N.W.T. author pens children's book based on Dene legend

Yellowknife author Christal Taylor and Edmonton illustrator Carla Rae Taylor at a reading of their children's book, 'How Raven Turned Black,' at the Yellowknife Book Cellar in December. (Submitted by Christal Doherty - image credit)
Yellowknife author Christal Taylor and Edmonton illustrator Carla Rae Taylor at a reading of their children's book, 'How Raven Turned Black,' at the Yellowknife Book Cellar in December. (Submitted by Christal Doherty - image credit)

An Indigenous N.W.T. author and an Alberta-based artist have again teamed up to create a children's picture book based on a Dene legend.

Author Christal Doherty and illustrator Carla Rae Taylor published their first book together, How Raven Returned the Sun, in 2016.

Their follow-up book, How Raven Turned Black, has just been released and the two creators are now hoping to visit some communities in the Sahtu to deliver copies.

"Carla and I, we've been talking about wanting to get some of the history, the legends, the Dene legends out into the world, into the communities, into the school system," said Doherty, a Yellowknife teacher and writer originally from Délı̨nę.

She said not everybody can have the opportunity to sit with elders to hear these stories.

"So I thought that maybe a book version would be like a better way to get these stories out... so that they just, you know, don't die off," she said.

NWT Cultural Society
NWT Cultural Society

How Raven Turned Black tells the story of how the animals were first given their colours. Raven tries to reserve the most beautiful colours for himself, until the other birds find out and hatch a plan.

Doherty said she first heard a longer version of the tale, told by Charles Neyelle of Délı̨nę. She decided to adapt just the first part of the story, and also to use it as a way to teach some words for different colours and plants.

"I wanted this story to be geared towards younger children, and so I think the second half was a little bit more for an older audience. So I just made some adaptations and changed a few things," she said.

The 24-page book is written in both Englsh and Dene Kede and it's been published by the non-profit NWT Cultural Society.

Taylor, originally from Yellowknife but now based in Edmonton, said it was exciting to create the colourful illustrations.

"I really love that [Doherty] incorporated some plants and colours and the Dene language," Taylor said.

"It was so fun to create the images for the story. There's a lot of colour and kind of playful characters."

Taylor and Doherty hope to visit some communities in the Sahtu in January to bring copies of the book and offer readings. The book is also now for sale in Yellowknife.