Books by Theme

Stories and Voices of Contemporary Native Americans

Ancestor Approved: Intertribal Stories for Kids

By: Cynthia Leitich Smith
Genre: Short Stories, Fiction
Age Level: 9-12
Reading Level: Independent Reader

Short stories by well and lesser-known Indigenous writers present a range of tales about contemporary young people from different tribes and regions at a Michigan powwow. They range from humorous to serious, but each provides a glimpse at the power of community support. Created in partnership with We Need Diverse Books.

Bowwow Powwow

By: Brenda J. Child, Gordon Jourdain
Illustrated by: Jonathan Thunder
Genre: Fiction
Age Level: 3-6
Reading Level: Beginning Reader

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. This playful story is accompanied by a companion retelling in Ojibwe.

Mary Golda Ross, Cherokee Aerospace Engineer

Classified: The Secret Career of Mary Golda Ross, Cherokee Aerospace Engineer

By: Traci Sorell
Illustrated by: Natasha Donovan
Genre: Biography
Age Level: 9-12
Reading Level: Independent Reader

Mary Golda Ross designed classified airplanes and spacecraft as Lockheed Aircraft Corporation's first female engineer. Find out how her passion for math and the Cherokee values she was raised with shaped her life and work. Cherokee author Traci Sorell and Métis illustrator Natasha Donovan trace Ross's journey from being the only girl in a high school math class to becoming a teacher to pursuing an engineering degree, joining the top-secret Skunk Works division of Lockheed, and being a mentor for Native Americans and young women interested in engineering. The narrative highlights Cherokee values including education, working cooperatively, remaining humble, and helping ensure equal opportunity and education for all.

Cover for picture book Fry Bread: A Native American Family Story

Fry Bread: A Native American Family Story

By: Kevin Maillard
Illustrated by: Juana Martinez-Neal
Genre: Nonfiction
Age Level: 3-6
Reading Level: Beginning Reader

What is fry bread? It’s food, shape, sound, art, history, and more — so much more. It is an American Indian tradition shared by a member of the Mekusukey Seminoles. A varied group of children and elders are depicted contributing to the recipe as the text describes its complex role in American history. Additional information is appended to create a book that can be used in both simple and complex ways.

Indian No More

By: Traci Sorell, Charlene Willing McManis
Genre: Historical Fiction
Age Level: 9-12
Reading Level: Independent Reader

Regina Petit's family has always been Umpqua, and living on the Grand Ronde Tribe's reservation is all ten-year-old Regina has ever known. But when the federal government enacts a law that says Regina's tribe no longer exists, Regina becomes "Indian no more" overnight. Now that they've been forced from their homeland, Regina's father signs the family up for the federal Indian Relocation Program and moves them to Los Angeles. Regina finds a whole new world in her neighborhood on 58th Place. She's never met kids of other races, and they've never met a real Indian, and Regina comes face to face with the viciousness of racism, personally and toward her new friends. In this moving middle-grade novel drawing upon Umpqua author Charlene Willing McManis's own tribal history, Regina must find out: Who is Regina Petit? Is she Indian, American, or both? And will she and her family ever be okay?

Indian Shoes

By: Cynthia Leitich Smith
Illustrated by: MaryBeth Timothy
Genre: Fiction
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

What do Indian shoes look like, anyway? Like beautiful beaded moccasins... or hightops with bright orange shoelaces? Ray Halfmoon, a young Cherokee-Seminole boy living in Chicago with his grandpa, prefers hightops, but he gladly trades them for a nice pair of moccasins for his grandpa. After all, it's Grampa Halfmoon who's always there to help Ray get in and out of scrapes and share a laugh. 

Jingle Dancer

By: Cynthia Leitich Smith
Illustrated by: Ying-Hwa Hu, Cornelius Van Wright
Genre: Fiction
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Beginning Reader

Jenna wants to dance in the powwow as her grandmother and other women in her family have. But she wonders: will she have enough jingles to make her dress sing? Traditional and contemporary activities come together in this appealing, clearly illustrated story of a modern girl and her background, based on the author's Muscogee (Creek) heritage.

Powwow Day

By: Traci Sorell
Illustrated by: Madelyn Goodnight
Genre: Fiction
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

In this uplifting, contemporary Native American story, River is recovering from illness and can't dance at the powwow this year. Will she ever dance again? Follow River's journey from feeling isolated after an illness to learning the healing power of community. Additional information explains the history and functions of powwows, which are commonplace across the United States and Canada and are open to both Native Americans and non-Native visitors. 

Powwow’s Coming

By: Linda Boyden
Genre: Nonfiction
Age Level: 9-12
Reading Level: Independent Reader

Cut-paper collage and poetry bring young readers inside a contemporary Native American community while offering a thoughtful look at powwows and their meanings to the Native participants.

Shi-shi-etko

By: Nicola I. Campbell
Illustrated by: Kim LaFave
Genre: Fiction
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

Shi-shi-etko has just four days until she will have to leave her family and everything she knows to attend one of Canada's Indian residential schools. She spends her last precious days at home treasuring and appreciating the beauty of her world — the dancing sunlight, the tall grass, each shiny rock, the tadpoles in the creek, her grandfather's paddle song. LaFave's richly hued illustrations complement Campbell's gently moving and poetic account of a child who finds solace around her, even though she is on the verge of great loss.

Shin-chi's Canoe

By: Nicola I. Campbell
Illustrated by: Kim LaFave
Genre: Fiction
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

When they arrive at school, Shi-shi-etko reminds Shinchi, her six-year-old brother, that they can only use their English names and that they can't speak to each other. For Shinchi, life becomes an endless cycle of church mass, school, and work, punctuated by skimpy meals. He finds solace at the river, clutching a tiny cedar canoe, a gift from his father, and dreaming of the day when the salmon return to the river — a sign that it's almost time to return home.

The Good Luck Cat

By: Joy Harjo
Illustrated by: Paul Lee
Genre: Fiction
Age Level: 3-6
Reading Level: Beginning Reader

A child narrates how a much loved cat, Woogie, brings good luck to her family. When Woogie is lost, its luck may have run out — but the resolution is luckily both satisfying and happy. Richly hued illustrations add authentic details to a universally appealing story set within a Native American family and told by a Muskogee-Creek writer.

We Are Grateful: Otsaliheliga

By: Traci Sorell
Illustrated by: Frané Lessac
Genre: Nonfiction
Age Level: 3-6
Reading Level: Beginning Reader

Join the Cherokee people as they celebrate each season of the year and special occasions, as well as the daily activities for which gratitude is expressed. Bold hues and flat forms distinguish the naïve illustrations. Cherokee words, based on Sequoyah’s syllabary (written symbols for syllables), are sprinkled throughout. Additional information concludes this handsome and unique glimpse of contemporary Native life written by a Cherokee poet.

We Are Still Here: Native American Truths Everyone Should Know

By: Traci Sorell
Illustrated by: Frané Lessac
Genre: Nonfiction
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

Using a class activity as a framework, the history of Indigenous people in the United States is presented. Each “presentation” concludes with a resounding “We are still here” despite the difficult history. Simple but bold illustrations and extensive backmatter conclude this important introduction to an often-forgotten part of American history.

We Feel Good Out Here

By: Julie-Ann André, Mindy Willett
Illustrated by: Tessa Macintosh
Genre: Nonfiction
Age Level: 9-12
Reading Level: Independent Reader

Julie-Ann is a Gwichya Gwich'in from Tsiigehtchic in the Northwest Territories. She is a Canadian Ranger, a mother of twin daughters, a hunter, a trapper, and a student. Julie-Ann shares her family's story and the story of her land, observing, "The land has a story to tell, if you know how to listen." A glossary of Gwichya Gwich'in words is provided. (The Land Is Our Storybook)

When the Shadbush Blooms

By: Carla Messinger , Susan Katz
Illustrated by: David Kanietakeron Fadden
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

"My grandparents' grandparents walked beside the same stream where I walk with my brother, and we can see what they saw." Today when a Lenape Indian girl ventures to the stream to fish for shad, she knows that another girl did the same generations before. Told through the cycle of seasons by Traditional Sister and Contemporary Sister, this is a book about tradition and about change. Includes an afterword about the culture and history of the Lenni Lenape (formerly known as the Delaware Indians).

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