Pandemic parenting the perfect topic for new picture book
In normal times, Tasha Spillett-Sumner's daughter, Isabella, would be raised within the community — regularly seeing grandparents, aunties and uncles in large kinship systems.
But having a child during the pandemic made for a unique challenge, and one Spillett-Sumner wanted to write about.
I Sang You Down From the Stars is Spillett-Sumner's latest book, due out in April, and is for little ones and new parents alike, to help recognize the unique situation of parenting during a pandemic.
"It's a way for me to reach out to them and share this very special experience, but an experience that we are now having in a way that we never imagined we would have," she said.
We're not frozen in time. We're not something of the past.- Tasha Spillett-Sumner
Spillett-Sumner is Afro-Indigenous and wanted to include Black and Indigenous people in the illustrations to ensure children like her daughter feel represented in the pages they read.
She also included traditional elements — like an eagle feather, cedar and sage — to emphasize the importance of ceremony in Indigenous communities.
"It's important for Indigenous children and non-Indigenous children to see that these are living cultures, these are living understandings, and we practise them each and every day in any space that we're in," Spillett-Sumner said.
"We're not frozen in time. We're not something of the past."
The illustrations were done by Tlingit artist Michaela Goade, who weaved some of Spillett-Sumner's personal life into the illustrations. Some of the faces seen in the book are her loved ones.
Goade won the Caldecott Medal, a prestigious award given to one children's book illustrator every year, for the book We Are Water Protectors.
The representation is for the little ones, and she hopes new parents can connect with the book in understanding that despite the isolation caused by the pandemic, they aren't alone.
"I really hope it finds the hands and hearts of people who are desperately seeking communities of care and really grieving the ways in which we imagined our children would be celebrated and welcomed by our communities," Spillett-Sumner said.
"I hope that in this sacred and tender time that this book finds families who are wanting and yearning for that community to raise their children within."