Congratulations to our OLA Best Bets Winners!

Congratulations to all the authors and illustrators of Orca’s 2020 OLA Best Bets winners!

Grandmother School by Rina Singh, illustrated by Ellen Rooney

Every morning, a young girl walks her grandmother to the Aajibaichi Shala, the school that was built for the grandmothers in her village to have a place to learn to read and write. The narrator beams with pride as she drops her grandmother off with the other aajis to practice the alphabet and learn simple arithmetic. A moving story about family, women and the power of education—when Aaji learns to spell her name you’ll want to dance along with her. 

Women in countless countries continue to endure the limitations of illiteracy. Unjust laws have suppressed the rights of girls and women and kept many from getting an education and equal standing in society. Based on a true story from the village of Phangane, India, this brilliantly illustrated book tells the story of the grandmothers who got to go to school for the first time in their lives.

Powwow: A Celebration through Song and Dance by Karen Pheasant-Neganigwane

Powwow is a celebration of Indigenous song and dance.

Journey through the history of powwow culture in North America, from its origins to the thriving powwow culture of today.

As a lifelong competitive powwow dancer, Karen Pheasant-Neganigwane is a guide to the protocols, regalia, songs, dances and even food you can find at powwows from coast to coast, as well as the important role they play in Indigenous culture and reconciliation.

One Earth: People of Color Protecting Our Planet by Anuradha Rao

One Earth profiles Black, Indigenous and People of Color who live and work as environmental defenders. Through their individual stories, the book shows that the intersection of environment and ethnicity is an asset to achieving environmental goals. The twenty short biographies introduce readers to diverse activists from all around the world, who are of many ages and ethnicities. From saving ancient trees on the West Coast of Canada, to protecting the Irrawaddy dolphins of India, to uncovering racial inequalities in the food system in the United States, these environmental heroes are celebrated by author and biologist Anuradha Rao, who outlines how they went from being kids who cared about the environment to community leaders in their field. One Earth is full of environmental role models waiting to be found.

Heads Up: Changing Minds on Mental Health by Melanie Siebert, illustrated by Belle Wuthrich

Featuring real-life stories of people who have found hope and meaning in the midst of life’s struggles, Heads Up: Changing Minds on Mental Health is the go-to guide for teenagers who want to know about mental health, mental illness, trauma and recovery. For too long, mental health problems have been kept in the shadows, leaving people to suffer in silence, or worse, to be feared, bullied or pushed to the margins of society where survival is difficult.  

This book shines a light on the troubled history of thinking about and treating mental illness and tells the stories of courageous pioneers in the field of psychiatry who fought for more compassionate, respectful and effective treatments. It provides a helpful guide to the major mental health diagnoses along with ideas and resources to support those who are suffering. But it also moves beyond a biomedical focus and considers the latest science that shows how trauma and social inequality impact mental health. The book explores how mental health is more than just “in our heads” and includes the voices of Indigenous people who share a more holistic way of thinking about wellness, balancing mind, body, heart and spirit. Highlighting innovative approaches such as trauma-informed activities like yoga and hip-hop, police mental health teams, and peer support for youth, Heads Up shares the stories of people who are sparking change.

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