Ann Dallman on ‘Cady and the Birchbark Box’

Ann Dallman’s children’s novel Cady and the Bear Necklace by Modern History Press won the 2022 State History Award in the Children & Youth category.

For the Modern History Press, the Cady series serves two main goals of the press-focusing more locally on issues in its home state of Michigan, and telling the stories of minorities in contemporary society, including Native American women. – NewsBlaze

Ann Dallman tells RTS what inspired the book and how she sees it inspiring a positive change in the young reader’ mind.

Cady image

Image @ Modern History Press

What inspired the creation of Cady’s character?

Cady is a compilation of the many students who passed through my classroom during the 15 years I taught on the Hannahville Indian Reservation in Wilson, MI. My students asked me to write a book for them and about them. The Cady books are the realization of that. I also liked the idea of making my main character female and one who dealing with many challenges at home, at school, and within herself.

Was the idea for the story (plot) conceived before the character of Cady, or other way around?

Once I decided to write, Cady became real to me. When writing, I felt as if the words were hers as she told her story. The idea for my second book, Cady and the Birchbark Box, came to me the same way the idea for my first book, Cady and the Bear Necklace, did—via a gift. I was inspired by a birchbark basket given to me by a friend, a member of the Sault Ste. Marie Chippewa tribe. She made the traditional-style basket which is bound with sweetgrass and has tiny acorns attached. And, shipwrecks! My father was a boat builder by profession and I set out in boats with him before I learned to walk. I’m fascinated with sailing history and the bravery of the people who venture forth on the Great Lakes for a living.

How is your book meant to inspire a positive change in the young reader’s mind?

One of the finest compliments I received was from a lovely native woman who said she was giving my first book to her son to teach him “the proper way to treat young women, with respect.” Cady also relies on positive relationships with her grandmother and older brother as she navigates through adolescence. Sports, particularly running, help her balance her emotions. I hope readers will want to explore some of the topics I’ve introduced—birchbark, a respect for the land, and Great Lakes shipping history. Perhaps they’ll visit their local landmarks and those throughout this great state of Michigan. The most difficult part is remaining true to my character’s native culture. I am always cognizant of honoring her traditions in a respectful manner.



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