By Ashly Moore Sheldon • November 20, 2019
In 1990, President George H. W. Bush declared November to be Native American Heritage Month. This commemoration was aimed at providing a platform for Indigenous American communities to share and celebrate their culture and traditions—an essential part of our region's history. It's important for young people to get an unvarnished view of this history, so we are taking the opportunity to highlight ten excellent books for young readers by Native American authors. These volumes offer a range of great reads at various levels, from preschoolers to young adults.
It is important to distinguish between the many different tribal cultures and communities represented in the Native American population. Children aren't too young to learn a bit about this cultural diversity.
This lovely, graceful story by award-winning author-illustrator S. D. Nelson presents the true story of Waheenee, a Hidatsa woman born in 1839. She is credited with upholding and documenting the lifestyle and traditions of her people. Recommended for children age six and older.
This middle-grade read is the fourth in bestselling author Louise Erdrich's wonderful Birchbark House Series. It continues the story of one Ojibwe family's experience beginning in the mid-1800s in America. This series is generally good for ages nine and older.
In this deeply emotional story from Nicola I. Campbell, a young Indigenous Canadian girl is forced to say goodbye to everything she holds dear as she counts down the days until leaving for a government-run residential school. Evocatively illustrated by Kim LaFave. Recommended for ages four and up.
This beautiful picture book, written by storyteller Allen Sockabasin and illustrated by Rebekah Raye, tells the story of a Passamaquoddy family traveling to their winter home in Maine. Along the way little Zoo Sap falls out of the sled and his cries attract the help of the forest creatures. Great for ages four and up.
Cree-Metis author-illustrator Julie Flett created this lovely, spare story about Clarence growing up picking wild berries with his grandmother. Flett's collage-style artwork is simply gorgeous. Recommended for preschool and up.
The brutal treatment of Native people as European settlers poured into the Americas can be difficult to read about. These novels for young adults offer thoughtful and sensitive perspectives on this history and its ongoing impacts.
Bestselling author Cynthia Leitich Smith offers this contemporary novel about a Native teen growing up in a mostly white Kansas community. Louise Wolf, a member of the Muscogee Creek Nation, faces down prejudice and hostility as she navigates the muddy waters of high school society.
"The hour has come to speak of troubled times," begins this first-person account of a Choctaw woman's girlhood in pre-statehood Oklahoma. Author Tim Tingle draws on historic events to spin a gripping tale of mystery and magical realism.
From Eric Gansworth, comes the story of Lewis "Shoe" Blake, a boy growing up on the Tuscarora Indian Reservation in Upstate New York in 1975. As the only Native kid in the gifted program at his middle school, he struggles to find his place.
The earth is dying. Native teen Frenchie and his friends are on the run from "recruiters" trying to capture them to harvest their bone marrow, identified as a substance that helps people recapture the lost ability to dream. This dystopian novel by Cherie Dimaline resonates as an eerie metaphor.
This award-winning graphic collection by Matt Dembicki pairs 24 Native storytellers with graphic artists to present stories of the Trickster, a crafty spirit that inhabits Native mythology. The anthology ranges from funny to dramatic to chilling.
There are plenty of great reads for adults as well, from the prolific Louise Erdrich to newcomer Tommy Orange. If you're curious, we encourage you to check out recommendations from the First Nations Development Institute. There is also a list for young adults and children.
Do you have any recommendations? Let us know in the comments!