You may be aware that November is Native American Heritage Month in the U.S. Often we see beautiful displays of books by and about Native/Indigenous people in our schools and libraries in November, but these are titles that should be highlighted and utilized all year. This is especially true because Native/Indigenous authors and illustrators have been criminally underrepresented in books for children over the years, therefor making it all the more critical for library workers and educators to spread the word and get these books into the hands of young readers.
Since November is the eleventh month of the year, here are 11* books by and about Native/Indigenous people:
- Firekeeper’s Daughter, by Angeline Boulley (ISBN: 9781250766571) – Boulley (Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians) spent ten years writing this fantastic Y.A. novel, soon to be adapted into a Netflix series.
- Jo Jo Makoons: the Used-to-be Best Friend, by Dawn Quigley and Tara Audibert (ISBN: 9780063015388) – A riotously funny early chapter book from Quigley (Turtle Mountain Band Ojibwe) and Audibert (Wolastoqey/French), this series opener fills a much-needed gap in library collections for newly independent readers.
- The Barren Grounds (ISBN: 9780735266100) and The Great Bear (ISBN: 9780735266131) (Misewa Saga Books 1+2), by David A. Robertson – Robertson (Norway House Cree Nation) has drawn comparison to the Chronicles of Narnia with this middle grade fantasy series, which follows tween foster siblings on their adventures in the land of Misewa. Book 3 is coming next fall!
- Mission to Space, by John Herrington (ISBN: 9781935684480) – It’s hard to imagine a more kid-friendly picture book than this one, with simple text and full-color photos of Herrington’s (Chickasaw) astronaut training and subsequent trip to space.
- My Heart Fills with Happiness, by Monique Gray Smith and Julie Flett (ISBN: 9781459809574) – Starting a board book collection? This collaboration from Smith (Cree/Lakota/Scottish) and Flett (Cree-Métis) is a first purchase for the youngest audience.
- #NotYourPrincess, edited by Lisa Charleyboy and Mary Beth Leatherdale (ISBN: 9781554519583) – This young adult anthology, the second from the team of Charleyboy (Tsilhqot’in) and Leatherdale, features dynamic writings and art from various Native women.
- The Power of Style, by Christian Allaire (ISBN: 9781773214900) – This gorgeous young adult nonfiction title from Allaire (Ojibwe) is attractively designed with tons of reader appeal.
- The Sea in Winter, by Christine Day (ISBN: 9780062872043) – This emotional story of a prospective young dancer, sidelined from doing what she loves best by a knee injury, is the second middle grade novel from Day (Upper Skagit).
- We all play / kimêtawênaw, by Julie Flett (ISBN: 9781771646079) – Any time Flett (Cree-Métis) puts out a new book, take note! This picture book is a good read-aloud for toddlers up to primary grade children.
- Sisters of the Neversea, by Cynthia Leitich Smith (ISBN: 9780062869975) – Smith (Muskogee), versatile author of picture books and Y.A. award-winners alike, here offers a middle grade spin on the classic Peter Pan story.
- Young Water Protectors: a story about Standing Rock, by Aslan Tudor/co-written by Kelly Tudor (ISBN: 9781723305689) – At age 8, Tudor (Lipan Apache Tribe of Texas) took part in the #NoDAPL protests in the Oceti Sakowin Camp at Standing Rock. Tudor recently penned his second book, Young Native Activist: Growing Up in Native American Rights Movements.
And here’s a bonus book (because we all need good things right now):
- The Good Luck Cat, by Joy Harjo and Paul Lee – There’s a catch with this one; it is out of print. Which is really too bad, because Harjo’s (Muscogee/Creek, and the current U.S. Poet Laureate) first children’s book is a fantastic read-aloud for the older preschool / primary school audience. Hopefully it is back in print some day. For now, if you own this (or live near a library that owns it) enjoy it, and use it as often as you can!
*Or perhaps more than 11; what can I say, it was hard to narrow it down!
There are many, many more great books by Native/Indigenous creators (such as those from Darcie Little Badger, or Traci Sorrell); feel free to add your favorites in the comments, and use these books all year long!
Today’s post was written by Sam Bloom, a Programming Librarian at the Kenton County Public Library in northern Kentucky and member of the AASL/ALSC/YALSA Interdivisional Committee on School/Public Library Cooperation. Sam can be reached at email@example.com.