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Remembering Alaska

2011 January 4

     The holidays are over when the kids (and teachers) go back to school. But not quite. There are  still cards to look through, Christmas messages that warm my heart.  There’s always one from Alaska. Dawn and I keep in touch each year, ever since the fall I spent speaking  in the Bering Strait School District.

     That year, Jim and I flew in small planes to stay in some of the villages with  magic names like Teller, Nome, St. Michael., Stebbins… One village was Brevig Mission where we were told the first outsiders brought diphtheria. All the village adults died, but many children lived. The minister Brevig founded an orphanage there for them.

   In another village,  Teachers dressed us warmly in parkas and mukluks. They   took us out in an open boat on Norton Sound to look for a whale they believed had been caught in a net. 

     In Shishmaref,  we were introduced to Herbie Nayukpuk  who ran the Iditarod and came in third more than once.. Herbie showed us his dogs, beautiful creatures with faces like masks.  Dawn made us a moose dinner that tasted like my mother’s pot roast.  We had muktuk beautifully arranged around a hill of salt.

     In Unalakleet, Roz treated us to crimson tundra berries and made sure we had jars of it to take home. Her wishes will appear any day now; they always do.

     The wonder of that visit to the villages, were the children who met us at each runway. They knew my books, they knew my characters, they talked about my plots. They held my hands, and when I left, they presented me with woven baskets with their names inside. “Remember me,” they kept saying. I still  keep those baskets  in my office where I can see them every day.

     I tuck Dawn’s card up in my office, too. When the writing is hard, I look at the picture of her family and  open those baskets to read the children’s names. I do remember them. I still write for them.

2 Responses leave one →
  1. Ronald L. Hughes permalink
    January 5, 2011

    Mrs. Giff

    My four classes of seventh grade are reading your novel, pictures of hollis woods. The school at which I teach is located in southeastern North Carolina. We are a rural county and, according to data, are the second poorest in N.C. Foster children and the issues associated with them are a reality for our county. I was a “big brother” to a foster child while in college in the late seventies. This particular novel is a good one to delve into because it is so prevalent in our county.

    We will be studying the novel for about two weeks, concluding around Friday, January 14. One of the activities is to keep you updated withour movement through the book. I would like for each of my four classes to send you a blog while we read the novel. I believe it would be of great benefit for the students to have opportunity to converse with the author firsthand. Our first foray into the “blogasphere’ will be Thursday, January 6. I am sending you this now to inform of what we are attempting to do. If you read this before 8:00 Thursday, Jan 6, please e-mail me to let me know your receptivity to this activity. The book is riveting and I am confident the students would like to dialogue with its author.

  2. January 10, 2011

    Dear Mrs. Giff

    The Dana Parent Child Book Club is meeting this Thursday evening, January 13, 2011 at Dana Middle School Library and we have selected for this month 2 of your books, “Eleven” and “Storyteller”. We were wondering if you would like to join us, we meet at 6:30 PM?

    We are a 5th and 6th grade Middle School in San Diego, CA. Our book club meets once a month in the evenings. We are in our 9th year of the club.

    If you could join us via Skype or on speaker phone for just a little while we would really appreciate it. I know this is last minute and I will understand if you are not available.

    Thank you.

    Barbara Forster
    Dana Middle School
    1775 Chatsworth Blvd.
    San Diego, CA 92016

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