Children’s literature has many notable options when it comes to Native Americans. To help you find the right books for you and your young reader, we’ve compiled a list of the best kids books about Native Americans.
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, and you can also use our table of contents to jump to particular topics you think your kid will enjoy.
When it comes to children’s stories about Native Americans, there are a variety of titles. This list covers everything, from classics like You Hold Me Up to popular sellers like Island of the Blue Dolphins to some of our favorite hidden gems like The Indian in the Cupboard.
We hope this list of kids books about Native Americans 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.
The Incredible Adventures of Mary Jane Mosquito - Timely, Fun, Challenging and Wise! Tomson Highway’s musical cabaret, The Incredible Adventures of Mary Jane Mosquito, couldn’t be more vividly presented unless you were sitting in the middle seat of the front row watching the Cree playwright, performer, musician and poet himself. The story of a wingless little mosquito from Manitoba has all the whimsy and wise humour any audience could ask for. The ageless theme of a misfit, who finds her voice through song and who learns to make friends by communicating directly with her audience, is a timely treat for anyone who has felt like an outsider, dealt with bullying, moved to a new place, or was different from the rest of the pack. The entire script is here, complete with song lyrics, stage directions, Cree vocabulary, and challenging tongue twisters to delight all ages. A perfect book for drama students, teachers, and theatre enthusiasts, this beautiful full-colour volume serves as an interactive read-aloud for the young, or a great way to introduce students to the joys of staging a musical production.
Paddle-to-the-Sea - A toy Indian and his canoe travel from Lake Nipigon to the Atlantic Ocean.
The Case of Windy Lake - Sam, Otter, Atim and Chickadee are four cousins growing up on the Windy Lake First Nation. They are inseparable. Nicknamed the Mighty Muskrats for their habit of laughing, fighting and adventuring together, the cousins find that each new exploit adds to their reputation. When a visiting archeologist goes missing, the cousins decide to solve the mystery of his disappearance. In the midst of community conflict, family concerns and environmental protests, the four get busy following every lead. From their base of operations in a fort made out of an old school bus, the Mighty Muskrats won’t let anything stop them from solving their case!
The Girl and the Wolf - While picking berries with her mother, a little girl wanders too far into the woods. When she realizes she is lost, she begins to panic. A large grey wolf makes a sudden appearance between some distant trees. Using his sense of smell, he determines where she came from and decides to help her. Through a series of questions from the wolf, the little girl realizes she had the knowledge and skill to navigate herself—she just needed to remember that those abilities were there all along.
Want to see books about action and adventure?
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.
May We Have Enough to Share - Award-winning author Richard Van Camp wrote this book to express his gratitude for all that surrounds him and his family. The strength of their connections, the nature that provides for them, the love that is endless. Complemented by photos from photographers who celebrate their own gratefulness on the collective blog Tea&Bannock, the simple verse in May We Have Enough to Share is the perfect way to start or end your little one’s days in gratitude.
First Laugh--Welcome, Baby - 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? The First Laugh Ceremony is a celebration held to welcome a new member of the community. As everyone—from Baby’s nima (mom) to nadi (big sister) to cheii (grandfather)—tries to elicit the joyous sound from Baby, readers are introduced to details about Navajo life and the Navajo names for family members.
The Thundermaker - The Thundermaker is based on Mi’kmaw artist Alan Syliboy’s spectacular mixed-media exhibit of the same name. In the book, Big Thunder teaches his son, Little Thunder, about the important responsibility he has in making thunder for his people. Little Thunder learns about his Mi’kmaw identity through his father’s teachings and his mother’s traditional stories. Syliboy’s spectacular, vibrant artwork brings the story of Little Thunder to vivid life.
Neekah's Knitting Needles - Neekah’s great grandma, Mumma, knit all her life. Her Grandma Dorothy knits, her mom knits and all her aunties knit. Even some of Neekah’s uncles knit, too. Every year she asks her mom if she can learn, and every year she hears, “Be patient. Your hands aren’t quite big enough yet.”
At last Neekah is ready to learn, her head and heart bursting with the colorful designs she will create with the wool. She sits down with her mom, holding the wooden needles Grandpa Carl has made for her and the wool she chose from Auntie Joni’s shop. But knitting a toque for Grandma Dorothy is not as easy as she had imagined.
The Salmon Twins - In her third book inspired by First Nations’ stories, children’s author and illustrator Caroll Simpson explains the significance of community values. She introduces readers to a world of creatures like Sea Lion, Killer Whale, Dogfish and Kingfisher. Her dramatic tale of young twins and their transformation shows how working together keeps a community healthy. When new twins are born in a mythical Pacific Coast village, everyone celebrates because the birth of twins is a rare occasion; twins are the children of the salmon. But when the twins grow selfish and greedy, Thunderbird transforms them into a Two-Headed Sea Serpent. Can the Serpent’s heads learn to work together? The question becomes more important when the salmon don’t run up the river and the villagers start to go hungry. The Serpent’s heads have to co-operate with each other to solve the mystery and restore the salmon run. Written for children aged 3 to 10, this charming story is illustrated with Simpson’s distinctive colour paintings that celebrate First Nations culture. A glossary of mythical creatures and sea life provides informative teaching points and invites further exploration of West Coast cultures. Also available in hardcover.
Nimoshom and His Bus - Nimoshom and His Bus introduces basic Cree words. Children riding the school bus learn from their driver, Nimoshom (“my grandfather”), who speaks to them in their own language—Cree. Nimoshom and His Bus is a welcoming, simple story with inviting illustrations
The Water Walker / Nibi Emosaawdang - The story of the determined Ojibwe Nokomis (grandmother) Josephine Mandamin and her great love for Nibi (water). Nokomis walks to raise awareness of our need to protect water for future generations and for all life on the planet. She, along with other women, men and youth, have walked the perimeter of the Great Lakes and along the banks of numerous rivers and lakes. The walks are full of challenges, and by her example Josephine invites us all to take up our responsibility to protect our water, the giver of life, and to protect our planet for all generations.
Zoe and the Fawn - Zoe and her father are delighted to come across a fawn in the forest. But the fawn is alone—where is its mother? Join Zoe on her quest for the deer, as she encounters animals and learns their syilx (Okanagan) names along the way. Repetition of phrased questions will enhance success for beginning readers while creating a playful rhythm for young listeners.
Want to see books about science and nature?
I Am Not a Number / Gaawin Ndoo-Gindaaswisii - When eight-year-old Irene is removed from her First Nations family to live in a residential school, she is confused, frightened and terribly homesick. She tries to remember who she is and where she came from, despite the efforts of the nuns in charge at the school, who tell her that she is not to use her own name but instead use the number they have assigned to her. When she goes home for summer holidays, Irene’s parents decide never to send her and her brothers away again. But where will they hide? And what will happen when her parents disobey the law?
Beyond the Green - “After twelve-year-old Britta’s family fostered Chipeta, a Native American baby, for four years, Chipeta’s birth mother has the right to take her back. In 1979 Utah, Britta can’t imagine life without her beloved little sister, and so she grows determined to do whatever she can to keep her sister and to eventually understand how complicated and important family is—in all its forms”—
Want to see books about 20th century?
A Small Tall Tale from the Far Far North - With the help of Eskimos, Jan Welzl survives a perilous journey from central Europe to the Arctic regions in the late 1800s
Julie of the Wolves - Lost on the Tundra To her small Eskimo village, she is known as Miyax; to her friend in San Francisco, she is Julie. When the village is no longer safe for her, Miyax runs away. But she soon finds herself lost in the Alaskan wilderness, without food, without even a compass to guide her. Slowly she is accepted by a pack of Arctic wolves, Mid she grows to love them as though they were family. With their help, and drawing on her father’s teachings, Miyax struggles day by clay to survive. But the time comes when she must leave the wilderness and choose between the old ways an(] the new. Which will she choose? For she is Miyax of the Eskimos—but Julie of the Wolves. Faced with the prospect of a disagreeable arranged marriage or a journey acoss the barren Alaskan tundra, 13-year-old Miyax chooses the tundra. She finds herself caught between the traditional Eskimo ways and the modern ways of the whites. Miyax, or Julie as her pen pal Amy calls her, sets out alone to visit Amy in San Francisco, a world far away from Eskimo culture and the frozen land of Alaska. During her long and arduous journey, Miyax comes to appreciate the value of her Eskimo heritage, learns about herself, and wins the friednship of a pack of wolves. After learning the language of the wolves and slowly earning their trust, Julie becomes a member of the pack. Since its first publication, Julie of The Wolves,winner of thr 1973 Newbery Medal, has found its way into the hearts of millions of readers.
Want to see books about Inuit?