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Indigenous Peoples: Books For Kids

Looking for a list of the best children's books about indigenous peoples?

Children’s literature has many notable options when it comes to indigenous peoples. To help you find the right books for you and your young reader, we’ve compiled a list of the best kids books about indigenous peoples.

Our list includes board books, picture books, and chapter books. Board books are best for babies and toddlers from ages newborn to 2 or 3. Picture books are generally great options for toddlers and for preschool and kindergarten age children. Picture books are especially enjoyable for adults to read aloud with young kids. The chapter books on our list are generally best for elementary through early middle school age tween kids. You can filter to sort by the best book type for your kid.

When it comes to children’s stories about indigenous peoples, there are a variety of titles. This list covers everything, from classics like The Indian in the Cupboard to popular sellers like Island of the Blue Dolphins to some of our favorite hidden gems like The Rough-Face Girl.

We hope this list of kids books about indigenous peoples can be a helpful resource for parents, teachers, and others searching for a new book! As you explore the list, please comment below to let us know what books you would add.

This Little Explorer
Written by Joan Holub & illustrated by Daniel Roode
board book
Recommend Ages: 3-5

Learn all about the most influential explorers who searched the world far and wide in this engaging and colorful board book perfect for pioneers-in-training! Little explorers discover a great big world. The follow up to This Little President, now even the youngest adventurers can learn about the greatest explorers in history with this bright and playful board book. Highlighting ten memorable pioneers, parents and young discoverers alike will love sharing this fun historical primer full of age-appropriate facts and bold illustrations.

Ten Little Rabbits
Written by Virginia Grossman & illustrated by Sylvia Long
board book
Recommend Ages: 2-4

A counting rhyme with illustrations of rabbits in Native American costume, depicting traditional customs such as rain dances, hunting, and smoke signals. On board pages.

Little You
Written by Richard Van Camp
board book
Recommend Ages: 0-3

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. With its delightful contemporary illustrations, Little You is perfect to be shared, read or sung to all the little people in your life—and the new little ones on the way!

The Indian in the Cupboard
Written & illustrated by Lynne Reid Banks
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 8-12

Full of magic and appealing characters, this classic novel takes readers on a remarkable adventure.

It’s Omri’s birthday, but all he gets from his best friend, Patrick, is a little plastic Indian toy. Trying to hide his disappointment, Omri puts the Indian in a metal cupboard and locks the door with a mysterious skeleton key that once belonged to his great-grandmother. Little does Omri know that by turning the key, he will transform his ordinary plastic Indian into a real live man from an altogether different time and place! Omri and the tiny warrior called Little Bear could hardly be more different, yet soon the two forge a very special friendship. Will Omri be able to keep Little Bear without anyone finding out and taking his precious Indian from him?

The Rough-Face Girl
Written by Rafe Martin & illustrated by David Shannon
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

From Algonquin Indian folklore comes one of the most haunting, powerful versions of the Cinderella tale ever told. In a village by the shores of Lake Ontario lived an invisible being. All the young women wanted to marry him because he was rich, powerful, and supposedly very handsome. But to marry the invisible being the women had to prove to his sister that they had seen him. And none had been able to get past the sister’s stern, all-knowing gaze. Then came the Rough-Face girl, scarred from working by the fire. Could she succeed where her beautiful, cruel sisters had failed?

  • Soapstone Porcupine - The dog shows up the way snow does on a winter’s day. She just drifts in and stays, becoming the friend of a young Cree boy. The boy and the dog set out on an adventure that ends in a quandary of quills and a big brother who swears to take revenge on the porcupine. But Lindy, a Cree elder and master carver, reminds the brothers of the importance of the great porcupine. After a day spent carving in town, the boy learns some truths about human nature and realizes that sometimes, like the porcupine, you must put your quills up to keep from getting pushed around. Soapstone Porcupine is the second book, after Soapstone Signs, narrated by a young Cree boy.

  • The Three Snow Bears - Jan Brett’s bestselling snowy “Goldilocks” retelling is now available in this popular large, durable format. Painted in her signature style, the familiar story and depiction of playful Arctic animals and birds dressed in colorful Inuit costumes make this classic tale a perfect choice for Jan’s youngest fans.

  • Go Show the World: A Celebration of Indigenous Heroes - “We are a people who matter.” Inspired by President Barack Obama’s Of Thee I Sing, Go Show the World is a tribute to historic and modern-day Indigenous heroes, featuring important figures such as Tecumseh, Sacagawea and former NASA astronaut John Herrington. Celebrating the stories of Indigenous people throughout time, Wab Kinew has created a powerful rap song, the lyrics of which are the basis for the text in this beautiful picture book, illustrated by the acclaimed Joe Morse. Including figures such as Crazy Horse, Net-no-kwa, former NASA astronaut John Herrington and Canadian NHL goalie Carey Price, Go Show the World showcases a diverse group of Indigenous people in the US and Canada, both the more well known and the not- so-widely recognized. Individually, their stories, though briefly touched on, are inspiring; collectively, they empower the reader with this message: “We are people who matter, yes, it’s true; now let’s show the world what people who matter can do.”

  • Island of the Blue Dolphins - Far off the coast of California looms a harsh rock known as the island of San Nicholas. Dolphins flash in the blue waters around it, sea otter play in the vast kep beds, and sea elephants loll on the stony beaches. Here, in the early 1800s, according to history, an Indian girl spent eighteen years alone, and this beautifully written novel is her story. It is a romantic adventure filled with drama and heartache, for not only was mere subsistence on so desolate a spot a near miracle, but Karana had to contend with the ferocious pack of wild dogs that had killed her younger brother, constantly guard against the Aleutian sea otter hunters, and maintain a precarious food supply. More than this, it is an adventure of the spirit that will haunt the reader long after the book has been put down. Karana’s quiet courage, her Indian self-reliance and acceptance of fate, transform what to many would have been a devastating ordeal into an uplifting experience. From loneliness and terror come strength and serenity in this Newbery Medal-winning classic.

The Grizzly Mother
Written by Brett D. Huson & illustrated by Natasha Donovan
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 9-12

To the Gitxsan people of northwestern British Columbia, the grizzly is an integral part of the natural landscape. They share the land and forests the Skeena River runs through, as well as the sockeye salmon within it. The Grizzly Mother explores how an ecosystem’s animals, people and seasons are all intertwined.

Navajo Code Talkers
Written by Blake Hoena
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 8-14

During World War II U.S. forces had to keep battle plans and other top secret information out of the enemy’s hands. Coded messages were often used, but secret codes could be broken. To solve this problem, the U.S. military turned to an unexpected source to create an unbreakable code. The Navajo people spoke a complex language that few outsiders knew how to speak. Several Navajo soldiers were recruited to develop a code based on the Navajo language. The result was a complex code that could not be solved by the enemy. Learn all about the brave Navajo Code Talkers and how their unbreakable code helped defeat the enemy and win the war.

Stolen Words / Kimotinaniwiw Pikiskwewina
Written by Melanie Florence & illustrated by Gabrielle Grimard
picture book
Recommend Ages: 6-8

The dual language edition, in Cree and English, of the award-winning story of the beautiful relationship between a little girl and her grandfather. When she asks her grandfather how to say something in Cree, he tells her that his language was stolen from him when he was a boy. The little girl then sets out to help her grandfather find his language again. This sensitive and warmly illustrated picture book explores the intergenerational impact of the residential school system that separated young Indigenous children from their families. The story recognizes the pain of those whose culture and language were taken from them, how that pain is passed down, and how healing can also be shared.

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.

When I Was Eight
picture book
Recommend Ages: 6-7

Looks at the experiences of a strong-willed young Inuit girl who receives permission from her father to travel to a residential religious school run by non-Inuit outsiders, where she struggles to adapt to the new way of living.

  • Squanto and the Miracle of Thanksgiving - Describes how the Massachusetts Indian Squanto was captured by the British, sold into slavery in Spain, and ultimately returned to the New World to become a guide and friend for the Pilgrims.

  • The Bear's Medicine / Sus You - A mother bear shares with her cubs how to be grateful for all they have in the natural world. The Bear’s Medicine shows the interconnectedness of all things in the world they live in and how each season brings changes and blessings for the bears. It is a story of a mother’s love for her children as she teaches them how to survive.

  • We Are Water Protectors - Inspired by the many Indigenous-led movements across North America, Carole Lindstrom’s bold and lyrical picture book We Are Water Protectors issues an urgent rallying cry to safeguarding the Earth’s water from harm and corruption. Water is the first medicine. It affects and connects us all . . . When a black snake threatens to destroy the Earth And poison her people’s water, one young water protector Takes a stand to defend Earth’s most sacred resource.

  • The Train - Ashley meets her great-uncle by the old train tracks near their reserve in Nova Scotia. When she sees his sadness, he shares with her the history of those tracks. Uncle tells her that, during his childhood, the train would bring their community supplies, but there came a day when the train took away with it something much more important. One day he and the other children from the reserve were taken aboard and transported to a residential school, where their lives were changed forever. Ashley promises to wait with her uncle as he sits by the tracks, waiting for what was taken from their people to come back to them.

My Heart Fills with Happiness
Written by Monique Gray Smith & illustrated by Julie Flett
board book
Recommend Ages: 2-6

A board book that celebrates happiness and invites children to reflect on the little things in life that bring them joy.

Minegoo Mniku
Written & illustrated by Sandra L Dodge
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

The story of creation told from a Mi’kmaq point of view. Along time ago, the Great Spirit created the sky and all of the stars. Still, it wasn’t enough. He then made Minegoo, a place so beautiful it could have been kept among the stars. But instead, He decided to place Minegoo in the most beautiful spot on Earth. He summoned Kluskap and asked him to find this spot. After searching the whole world, Kluskap found the Shining Waters, the spot in the Gulf of St. Lawrence that would be home to the Mi’kmaq people created in his own image.

Red Moon Rising
Written & illustrated by Kari Anne Holt
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 10-14

“When space-farmer Rae is kidnapped by the native inhabitants of her moon, she is trained to become a warrior. But can she attack her own people?”—

Piecing Earth & Sky Together
Written by Nancy Raines Day & illustrated by Genna Panzarella
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

While she and her grandmother work on their embroidery, Mei Yoon listens to an old Mien tale about the creation of the earth and the sky.

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