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The Best Ojibwa Kids Books

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Sootface
Written & illustrated by Robert D. San Souci
picture book
Recommend Ages: 6-9

Once, an Ojibwa man whose wife had died raised three daughters alone. The two older girls were lazy and bad-tempered, and made their youngest sister do all the work. When the flames from the cooking fire singed her hair or burned her skin, they laughed and called her Sootface. While she worked, Sootface dreamed that one day she would find a husband. Then a mighty warrior with the power to make himself invisible decides to marry. Only a woman with a kind and honest heart could see him, and be his bride. Though her sisters ridicule her, Sootface sets off to try her luck, never looking back. Her courage and good nature bring her the husband she has longed for.

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Range Eternal
Written by Louise Erdrich & illustrated by Steve Johnson and Lou Fancher
picture book
Recommend Ages: 5-9

The story of a girlhood lived in the glow of a woodstove from one of the country's most distinguished and beloved authors, now back in print

At the heart of a home in the Turtle Mountains sits a woodstove. It is where Mama makes her good soup, where she cooks a potato for warming hands on icy mornings, where she heats a stone for warming cold toes at night. It warms the winter nights and keeps Windigo, the ice monster, at bay. On the stove's blue enamel door are raised letters, The Range Eternal, and in the dancing flames through the window below, a child can see pictures: the range of the buffalo, the wolf and the bear, the eagles and herons and cranes: truly, the Range Eternal.

In these charmingly illustrated pages, Louise Erdrich tells a story of hearth and home, of memory and imagination, of childhood recaptured in the reflection of a shiny blue woodstove, of the warm heart of family.

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The Forever Sky
Written by Thomas Peacock & illustrated by Annette S. Lee
picture book
Recommend Ages: 3-7

“<em>Nooko’s</em> spirit is there in the stars,” says Niigaanii to his younger brother, Bineshiinh, as they sprawl in a meadow, gazing skyward. “Uncle said when <em>Nooko&#39: s</em> spirit left this world it went there.” Nooko was their grandmother, and they miss her. But Uncle helps them find comfort in the night sky, where all the stars have stories.<br /> Indeed, there are so many stars and so many stories that the boys spend night after night observing and sharing, making sense of patterns and wisdom in “the forever sky.” They see a moose, a loon, a crane, the Path of Souls, and so much more.<br /> One night, a beautiful show of lights fills the sky. Niigaanii explains that the northern lights are the spirits of the relatives who have passed on. The boys imagine different relatives dancing, lighting up the sky with their graceful movements. And then they see her: Nooko is one of the elders leading the dance. She has a message for them. One they can share with their parents and their uncle and everyone else who remembers her. One that lends power to the skies and brings smiles to the stargazers’ faces.

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Birchbark House
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 9-12

“[In this] story of a young Ojibwa girl, Omakayas, living on an island in Lake Superior around 1847, Louise Erdrich is reversing the narrative perspective used in most children’s stories about nineteenth-century Native Americans. Instead of looking out at ‘them’ as dangers or curiosities, Erdrich, drawing on her family’s history, wants to tell about ‘us’, from the inside. The Birchbark House establishes its own ground, in the vicinity of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s ‘Little House’ books.” –The New York Times Book Review

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Bowwow Powwow
picture book
Recommend Ages: 3-7

Windy Girl is blessed with a vivid imagination. From Uncle she gathers stories of long-ago traditions, about dances and sharing and gratitude. Windy can tell such stories herself-about her dog, Itchy Boy, and the way he dances to request a treat and how he wriggles with joy in response to, well, just about everything. <br/> <br/>When Uncle and Windy Girl and Itchy Boy attend a powwow, Windy watches the dancers in their jingle dresses and listens to the singers. She eats tasty food and joins family and friends around the campfire. Later, Windy falls asleep under the stars. Now Uncle’s stories inspire other visions in her head: a bowwow powwow, where all the dancers are dogs. In these magical scenes, Windy sees veterans in a Grand Entry, and a visiting drum group, and traditional dancers, grass dancers, and jingle-dress dancers-all with telltale ears and paws and tails. All celebrating in song and dance. All attesting to the wonder of the powwow. <br/> <br/>This playful story by Brenda Child is accompanied by a companion retelling in Ojibwe by Gordon Jourdain and brought to life by Jonathan Thunder’s vibrant dreamscapes. The result is a powwow tale for the ages.

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  • Hungry Johnny - “I like to eat, eat, eat,” choruses young Johnny as he watches Grandma at work in the kitchen. Wild rice, fried potatoes, fruit salad, frosted sweet rolls–what a feast! Johnny can hardly contain his excitement. In no time, he’ll be digging in with everyone else, filling his belly with all this good food.<br /><br />But wait. First there is the long drive to the community center. And then an even longer Ojibwe prayer. And then–well, young boys know to follow the rules: elders eat first, no matter how hungry the youngsters are. Johnny lingers with Grandma, worried that the tasty treats won’t last. Seats at the tables fill and refill; platters are emptied and then replaced. Will it ever be their turn? And will there be enough?<br /><br />As Johnny watches anxiously, Grandma gently teaches. By the time her friend Katherine arrives late to the gathering, Johnny knows just what to do, hunger pangs or no. He understands, just as Grandma does, that gratitude, patience, and respect are rewarded by a place at the table–and plenty to eat, eat, eat.

  • Blueberry Patch / Mayabeekamneeboon - In this dual-language book, the story of how Indigenous people harvested berries and how that tradition continues to this day.

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