Salmon Summer (book cover)

Salmon Summer

Hardcover: Available

Bruce's Fortieth Book
1998 - Houghton Mifflin
Hardcover ISBN 0-395-84544-0
"Alaskan sky and water in images
that make them characters
all by themselves."
Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books
May 1998
Personal Note / Journal
Tribute to Larry
Awards and Honors
Kodiak Links
Fish Links

"Bruce McMillan has done it again...
Salmon Summer is a perfect addition to
any classroom study of Alaska and its people.."

Education World, June 22, 1998

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Awards and Honors

Parent's Guide Children's Media Award Honor
for Outstanding Achievement in Nonfiction
- 1998

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Personal Note

Moser Bay, Kodiak Island, Alaska

I lived in the cabin on the left.

What's the weather like right now on Kodiak?
The Weather Cam at the Airport
The cabin on the right is the smokehouse, and to the left of that is the steam bath house for banya, steam baths.

I was a guest at this native Alaskan fish camp located at the remote southwest end of Kodiak Island, Alaska.

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Journal entry for August 7, 1996

It was a cloudless sky last night. The big dipper and north star were clear and close. The moon is rising later (2:00 am) and is now only a quarter moon.

The men were out picking fish again at 8-8:30 am. My lens is in Akhiok, and Paul at Fish and Game called, said it was a great day to photograph the fish running at Dog Salmon Creek. Hope we get a break to do it. The seas are calm, and it is a spectacular day to photograph. Hope, hope. It's 9:45 and they're halfway through the first pick of the day.

On my walkabout yesterday two things struck me - the sounds and the smells. The breeze blowing in the grass was mixed with the sounds of songbirds chirping and singing. On the damp bog the air was filled with the sweet scent of the grasses and flowers. Of course the salmonberries were out, as well as the "blackberries" (crowberries), blueberries, lingonberries, and cloudberries. Patches of low growing bushy alders dotted the landscape - no real trees anywhere in sight here and on all the surrounding mountains. Cow parsnips (similar to lovage) rose high above the grasses and berries. Patches of purple fireweed were scattered here and there.

The fox photo of last evening - great late evening light - may have the fox looking at the camera. Can make reference to its sly nature, looking up to see if Alex is there before sneaking off with the cleaned remains of Alex's salmon on the beach.

Warmed up to the seventies - shorts! Went to town for mail - lens and model releases. William picked up Alissea, his girlfriend due to have their baby in October. Photos in town, scenic photos, and stopped by the nets to take photos of the gill-netted fish.

Later Alex Sr., Alex Jr., Sally, and I went out for "hooking" - halibut fishing. Sally got one, and Alex Jr. held it up. It was about 20 pounds, 32-36" long. Okay to keep about any reasonable size for subsistence, but the official keeper minimum is 32".

It was like a summer day at a lake in Maine - in the seventies, calm, and sunny. I was wearing shorts!

Took some shots of Alex eating. May be okay; but may not be very good. Afterwards went for a walk on the west beach towards Olga Bay, and took Spike and Blackie, the dogs, along for walk. Beautiful light. Some bird shots, and even a butterfly on the beach - brown with yellow and orange markings on the wings.

My cabin

My office in the cabin with laptop computer and the electric cord to lamp to charge the battery when the generator was on.

My friend, the mother fox on my porch. Her den was under my cabin and her young kits often woke me up with their yipping.

Holding my camera to keep it dry from the spray as we head out to check a crab trap.
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Read more about the fish species in Salmon Summer

Red Salmon (Oncorhynchus nerka)
also called sockeye salmon

Pink salmon (Oncorhynchus gorbuscha)

Pacific halibut (Hippoglos-sus stenolepis)

Dungeness crab (Cancer magister)

Alaskan Red king crab, (Paralithodes camtschatica)

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Horn Book
May/June 1998

To the Editor:

Larry Matfay
never before published photo taken by me in 1996

Larry is carving a replica kayak
for the Alutiiq Museum

It was a moving surprise to see the photo of Larry Matfay with the review of my book, Salmon Summer (The Horn Book Magazine May/June 1998, page 362). My issue arrived only days after Larry Matfay, the Native Alaskan Aleut elder who had hosted my visit to his remote fish camp, died. He was ninety years old. Larry had welcomed me to this remote area of his childhood, never having met me, because he realized the importance of preserving his culture. I had the pleasure of photographing young Alex Shugak, Jr., the grandson of his adopted niece, for my book. When I wasn't shooting, I also I had the pleasure of listening to Larry's stories for weeks, kidding back and forth with him, and watching him make models of the boats he had made as a young man. I was delightfully surprised when I later discovered other models, photos, and artifacts of Larry's on display at the Kodiak Alutiiq Museum. Larry was very much respected among his people. He and his late wife, Martha, accepted many children into their lives and raised them. He saw the ways of his people disappearing and he made efforts to preserve them for future generations. He is a man who has made this world a richer place, and I thank you for the moving surprise of seeing him in The Horn Book Magazine.

Bruce McMillan
Shapleigh, Maine

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Visit The Alutiiq Museum on Kodiak

About The Alutiiq People

Explore Kodiak Island

Akhiok the village of eighty people near Salmon Summer

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Every summer the salmon return to spawn in the streams of Kodiak Island, Alaska. Nine-year-old Alex, a Native Aleut, comes here to fish with his family. As his ancestors found, there's enough salmon for all. There's salmon for the bears and eagles to catch, and for the foxes, magpies, and gulls to scavenge. Best of all, there's salmon to feed Alex's family and salmon to bait a line to catch a fish much bigger than any salmon. The consistently outstanding photography reveals a faraway place seen by few outsiders, in this engaging story of an Alaska Native boy's summer in the wilderness at his family's fishing camp.

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The Horn Book Magazine
May/June 1998

"(Bruce McMillan) continues to provide young readers with respectful glimpses into other cultures and ways of life."

Bruce McMillan Salmon Summer; photos by the author
32 pp. Lorraine/Houghton 3/98 ISBN 0-395-84544-0 16.00 (Preschool, Younger)

Summer is a time of natural beauty and abundance at a family's fish camp on Moser Bay at Kodiak Island, Alaska. Aleut Alex Shugak loves to eat tamuuq, chewy dried fish, especially if it comes from halibut, a fish nine-year-old Alex enjoys catching by using a hand line. In this photoessay, Alex also works with his father to catch a variety of salmon, which have just returned to a nearby stream to spawn. Although Alex's summer is clearly filled with work, as his ancestors' summers have been for many generations, it is obvious that he enjoys making a substantial contribution to his family's food supply. McMillan's crisply focused photographs are filled with close-ups of salmon and the animals - gulls, eagles, Kodiak bears, magpies, and fox - that also depend on this fish. The author includes a brief discussion of Alex's heritage and Russian influences on Kodiak Island. A detailed glossary defines unfamiliar terms and imparts plenty of information, such as the differences between humpy, red, and dog salmon, and a bibliography of mostly adult titles leads interested readers toward more information about Kodiak Island, Alaskan Natives, and Alaska's birds and fish. Salmon Summer is Bruce McMillan's fortieth children's book; he continues to provide young readers with respectful glimpses into other cultures and ways of life. Ellen Fader

This copyrighted © review originally appeared in The Horn Book Magazine and appears here with permission.

School Library Journal

"McMillan's large, colorful photographs bring his world vibrantly to life."

Gr 2-5Alex Shugak is a nine-year-old Aleut from Kodiak Island, Alaska, and the star of this gorgeous photo-essay. This is the first summer he is old enough to fish with his father to feed their family, and readers watch as the boy catches, sorts, cleans, and prepares the fish just as his ancestors have done for centuries. Bears and eagles fish in the same area: Alex shares his catch with birds and a mother fox, and with the elders in town who no longer fish. However, the real fun starts when the work is done and Alex is free to fish with a line, trying not for more salmon, but for a huge halibut, his favorite treat. The book is rich with information about the food, culture, and heritage of the Aleut, and a final note includes information about the Russian influence on the island. A thorough glossary offers additional facts about the animals and fishing practices seen in the photographs. Alex is an appealing subject and McMillan's large, colorful photographs bring his world vibrantly to life. Susan Oliver, Tampa-Hillsborough Public Library System, FL

This copyrighted © review originally appeared in School Library Journal and appears here with permission.

Education World
June 22, 1998
Read the full review in Education World

"Writer-photographer Bruce McMillan has done it again... McMillan's photos are beautiful but, more than that, they provide readers with vast amounts of information... Salmon Summer is a perfect addition to any classroom study of Alaska and its people."

April 1, 1998

"Kodiak Island provides a gorgeous backdrop for this outstanding photo-essay describing an Aleut boy's summer of salmon fishing... This will make a wonderful complement to a study of Alaska and will be especially appealing to fishing enthusiasts."

Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books
May 1998

"The photographs are balanced and sharp, with remarkable depth of field, capturing the startlingly blue Alaskan sky and water in images that make them characters all by themselves. The lively text is straightforwardly but affectionately descriptive, and, combined with the photographs, provides a window into what is for most readers an uncommon way of life."

Maine Sunday Telegram

"Some writers not only write books well but also are endowed with the talent to illustrate them. Such is the case with Bruce McMillan... This is a simple, straightforward and caring bit of writing with charming photographs - an ethnography for kids."

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