Over half a million children will soon receive a copy of Monique Gray Smith’s bestselling 2016 book My Heart Fills With Happiness (Orca Books). The Canadian Children’s Book Centre has chosen Gray Smith’s book for its annual TD Grade One Book Giveaway. From The Tyee:
My Heart Fills With Happiness encourages children to reflect on what makes them happy by thinking about elements of Indigenous culture, and its success is a milestone for Indigenous representation in Canadian publishing. The books to be gifted to students are dual language, featuring English or French alongside the Cree words.
The story is lovely and well-crafted. Julie Flett’s illustrations are charming. But it is the very inclusiveness of the book that truly sets it apart.
Publisher Andrew Wooldridge of Orca Book Publishers said it was one of the most satisfying books his company has ever released.
“We’ve sold rights to a couple of different countries, and it’s done very well,” he said. Wooldridge also thinks that’s because of its simple, but meaningful message.
“Being able to do this in Cree has been really important for us, and that we are able to get it out there even more widely so people can see it in the language that Monique identifies with,” he added.
Acknowledging there are many other Indigenous languages in Canada, the publisher offered to make room on each page for families to add additional languages.
Gray Smith said that only “one per cent of the books in North America in 2018 had children who were Indigenous in them.” That’s why she and illustrator Flett agreed to be part of the TD Bank-sponsored giveaway.
“I think it’s very important that children see themselves on the pages, and that non-Indigenous children see us on the pages, too,” Smith said.
The full story is here.