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Recommended Books for Young Children, By and About Native Americans

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These books and resources can help educators and young children learn about Native Americans.

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Books

The books listed here can help educators and young children learn about Native Americans. These books can also support young Native children and their families by providing Native representation in the classroom. In the list below, authors’ tribal affiliations are provided after their names.

Bowwow Powwow. By Brenda J. Child (Red Lake Ojibwe).

Illustrated by Jonathan Thunder (Red Lake Ojibwe). Translation by Gordon Jourdain (Lac LaCroix First Nation). Published by Minnesota Historical Society Press, 2018

Windy Girl and her dog Itchy Boy travel to a powwow with her uncle in his old green pickup. While there, she dreams about a very unusual powwow. Bilingual (Ojibwemowin and English).

Chukfi Rabbit’s Big Bad Bellyache: A Trickster Tale.  Written by Greg Rodgers (Choctaw).

Illustrated by Leslie Stall Widener (Choctaw ancestry). Published by Cinco Puntos Press, 2014

Rabbit (Chukfi in the Choctaw language) likes to figure out how to get what he wants even if it means tricking his neighbors. But things don’t necessarily work out the way he imagines!

Cradle Me. Written by Debby Slier.

Photographs from Nativestock Pictures. Published by: Star Bright Books, 2012

This board book features simple text paired with delightful photographs of present-day Native American babies interacting with the world in their tribally specific traditional cradleboards.

Fall in Line, Holden! Written and illustrated by Daniel W. Vandever (Diné).

Published by Salina Books, 2017

Holden’s teachers keep telling him to “fall in line” as his class walks down the hall of their residential school. Don’t they see the strange and funny things Holden sees inside the rooms they pass? Vandever also created Herizon, a 2020 wordless fantasy book about a Navajo girl rescuing her family’s sheep.

Forever Cousins. Written by Laurel Goodluck (Mandan, Hidatsa, Tsimshian).

Illustrated by Jonathan Nelson (Diné). Published by Penguin Random House, 2022

Amanda and Kara are best friends. They are also cousins, living close to each other and doing everything together. But then Kara and her family move away, back to the reservation (the rez). The cousins are bereft. How will they adapt to the change?

Fry Bread: A Native American Family Tradition. By Kevin Noble Maillard (Seminole Nation, Mekusukey Band).

Illustrated by Juana Martinez (Peruvian). Published by Roaring Brook Press (Macmillan), 2019

This book “works” on more than one level. It tells some of the history of fry bread, a popular food at many gatherings of Native American people, while the illustrations show a Native family with an array of skin tones and hair colors and styles, doing a variety of things including making fry bread. The author shares a recipe for fry bread.

The Good Luck Cat.  Written by Joy Harjo (Muscogee).

Illustrated by Paul Lee (not tribally affiliated). Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2000

When a Native family’s remarkable cat Woogie goes missing, they worry. She has miraculously survived many dangers. But has her luck run out? Will she come home this time?

Grasshopper Girl by Teresa Peterson (Dakota).

Illustrated by Jordan Rogers (Lakota). Published by Black Bears and Blueberries Publishing, 2019

Psipsi, a Dakota child, doesn’t feel well. Her mother puts her to bed early, but she still is uncomfortable. Her Ate (father) comes in and tells her a funny story of Unktomi, the spider trickster, and she begins to feel better.

Hungry Johnny. Written by Cheryl Minnema (Mille Lacs Ojibwe)

Illustrated by Wesley Ballinger (Mille Lacs Ojibwe). Published by Minnesota Historical Society Press, 2014

Preschoolers can relate to Johnny’s feelings when he must wait and wait in order to eat his favorite food at a community gathering. Will there be any left for him? Also by Cheryl Minnema: Johnny’s Pheasant (2019), illustrated by Julie Flett (Metis/Cree).

It’s a Mitig! Written and illustrated by Bridget George (Kettle & Stony Point First Nation)

Published by Douglas & McIntyre, 2022

Charming illustrations and rhyming text make this concept book a fun way for children to learn facts about some animals and add some Ojibwe words to their vocabulary.

Jingle Dancer. Written by Cynthia Leitich Smith.

Illustrated by Cornelius Van Wright and Ying-Hwa Hu (not tribally affiliated). Published by Heartdrum, 2020

Jenna wants to dance at the next powwow, but her jingle dress needs more tin cones. She visits Native neighbors and relatives asking to borrow some cones. Finally, she and her mother sew the borrowed cones on the dress, and she dances at the powwow for the women who, for a variety of reasons, will not be able to dance.

May We Have Enough to Share by Richard Van Camp (Tlicho Nation).

Photos by Tea & Bannock, a group of Indigenous women photographers. Published by Orca Book Publishers, 2019

A poem about caring families and communities accompanies beautiful photographs of happy babies and toddlers in this board book. Other board books by Richard Van Camp include Welcome Song for Baby, Little You, and We Sang You Home.

Mission to Space. Written by John B. Herrington (Chickasaw).

Photo credits NASA. Published byWhite Dog Press, 2016

John Herrington, the first Native American astronaut, tells in easily understandable prose about his astronaut training and his time on the International Space Station. Photographs show exactly what’s going on. The book also teaches how to do the Chickasaw version of a countdown.

nibi is water, nibi aawon nbiish. Written and illustrated by Joanne Robertson (Atikameksheng Anishnawbek).

Translated by Shirley Williams and Isadore Toulouse. Published by Second Story Press, Canada, 2020

This brightly illustrated concept book, in English and Ojibwemowin, teaches about the many uses of water, and its importance in people’s lives.

Nimoshom and His Bus.  Written by Penny M. Thomas (Cree-Ojibwe ancestry)

Illustrated by Karen Hibbard (not tribally affiliated), Published by Highwater Press, Canada, 2018

Preschoolers who ride a school bus may especially enjoy this story of a kind bus driver who shares his Cree language and gentle humor with the young riders on his bus.

Powwow Day by Traci Sorell (Cherokee)

Illustrated by Madelyn Goodnight (Chickasaw). Published by Charlesbridge, 2022

River wants to participate in her community’s powwow, but a recent illness (not specified) has left her unable to do more than watch her family and friends dancing. But the beauty of the powwow and the care of those around her helps her heal a little more, and gain confidence that she will dance again. The author’s note explains more about powwows.

Thanks to the Animals (10th Anniversary Edition). Written by Allen Sockabasin (Passamaquoddy)

Illustrated by Rebekah Raye (not tribally affiliated). Published by Tilbury Press

Baby Zoo Sap falls unseen off his Passamaquoddy family’s pack sled into the snow while they are moving to their winter home. No one hears him but the animals of the forest, and they respond by curling up to keep him warm until his father is able to return for him. His father then shares his gratitude to the animals.

Tasunka: A Lakota Horse Legend. Written and illustrated by Donald F. Montileaux (Oglala Lakota)

Translation by Agnes Gay (Lakota). Published by the South Dakota State Historical Society

The author/artist retells a traditional story about how humans’ bad behavior led them to lose a long-time relationship with horses. The illustrations are in ledger art style.

This Is How I Know: A Book About the Seasons (Mii maanda ezhi gkendmaanh). Written by Brittany Luby (Anishinaabe descent)

Illustrated by Joshua Mangeshig Pawis-Steckley (Wasauksing First Nation), translated by Alvin Ted Corbiere and Alan Corbiere (Anishinaabe, M’chigeeng First Nation), Published by Groundwood Books, Canada, 2021

A Native child learns from their grandmother how to recognize the changing of the seasons in this beautifully illustrated bilingual (English and Anishinaabemowin) book.

We All Play. Written and illustrated by Julie Flett (Metis/Cree)

Published by Greystone Kids, 2021

Children play – and so do animals! The illustrations in this bilingual (Cree and English) book may inspire children to act out the ways animals play together.

When We Are Kind.  Monique Gray Smith (Cree/Lakota)

Illustrated by Nicole Neidhardt (Diné), translated by Mildred Waters (Diné), Published by Orca Books, 2020

With simple text and charming illustrations, this bilingual board book explores ways of showing kindness. By the same author: You Hold Me Up (2017) and My Heart Fills with Happiness (2016).

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About this resource

Setting(s) for which the article is intended:
  • Home
  • Family Child Care
  • Child Care Center
  • Preschool Program
  • Kindergarten

Intended audience(s):
  • Parents / Family
  • Teachers / Service providers
  • Faculty / Trainer

Age Levels (the age of the children to whom the article applies):
Reviewed: 2023