November is National Native American Heritage Month and a great opportunity to learn more about American Indian and Native Alaskan nations, people, and cultures. One of our family’s favorite ways to learn is through reading, and today I am sharing five of our favorite children’s books by and about Native people.
The books listed below are geared toward preschool and elementary-aged children. If you are looking for books written for older kids, or if you simply want to read more, I highly recommend using American Indians in Children’s Literature (AICL) to find your next read. AICL is a resource by Dr. Debbie Reese and Dr. Jean Mendoza which examines and analyzes Indigenous peoples in children’s books and YA literature. Indigo’s Bookshelf is another great resource to check out; it offers book reviews by teens and young adults.
FRY BREAD: A NATIVE AMERICAN FAMILY STORY by Kevin Noble Maillard, Illustrated by Juana Martinez-Neal
This book, written in lovely verse that delights the five senses, is a celebration of the resiliency and diversity of Native Americans. Fry Bread shows how food brings together families and communities while also providing a powerful connection to history.
Author Kevin Noble Maillard includes a recipe for Fry Bread for a hands-on, sensory learning experience, in addition to an informative author’s note with additional information and history.
Preschool and elementary-aged kids will love this sweet book with beautiful pictures by Caldecott Honor Winner Juana Martinez-Neal.
UNSTOPPABLE: How Jim Thorpe and the Carlisle Indian School Football Team Defeated Army by Art Coulson; Illustrated by Nick Hardcastle
Readers do not need to love sports to appreciate this book about Jim Thorpe, once named the greatest athlete in the world. Art Coulson’s book highlights Thorpe, his time at American Indian boarding schools, and his team’s exciting win over the Army football team. The book focuses on Thorpe’s victories, but it also touches on some of the harsh realities of the boarding schools Thorpe and other American Indian children attended. More of this history is included in the book’s backmatter as well.
Inspired by the protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline at Standing Rock, this gorgeous book earned illustrator Michaela Goade a Caldecott Medal, making her the first Indigenous person to receive the distinction. The story and images honor those who fight for our planet and will encourage even the youngest readers to think about their connection to the natural world.
I Sang You Down From the Stars is told from the point of view of a mother awaiting the birth of her child. She speaks directly to the baby, telling the child how she gathered gifts for the baby’s sacred bundle. After the child arrives, the mother shares the experience of welcoming a baby as an individual and as part of a larger community. This is a beautiful story with dreamy pictures that kids will love to read over and over.