When creating displays, booklists, and collections with an emphasis on inclusion and diversity, it’s important to feature these books year-round, and not just in the designated month. With that in mind, here are my favorite books the feature Native American characters and history:
Jingle Dancer is one of the most joyous books in our collection; it’s a beautiful celebration of growing up, heritage, and community. Many generations in Jenna’s family have performed the jingle dance at powwows, and she longs to join the tradition. It’s finally time for Jenna to have her turn; unfortunately, there’s not enough time to order jngles! However, with ingenuity and help from friends and family, Jenna proudly dances at the powwow.
(image from Scholastic)
(image from Louise Erdrich)
When patrons ask about the Little House series, have a brief booktalk ready for Louise Erdrich’s The Birchbark House series. Featuring Omakayas, a nearly eight year old Ojibwe girl and her family living in late 1840s Lake Superior, this is a fascinating and moving depiction of a young girl learning the life and ways of her community.
I probably don’t need to tell you about Thunder Boy Jr, because this charming father-son tale has received exceptional reviews and is undoubtedly a top Caldecott pick for many this year. (I just couldn’t leave it out–read it if you haven’t had a chance yet!)
(image from Hachette Book Group)
I adore The Christmas Coat. This sweet but not saccharine tale about a young girl dealing with her jealousy over another girl receiving the best coat for Christmas is heartfelt and genuinely realistic. Take time to pour over the illustrations of the children performing a Nativity play in traditional clothing, and the Native dolls in Santa’s sack.
(image from Holiday House)
Sequoyah: The Cherokee Man Who Gave His People Writing is an elegant and sophisticated picture book biography of the creator of the writing system for the Cherokee people. Sequoyah’s intellect and determination is a great example of persevering in the midst of naysayers, as well as a portrayal of a man deeply committed to his community. The text appears in both Cherokee and English.
(image from Scholastic)
Looking for more resources? The American Indian Library Association’s American Indian Youth Literature Award is announced every two years (next cycle will end in 2018). Covering a wide range of genres and ages, this is a top choice for collection development.
Debbie Reese’s American Indians in Children’s Literature blog has a ton of resources for collection development, from board books to her yearly best books lists. She also has insightful posts about evaluating children’s books with Native American content and characters.
If you’d like to add more titles to this post, please let us know in the comments!