Indigenous American Children’s & Teen Literature

Below are books for children and teens by and about people with indigenous heritage from the Americas.


Picture Books

All Around Us by Xelena Gonzalez

Circles are all around us. We just have to look for them. Sometimes they exist in the most unusual places.

 

Awâsis and the World-Famous Bannock  by Dallas Huntunnamed (9)

During an unfortunate mishap, young Awâsis loses Kôhkum’s freshly baked world-famous bannock. Not knowing what to do, Awâsis seeks out a variety of other-than-human relatives willing to help.

 

Birdsong by Julie Flett

When a young girl moves from the country to a small town, she feels lonely and out of place. But soon she meets an elderly woman next door, who shares her love of arts and crafts. Can the girl navigate the changing seasons and failing health of her new friend?

 

Chukfi Rabbit’s Big, Bad Bellyache by Greg Rodgers

Deep in Choctaw Country, Chukfi Rabbit is always figuring out some way to avoid work at all costs. When Bear, Turtle, Fox, and Beaver agree on an everybody-work-together day to build Ms. Possum a new house, Chukfi Rabbit says he’s too busy to help. Until he hears there will be a feast to eat after the work is done.

 

Dreamers by Yuyi Morales

Dreamers is a celebration of making your home with the things you always carry: your resilience, your dreams, your hopes and history. It’s the story of finding your way in a new place, of navigating an unfamiliar world and finding the best parts of it.

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First Laugh by Nancy Bo Flood

In Navajo families, the first person to make a new baby laugh hosts the child’s First Laugh Ceremony. Who will earn the honor in this story?

 

Fry Bread: A Native American Family Story by Kevin Noble Maillard

Told in lively and powerful verse by debut author Kevin Noble Maillard, Fry Bread is an evocative depiction of a modern Native American family.

 

Little You / Nîya-K’apisîsisîyân by Richard Van Camp

Richard Van Camp, internationally renowned storyteller and bestselling author of the hugely successful Welcome Song for Baby: A Lullaby for Newborns, has partnered with award-winning illustrator Julie Flett to create a tender board book for babies and toddlers that celebrates the potential of every child.

 

Molly Of Denali: Party Moose

When Molly plans a birthday surprise, a moose gets in the way! Can Molly’s quick thinking save the day?
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Molly Of Denali: Crane Song

Molly can’t wait to help her scientist friends study baby cranes. They head out into the wilderness to put bands on the baby cranes’ legs, so they can keep track of where the cranes go. But every time they get close, the baby cranes get scared away. Molly makes an emergency call to Grandpa Nat to come up with a solution!

 

My Heart Fills With Happiness / Ni Mîyawâten Niteh Ohcih by Monique Gray Smith

The sun on your face. The smell of warm bannock baking in the oven. Holding the hand of someone you love. What fills your heart with happiness? This beautiful book serves as a reminder for little ones and adults alike to reflect on and cherish the moments in life that bring us joy.

 

The Star People by S. D. Nelson

A grandmother’s love is forever in this mystical story of remembrance and tradition, Sister Girl and her brother, Young Wolf, wander far from their village and face great danger, including stampeding animals and a wall of fire. The children barely save themselves, and as night approaches, they find themselves alone in the barren and unforgiving wilderness.

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We Are Grateful: Otsaliheliga by Traci Sorell

The word otsaliheliga (oh-jah-LEE-hay-lee-gah) is used by members of the Cherokee Nation to express gratitude. Beginning in the fall with the new year and ending in summer, follow a full Cherokee year of celebrations and experiences.

 

When Turtle Grew Feathers by Tim Tingle

When Rabbit boastfully challenges Turtle to a race, he gets his comeuppance and Turtle gets a little assist from his winged friend, Turkey. In the process, we learn why Turtle’s shell is cracked and why you never see Rabbit racing Turtle today.

 

You Hold Me Up by Monique Gray Smith

This vibrant picture book encourages children to show love and support for each other and to consider each other’s well-being in their everyday actions.

 


Chapter Books & Illustrated Titles

Bearwalker by Joseph Bruchac

As a member of the Mohawk Bear Clan, Baron has always been fascinated by bears-their gentle strength and untamed power. But the Bearwalker legend, passed down by his ancestors, tells of a different kind of creature-a terrible mix of human and animal that looks like a bear but is really a bloodthirsty monster. The tale never seemed to be more than a scary story. Until now.

 

The Birchbark House by Louise Erdrichunnamed (5)

Omakayas and her family live on the land her people call the Island of the Golden-Breasted Woodpecker. Although the “chimookoman,” white people, encroach more and more on their land, life continues much as it always has. But the satisfying rhythms of their life are shattered when a visitor comes to their lodge on winter night, bringing with him an invisible enemy that will change things forever-but that will eventually lead Omakayas to discover her calling.

 

Funny Bones: Posada and His Day of the Dead Calaveras by Duncan Tonatiuh

Funny Bones tells the story of how the amusing calaveras – skeletons performing various every day or festive activities – came to be. They are the creation of Mexican artist José Guadalupe (Lupe) Posada (1852–1913). They have become synonymous with Mexico’s Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) festival. 

 

Hiawatha And The Peacemaker by Robbie Robertson

Hiawatha was a strong Mohawk who was chosen to translate the Peacemaker’s message of unity for the five warring Iroquois nations during the 14th century. This message not only succeeded in uniting the tribes but also forever changed how the Iroquois governed themselves-a blueprint for democracy that would later inspire the authors of the U.S. Constitution.

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I Can Make This Promise by Christina Day

All her life, Edie has known that her mom was adopted by a white couple. So, no matter how curious she might be about her Native American heritage, Edie is sure her family doesn’t have any answers. Until the day when she and her friends discover a box hidden in the attic-a box full of letters signed “Love, Edith,” and photos of a woman who looks just like her.

 

In the Footsteps of Crazy Horse by Joseph Marshall

Jimmy McClean is a Lakota boy. When he embarks on a journey with his grandfather, Nyles High Eagle, he learns more and more about his Lakota heritage—in particular, the story of Crazy Horse, one of the most important figures in Lakota and American history.

 

Night Wings by Joseph Bruchac

Paul has always believed in the power of dreams. He knows that they are often warnings. Warnings that should be taken very seriously. Now his nightmare visions of a predatory winged creature are becoming all too real. And though Paul has always depended on the wisdom of his Abenaki ancestors’ stories to guide his footsteps, no monster tale could have prepared him for what he is about to encounter.

 

The Princess And The Warrior by Duncan Tonatiuhunnamed (3)

Princess Izta had many wealthy suitors but dismissed them all. When a mere warrior, Popoca, promised to be true to her and stay always by her side, Izta fell in love. The emperor promised Popoca if he could defeat their enemy Jaguar Claw, then Popoca and Izta could wed. When Popoca was near to defeating Jaguar Claw, his opponent sent a messenger to Izta saying Popoca was dead. Izta fell into a deep sleep and, upon his return, even Popoca could not wake her. As promised Popoca stayed by her side. So two volcanoes were formed: Iztaccíhuatl, who continues to sleep, and Popocatépetl, who spews ash and smoke, trying to wake his love.

 

Trickster: Native American Tales, A Graphic Collection by Matt Dembicki

In Native American traditions, the trickster takes many forms, from coyote or rabbit to raccoon or raven. The first graphic anthology of Native American trickster tales, Trickster brings together Native American folklore and the world of comics. In Trickster, 24 Native storytellers were paired with 24 comic artists, telling cultural tales from across America.

 

When We Were Alone by David Alexander Robertson

When a young girl helps tend to her grandmother’s garden, she begins to notice things about her grandmother that make her curious. As she asks her grandmother about these things, she is told about life in a residential school a long time ago, where everything was taken away. When We Were Alone is a story about a difficult time in history and, ultimately, a story of empowerment and strength.

 

Teen Books

1493 for Young People: From Columbus’s Voyage to Globalization: For Young People by Charles Mann

1493 for Young People by Charles C. Mann tells the gripping story of globalization through travel, trade, colonization, and migration from its beginnings in the fifteenth century to the present.

 

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz

Aristotle is an angry teen with a brother in prison. Dante is a know-it-all who has an unusual way of looking at the world. When the two meet, they seem to have nothing in common. But as the loners start spending time together, they discover that they share a special friendship—the kind that changes lives and lasts a lifetime. 

 

Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo

Camino Rios lives for the summers when her father visits her in the Dominican Republic. But this time, on the day when his plane is supposed to land, Camino arrives at the airport to see crowds of crying people. In New York City, Yahaira Rios is called to the principal’s office, where her mother is waiting to tell her that her father, her hero, has died in a plane crash. Separated by distance—and Papi’s secrets—the two girls are forced to face a new reality in which their father is dead and their lives are forever altered.

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Dreaming In Indian Edited by Lisa Charleyboy and Mary Beth Leatherdale

Truly universal in its themes, Dreaming In Indian will shatter commonly held stereotypes and challenge readers to rethink their own place in the world. Divided into four sections, ‘Roots,’ ‘Battles,’ ‘Medicines,’ and ‘Dreamcatchers,’ this book offers readers a unique insight into a community often misunderstood and misrepresented by the mainstream media. Emerging and established Native artists contribute thoughtful and heartfelt pieces on their experiences growing up Indigenous. 

 

Gabi, A Girl In Pieces by Isabel Quintero

Gabi Hernandez chronicles her last year in high school in her diary: college applications, Cindy’s pregnancy, Sebastian’s coming out, the cute boys, her father’s meth habit, and the food she craves. And best of all, the poetry that helps forge her identity.

 

Hearts Unbroken by Cynthia Leitich Smith

When Louise Wolfe’s first real boyfriend mocks and disrespects Native people in front of her, she breaks things off and dumps him over e-mail. It’s her senior year, anyway, and she’d rather spend her time with her family and friends and working on the school newspaper. The editors pair her up with Joey Kairouz, the ambitious new photojournalist, and in no time the paper’s staff find themselves with a major story to cover. As tensions mount at school, so does a romance between Lou and Joey — but as she’s learned, “dating while Native” can be difficult.

 

I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika L. Sánchez

Perfect Mexican daughters do not go away to college. And they do not move out of their parents’ house after high school graduation. Perfect Mexican daughters never abandon their family. But Julia is not your perfect Mexican daughter. That was Olga’s role.

 

Juliet Takes a Breath by Gabby Rivera

Juliet Milagros Palante is a self-proclaimed closeted Puerto Rican baby dyke from the Bronx. Only, she’s not so closeted anymore. Not after coming out to her family the night before flying to Portland, Oregon, to intern with her favorite feminist writer, Harlowe Brisbane, the ultimate authority on feminism, women’s bodies, and other gay-sounding stuff, who is sure to help her figure out this whole “Puerto Rican lesbian” thing. Except Harlowe’s white. And not from the Bronx. And she definitely doesn’t have all the answers . . .

 

An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States for Young People by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz

Spanning more than 400 years, this classic bottom-up history examines the legacy of Indigenous peoples’ resistance, resilience, and steadfast fight against imperialism.

Going beyond the story of America as a country “discovered” by a few brave men in the “New World,” Indigenous human rights advocate Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz reveals the roles that settler colonialism and policies of American Indian genocide played in forming our national identity.

 

My Name Is Not Easy by Debby Dahl Edwardson

Luke knows his Iñupiaq name is full of sounds white people can’t say. So he leaves it behind when he and his brothers are sent to boarding school hundreds of miles away from their Arctic village. At Sacred Heart School, students—Eskimo, Indian, White—line up on different sides of the cafeteria like there’s some kind of war going on. Here, speaking Iñupiaq—or any native language—is forbidden. And Father Mullen, whose fury is like a force of nature, is ready to slap down those who disobey. 

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#NotYourPrincess: Voices of Native American Women Edited by Lisa Charleyboy & Mary Beth Leatherdale

Whether looking back to a troubled past or welcoming a hopeful future, the powerful voices of Indigenous women across North America resound in this book. #Not Your Princess presents an eclectic collection of poems, essays, interviews, and art that combine to express the experience of being a Native woman. Stories of abuse, humiliation, and stereotyping are countered by the voices of passionate women making themselves heard and demanding change. Sometimes angry, often reflective, but always strong, the women in this book will give teen readers insight into the lives of women who, for so long, have been virtually invisible.

 

Undefeated: Jim Thorpe and the Carlisle Indian School Football Team by Steve Sheinkin

When superstar athlete Jim Thorpe and football legend Pop Warner met in 1904 at the Carlisle Indian Industrial School in Pennsylvania, they forged one of the winningest teams in American football history. But this is not just an underdog story. It’s an unflinching look at the persecution of Native Americans and its intersection with the beginning of one of the most beloved―and exploitative―pastimes in America.

 

Young Reader Editions

Below is a list of adult nonfiction books originally written for adults that have been adapted for teens. These books are both great for teens and also great for adults who want shorter overviews on topics before diving into the full length books.

{71A60825-636A-4BB0-B57D-A7731A8AE1AC}Img100Stamped–Racism, Antiracism, and You: A Remix of the National Book Award-winning Stamped from the Beginning by Jason Reynolds & Ibram X. Kendi

The construct of race has always been used to gain and keep power, to create dynamics that separate and silence. This remarkable reimagining of Dr. Ibram X. Kendi’s National Book Award-winning Stamped from the Beginning reveals the history of racist ideas in America, and inspires hope for an antiracist future. It takes you on a race journey from then to now, shows you why we feel how we feel, and why the poison of racism lingers. It also proves that while racist ideas have always been easy to fabricate and distribute, they can also be discredited.

{5255BC1A-21B0-4B04-BB56-7C40CF28656E}Img100An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States for Young People: ReVisioning History for Young People by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz & Jean Mendoza

Spanning more than 400 years, this classic bottom-up history examines the legacy of Indigenous peoples’ resistance, resilience, and steadfast fight against imperialism.

Going beyond the story of America as a country “discovered” by a few brave men in the “New World,” Indigenous human rights advocate Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz reveals the roles that settler colonialism and policies of American Indian genocide played in forming our national identity.

{463A1AA0-9D09-44A2-B88D-867395C76A02}Img100Dear America, Young Readers’ Edition: The Story of an Undocumented Citizen by Jose Antonio Vargas

Jose Antonio Vargas was only twelve years old when he was brought to the United States from the Philippines to live with his grandparents. He didn’t know it, but he was sent to the U.S. illegally. When he applied for a learner’s permit, he learned the truth, and he spent the next almost twenty years keeping his immigration status a secret. Hiding in plain sight, he was writing for some of the most prestigious news organizations in the country. Only after publicly admitting his undocumented status—risking his career and personal safety—was Vargas able to live his truth.

{3C3F90C8-C4B8-4AFC-BEB7-CE74DBF4312D}Img100It’s Trevor Noah: Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood (Adapted for Young Readers) by Trevor Noah

Trevor Noah, the funny guy who hosts The Daily Show on Comedy Central, shares his remarkable story of growing up in South Africa with a black South African mother and a white European father at a time when it was against the law for a mixed-race child to exist. But he did exist—and from the beginning, the often-misbehaved Trevor used his keen smarts and humor to navigate a harsh life under a racist government.

{46A27F37-AC51-4C62-ACDC-87F952367910}Img100Hidden Figures Young Readers’ Edition by Margot Lee Shetterly

Before John Glenn orbited the earth, or Neil Armstrong walked on the moon, a group of dedicated female mathematicians known as “human computers” used pencils, slide rules, and adding machines to calculate the numbers that would launch rockets, and astronauts, into space. This book brings to life the stories of Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson, Katherine Johnson, and Christine Darden, who lived through the Civil Rights era, the Space Race, the Cold War, and the movement for gender equality, and whose work forever changed the face of NASA and the country.

{9E6098E4-3EA0-426F-B26C-58584A6E7092}Img100I Am Malala: How One Girl Stood Up for Education and Changed the World (Young Readers’ Edition) by Malala Yousafzai & Patricia McCormick

Malala Yousafzai was only ten years old when the Taliban took control of her region. They said music was a crime. They said women weren’t allowed to go to the market. They said girls couldn’t go to school. Raised in a once-peaceful area of Pakistan transformed by terrorism, Malala was taught to stand up for what she believes. So she fought for her right to be educated. And on October 9, 2012, she nearly lost her life for the cause: She was shot point-blank while riding the bus on her way home from school. No one expected her to survive. Now Malala is an international symbol of peaceful protest and the youngest ever Nobel Peace Prize winner.

{E59AE469-FA03-44B6-936E-6DC2E63A21A5}Img100Never Caught, the Story of Ona Judge: George and Martha Washington’s Courageous Slave Who Dared to Run Away; Young Readers’ Edition by Erica Armstrong Dunbar & Kathleen Van Cleve

Born into a life of slavery, Ona Judge eventually grew up to be George and Martha Washington’s “favored” dower slave. When she was told that she was going to be given as a wedding gift to Martha Washington’s granddaughter, Ona made the bold and brave decision to flee to the north, where she would be a fugitive. From her childhood, to her time with the Washingtons and living in the slave quarters, to her escape to New Hampshire, Erica Armstrong Dunbar, along with Kathleen Van Cleve, shares an intimate glimpse into the life of a little-known, but powerful figure in history, and her brave journey as she fled the most powerful couple in the country.

{528053EC-7A7D-4A0F-BA97-197E0F07822A}Img100A Different Mirror for Young People: A History of Multicultural America For Young People by Ronald Takaki & Rebecca Stefoff

Adapted for young people, this book deals with the subject of minority perspectives of multicultural America, incorporating quotes, folk songs, letters, telegrams, and photographs into the text. It deals with, Native Americans, African Americans pre- and post-slavery era, Irish, Mexicans, Chicanos, Chinese, Japanese, Jews, and ties up the book with a current (for the time the book was written) summary of where minorities are now. Each chapter talks about the history of a different ethnic group, and covers over a period of time public attitudes towards the minority, public policy, laws for or against the minority, and attitude of the minority towards their situation.

{16A292C1-A7B3-46C5-AE80-1A2C614DC54A}Img100Notorious RBG Young Readers’ Edition: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg by Irin Carmon & Shana Knizhnik

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has become an icon to millions. Her tireless fight for equality and women’s rights has inspired not only great strides in the workforce but has impacted the law of the land. And now, perfect for a younger generation, comes an accessible biography of this fierce woman, detailing her searing dissents and powerful jurisprudence.

{79B5CBF6-BEB7-4BDA-8C86-689DE7ED577C}Img100The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind: Young Readers Edition by William Kamkwamba & Bryan Mealer

When a terrible drought struck William Kamkwamba’s tiny village in Malawi, his family lost all of the season’s crops, leaving them with nothing to eat and nothing to sell. William began to explore science books in his village library, looking for a solution. There, he came up with the idea that would change his family’s life forever: he could build a windmill. Made out of scrap metal and old bicycle parts, William’s windmill brought electricity to his home and helped his family pump the water they needed to farm the land.

{821B12B1-1C42-42AB-B3F3-1957531FF660}Img1001493 for Young People: From Columbus’s Voyage to Globalization For Young People by Charles Mann & Rebecca Stefoff

1493 for Young People by Charles C. Mann tells the gripping story of globalization through travel, trade, colonization, and migration from its beginnings in the fifteenth century to the present. How did the lowly potato plant feed the poor across Europe and then cause the deaths of millions? How did the rubber plant enable industrialization? What is the connection between malaria, slavery, and the outcome of the American Revolution? How did the fabled silver mountain of sixteenth-century Bolivia fund economic development in the flood-prone plains of rural China and the wars of the Spanish Empire? Here is the story of how sometimes the greatest leaps also posed the greatest threats to human advancement.

{68E33615-C70F-44E8-A0F7-50D8D5CA5CFD}Img100A Queer History of the United States for Young People: ReVisioning History for Young People by Michael Bronski & Richie Chevat

Queer history didn’t start with Stonewall. This book explores how LGBTQ people have always been a part of our national identity, contributing to the country and culture for over 400 years.

It is crucial for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer youth to know their history. But this history is not easy to find since it’s rarely taught in schools or commemorated in other ways. A Queer History of the United States for Young People corrects this and demonstrates that LGBTQ people have long been vital to shaping our understanding of what America is today.

Through engrossing narratives, letters, drawings, poems, and more, the book encourages young readers, of all identities, to feel pride at the accomplishments of the LGBTQ people who came before them and to use history as a guide to the future.

{52B9C973-A670-4C2A-B8D7-CE8E686FB887}Img100The Omnivore’s Dilemma: The Secrets Behind What You Eat (Young Readers’ Edition) by Michael Pollan

“What’s for dinner?” seemed like a simple question—until journalist and supermarket detective Michael Pollan delved behind the scenes. From fast food and big organic to small farms and old-fashioned hunting and gathering, this young readers’ adaptation of Pollan’s famous food-chain exploration encourages kids to consider the personal and global health implications of their food choices.

{31909E0F-FA90-4B68-8F8A-C0D3077F25AC}Img100No God but God: The Origins and Evolution of Islam by Reza Aslan

Adapted for young readers from No god but God: The Origins, Evolution, and Future of Islam, this exploration of Islam by Reza Aslan, internationally acclaimed scholar of comparative religion, delves into the rituals and traditions of a religion that is largely misunderstood by the West. It covers the religion’s origins—the revelation of Muhammad as Prophet and the subsequent uprising against him, and the emergence of his successors—as well as Islam’s complex history.

-Anna, Head of Youth Services