Rapid City Author & Artist Montileaux, Movie Producer Covel Lead 2019 Young Readers Lineup

2019 Young Readers One Book author Donald F. Montileaux of Rapid City. 

By South Dakota Magazine & South Dakota Humanities Council
Editor's Note: A version of this feature story appears in our 2019 South Dakota Festival of Books guide produced by South Dakota Magazine. Download a free copy of the Festival Guide!

Authors' Books Given to Second Graders, First Graders Ahead of Oct. 3-6 Event

Second and third graders will be quite familiar with at least two of the 2019 Young Readers Festival of Books authors by the time the event rolls around in October. Young Readers events will begin Oct. 3 in Rapid City and continue Oct. 4-5 in Deadwood; click the button below for full schedule.

The South Dakota Humanities Council is distributing more than 10,000 copies of 2019 Young Readers One Book author Donald F. Montileaux's "Tatanka and Other Legends of the Lakota People" to South Dakota children entering third grade this fall, while "Porter the Hoarder and the Ransacked Room," the first in a series of 64 books by writer and filmmaker Sean Covel and illustrator Rebecca Swift, made its way to the hands of 2,500 first graders in the Black Hills in January through a partnership with Black Hills Reads.

Montileaux, a well-known South Dakota artist, author and painter, has previously appeared at the annual Festival of Books, as has Covel, who grew up in Edgemont before moving to Hollywood and succeeding as the producer of the cult hit "Napoleon Dynamite."

Young Festival fans at the 2018 Young Readers Festival of Books in Brookings. This year's event features events in Rapid City Oct. 3 and in Deadwood Oct. 4-6.

Young Festival fans at the 2018 Young Readers Festival of Books in Brookings. This year's event features events in Rapid City Oct. 3 and in Deadwood Oct. 4-6.

Montileaux and the 2019 Young Readers One Book

The 2019 Young Readers One Book South Dakota features three of the most important stories in the Lakota world: the creation of the Lakota people, the introduction of horse culture and the origin of the drum. They are told and illustrated by Donald F. Montileaux, a writer, artist and member of the Oglala Sioux Tribe who lives in Rapid City. But bringing stories from the deeply revered tradition of oral storytelling to the pages of a colorful children's book proved challenging.

It began with a visit to Alex White Plume, a longtime mentor of Montileaux's who lives in Manderson, on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.

White Plume told Montileaux the story of the horse, a tale familiar to Montileaux but one that he had never considered writing down until that moment. He worked on a rough draft and shared it with White Plume, who told him, "This is really good, but storytellers' stories are not to be written down and shared with paper and pen."

"Storytellers come into a camp, or into a tipi a long time ago, and they sit down with another individual and talk and entertain the people of the tribe," Montileaux says. "They take them to a different place. The individual with them makes the sounds of the birds, the animals, the brush. The storyteller uses different voices for different characters, so they are entertainers."

Montileaux kept working and came back with a rewritten story with illustrations. Still, White Plume was uncertain. Finally, "Tasunka: A Lakota Horse Legend" was published by the South Dakota Historical Society Press in 2014, complete with illustrations from Montileaux and a Lakota translation by Agnes Gay, the assistant archivist at Oglala Lakota College in Kyle.

He brought the finished version to White Plume.

"He looked at it," Montileaux says, "and he had to have a couple of smokes. Finally he said, 'You know, maybe you are the one that's supposed to do this. Sit down. Let me tell you a story about muskrat and skunk.' It was a really beautiful way of getting accepted by a traditional storyteller and crossing over that line to be a contemporary author."


Collection of Three Books

This year's Young Readers One Book, "Tatanka and Other Legends of the Lakota People," is a collection of three books, all previously published by the South Dakota Historical Society Press: "Tatanka and the Lakota People," "Tasunka: A Lakota Horse Legend," and "Muskrat and Skunk: A Lakota Drum Story."

It marks several firsts for the Young Readers program: first book by a South Dakota author/artist, first written by a tribal member, first published by a South Dakota press, first bilingual selection and first to include an audiobook form.

"I was thrilled, first of all, at the opportunity to be the summer read author," Montileaux says.

"I think they may have thought that they wanted a little more meat for children to chew on during the summertime," he says of the three-in-one book concept.

An unprecedented 10,000 copies of "Tatanka and Other Legends of the Lakota People" will have been received by students entering third grade this fall, preparing them for an enlightening experience with the Native American author/artist.

Donald F. Montileaux's 2019 Festival Events

Thursday, Oct 3

Friday, Oct 4

Saturday, Oct 5

2019 Festival presenter Sean Covel returns to the Festival with a new venture: his first children's book.

2019 Festival presenter Sean Covel returns to the Festival with a new venture: his first children's book.

Sean Covel, Rebecca Swift and Porter the Hoarder

Most parents can relate to Porter, a little girl who sees nothing wrong with collecting dirty handkerchiefs, chewed wads of bubble gum and rotting banana peels. Porter is a hoarder, and it's up to young readers to help her decide what stays and what goes during the epic room cleaning that takes place in "Porter the Hoarder and the Ransacked Room," the first in a series of 64 books by writer and filmmaker Sean Covel and illustrator Rebecca Swift.

The Porter series began as a way to help children learn to count, but the direction changed after a reading in a second-grade classroom in Sturgis.

"It was the students who suggested hiding all of Porter's items and making it a look-and-find," says Covel, who returns to the Festival of Books to discuss his new venture after previous appearances at the event during which he described to audiences his production of the 2004 movie that made a bumbling yet lovable high school character named "Napoleon" a household name in America.

Fifteen years later, Covel continues to provide audiences (albeit younger ones) with memorable and entertaining characters, such as "Porter the Hoarder."

"The world of the character really expanded," he said of Porter's evolution after the reading in Sturgis. "Suddenly we could imagine all these different worlds where she would find all kinds of crazy things."

Covel and Swift teamed with Black Hills Reads to create a reading and family engagement program around the books.

In addition to distributing 2,500 books to first graders in the Black Hills in January, they hope to provide more than 10,000 books statewide this fall through an added partnership with the South Dakota Statewide Family Engagement Center.

Illustrator Rebecca Swift of Bridgewater, S.D. has launched a 64-book series for children with movie producer Sean Covel. The first, "Porter the Hoarder and the Ransacked Room," will be featured at the 2019 South Dakota Festival of Books, where Covel and Swift will appear as presenters Oct. 3-6.

About Rebecca Swift and Sean Covel

Rebecca Swift is a social media director, makeup artist and illustrator. Following her passions, she has sung her way through Hollywood Week on American Idol, worked as a movie makeup artist and used makeup to transform into dozens of celebrities, leading to an appearance on Caught on Camera with Nick Cannon. With Sean Covel, she has launched a 64-book series for children. The first, "Porter the Hoarder and the Ransacked Room," is being given to thousands of elementary students statewide. Swift lives in Bridgewater, S.D., with her three children.

Sean Covel is a film and television producer who grew up in the Black Hills. His films, including the iconic "Napoleon Dynamite," have won multiple awards, generated over a quarter of a billion dollars and gotten nerds prom dates around the globe. With fellow South Dakotan Rebecca Swift, he has launched a 64-book series for children. The first title, Porter the Hoarder and the Ransacked Room, is being given to thousands of elementary students statewide. Covel enjoys lecturing internationally, but he hangs his nunchucks in Deadwood.

2019 Festival Events That Feature Sean Covel, Rebecca Swift

Thursday, Oct 3 

Friday, Oct 4

Saturday, Oct 5 

2018 Festival presenter Jessie Taken Alive Rencountre will return as a featured presenter in Rapid City and Deadwood Oct. 3-6.

2018 Festival presenter Jessie Taken Alive Rencountre will return as a featured presenter in Rapid City and Deadwood Oct. 3-6.

Young Readers Program Information

Other 2019 Young Readers presenters include the following:

Want to learn more about our Young Readers Festival and 2019 events? Click below to visit our Young Readers Festival website.