Sang You Down From the Stars, debuted at No. 3 on a New York Times list of bestselling children's picture books. 3:12

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