The book I Can Make This Promise by Christine Day came out on October 1, 2019, so it was especially exciting for Kulshan Middle School’s library media specialist Adam Shaffer to have scheduled a visit with the author this spring. With the pandemic closure, however, Day’s visit took place online instead of in person.
We asked Shaffer for some context about this author and why this story is a very compelling read. Following these short questions and answers here, you can watch the Christine Day Q and A video linked below. Questions to the author were submitted by current Kulshan sixth and seventh graders.
Why did you choose this author and this book?
Shaffer: I chose this author and this book for my first author visit for many reasons. First, Indigenous authors are some of the most underrepresented in publishing for young people. It is important to lift up and center these voices. Christine Day is also from our region, is a member of the Upper Skagit nation, and her book is set in the Seattle area. It is important to read stories by and about our neighbors (and kids love a personal connection to a story through recognizable settings). Seventh grade studies Washington State history and Indigenous cultures, so there is even a curricular connection, as well. We had already set up the visit when it was announced, but a little bonus was Ms. Day’s American Indian Youth Literature Honor Award for her book!
What are some of the themes in it that resonate with middle school students?
Shaffer: I Can Make This Promise is about a girl, Edie, navigating friendships, family and personal identity, and everyday middle school life, such as braces. These are universal for middle school students, and readers can identify with Edie’s struggles. It is also important that students identify with the universal aspects of Edie’s life, while also recognizing that some of her experiences are unique to her Indigenous ancestry. We are the same, and we are different, and both those similarities and differences should be valued and celebrated. Kids understand this, sometimes better than adults.
Can you name some similar titles that might also fit the category that this book might fall in?
ShafferTwo excellent books that can help kids understand the history and experiences of Indigenous people are Indian No More, by Traci Sorell and Charlene Willing McManis, and An Indigenous People’s History of the United States for Young People, by Debbie Reese, Jean Mendoza, and Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz. We have them both in the Kulshan Library.
Watch the Q and A with Christine Day,moderated by Adam Shaffer here:
While this was Shaffer’s first ever author visit during his tenure at Kulshan, in the future, he hopes to schedule at least one author visit each year. “Connecting with an author face-to-face, hearing about their stories and challenges and successes, is incredibly powerful for students,” he says.