Award-winning illustrator Michaela Goade visits Nome
Award-winning illustrator Michaela Goade visited Nome this week for a meet and greet, a workshop and visits to Nome schools.
Kegoayah Kozga Public Library Director Marguerite La Riviere organized Goade’s trip to Nome.
“When I found out that someone from Alaska won the Caldecott, it’s really very special,’ said La Riviere.
On Sunday afternoon Goade sat with a group of kids and their families in the Katirvik Center and read two of her books aloud. Director of the Katirvik Center, Marjorie Tahbone introduced the author to the group, expressing her honor in hosting an indigenous illustrator who has accomplished so much.
Goade began the meet and greet by introducing herself as a member of the Tlingit & Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska, her Tlingit name is Sheit’een and she is of the Raven and Frog clan from Sheet’ká or Sitka, Alaska.
Coming to Nome from Bethel where she was at another community event, this trip was Goade’s first time to Western Alaska.
“It’s amazing that working on books allows me to travel all across our wonderful state!” Goade said to the smiling faces of children gathered at her feet.
Goade talked to the kids about similarities between Sitka and Nome.
“Even though we live in places far from each other we have a lot in common,” said Goade “Do you like to fish?”
“Yeah!” replied the kids.
“What about berries, do you pick those?” asked Goade
“Yeah!!” the kids cheered.
Goade read Berry Song to the audience, a book she wrote and illustrated which won a Caldecott Honor in 2023.
Goade said Berry Song is the first of a series of books she’s putting out, the song series, about the seasons experienced in Alaska, mainly Sitka.
“I’m really inspired by what we do with our friends and family on the land, so I always want to tell stories about it,” Goade said.
The kids chose Salmon Boy as the next book to be read. After the story Goade answered questions from the kids and families about what it’s like being an illustrator.
She shared that while watercolor is her main medium now, when she started as an illustrator, she had the least experience with it.
“It’s true that you learn more and develop your style with every project,” Goade said.
When she’s illustrating for books she does as much as she can with traditional watercolors and finalizes everything in photoshop. The whole process of drawing for a book can take years, depending on the book and publishing company she’s working with.
Each kid attending the event received a book illustrated by Goade and they lined up to have it signed by her.
On Monday, Goade went to Nome Elementary school to visit classrooms and interact with the kids.
“I love meeting kids, getting interface with them because that’s who it’s really about,” Goade told the Nugget.
On Monday evening Goade led a workshop, in the Katirvik Cultural Center, on writing and illustrating books for children.
Tuesday during the day Goade visited Nome-Beltz Middle and High school and Anvil City Science Academy classes.
About the illustrator
Goade is originally from Juneau but now lives in Sitka. She has illustrated nine picture books, winning the coveted Caldecott Medal in 2021 for her illustrations in the book We Are Water Protectors by Indigenous author Carole Lindstrom. The book tells the story of an Ojibwe girl standing up to the injustice of an oil pipeline contaminating her people’s water.
Goade’s other projects also focus on Indigenous stories. Her illustrations for the book Salmon Boy, an ancient Tlingit story, won the American Indian Youth Literature Award for Best Picture Book in 2018. Goade also illustrated the book for the first Native American U.S. Poet Laureate Joy Harjo’s poem Remember, which came out last March.
“Growing up I was always involved in the arts, but I also did a lot of other things like theater and sports,” Goade told the Nugget.
Goade said she was always trying to meld her left and right brain in her work. She earned a degree in graphic design From Fort Lewis College in Colorado.
After a stint working as a graphic designer in Anchorage post-grad, Goade was feeling homesick and looking to do something more creative and personal.
“Sealaska Heritage was putting out their proposals to the tribe saying ‘Hey, are any of you artists? Do you want to get with us and write books?’” Goade said. She applied and began working for Sealaska Heritage Institute, a Native nonprofit enhancing the cultures of tribes in Southeast Alaska. Goade was working in the early literacy program, Baby Raven Reads, creating award winning visuals for Native stories.
Sealaska proved to be the perfect entry into the illustration world for Goade who said she’d always wanted to work on children’s books. Working with the tribe and creating art around meaningful stories was a great way to start in publishing.
“It’s really important for Native kids to see this is even a career option,” Goade said “Or even that storytelling can look like this in contemporary day and age, because that wasn’t going on when I was a kid.”
Now, Goade is an independent illustrator who has more freedom when choosing projects to work on. If she’s reading an author’s text trying to decide if she wants to illustrate it, she said it has to make her feel something.
Goade told the Nugget her favorite things to draw are seascapes and forests, that’s where she can ‘play’. Goade likes to turn inward when drawing inspiration for her illustrations.
“A lot of my inspiration comes from my daily life like in Sitka and my nephews, things they say and do,” Goade said “I could look through pages [of books she’s worked on] and tell you, oh that was from this hike or that walk or this trip.”
Even though she gets personal when drawing inspiration, Goade doesn’t need that to be obvious to readers, she said she just hopes they can connect with the art.
“The thing about the book world that’s kinda fun is daily life is really just working by yourself and then I’ll go to these big publishing events and it’s gotten me to travel all over and learn about different cultures,” Goade said.
Goade hopes to continue going to communities like Nome, furthering a connection with kids and communities.
“Something unexpected is I started working with authors from other Native nations and I’ve learned a lot more about how their experiences affect their work,” Goade said.
Now she said she has a supportive Native kidlit community across the continent that she’s uplifted by.
After her travels, Goad happily returns to her home in Sitka, surrounded by her family and the environment she loves.
“No matter who you are and what you do, most likely there’s a children’s book you remember from when you were a kid,” Goade said “it’s cool to think someday my books will be that for people.”
The Nome Arts Council and Bering Sea Lions Club contributed to this event, providing funding for 150 of Goade’s books.
This visit was a group effort by the Bering Sea Lions Club, City of Nome, Kegoayah Kozga Public Library, Katirvik Cultural Center, Nome Arts Council, Norton Sound Economic Development Corporation, and University of Anchorage Northwest Campus.