Before there were books, stories were only spoken, and were passed down through generations. Storytelling explained how the world came to be, taught important life lessons, and brought people together as stories were shared. We have put together a list of children’s books by Indigenous authors that you can share with the children in your life.
The Spirit Trackers
By Jan Bourdeau Waboose, Illustrated by Francois Thisdale
2017, Fifth House Publishers
Ages 6 to 9
The Spirit Trackers is a beautifully illustrated book with a mystery to solve. Will and Tom have always wanted to be trackers, like their uncle. After he tells them the story of the Windingo, the Wandering Night Spirit of Winter, the boys find tracks of their own and begin an adventure. The reader must also become a tracker, and follow the clues throughout the book. (From Fifth House)
Jan Bourdeau Waboose is First Nation Anishinaabe of the Ojibway Bear Clan from northern Ontario.
Sometimes I feel Like a Fox
Written and Illustrated by Danielle Daniel
2017, Groundwood Books (Part of Anansi)
Ages 4 to 7
Sometimes I Feel Like a Fox introduces children to the Anishinaabe tradition of totem animals, young children explain why they identify with different creatures such as a deer, beaver or moose. Delightful illustrations show the children wearing masks representing their chosen animal, while the few lines of text on each page work as a series of simple poems throughout the book.
In a brief author’s note, Danielle Daniel explains the importance of totem animals in Anishinaabe culture and how they can also act as animal guides for young children seeking to understand themselves and others. (From Anansi)
Danielle is Métis and lives in Sudbury, Ontario, the traditional territory of the Atikameksheng Anishnaabeg.
Hiawatha and the Peacemaker
By Robbie Robertson, Illustrated by David Shannon
2015, Abrams Books
Born of Mohawk and Cayuga descent, musical icon Robbie Robertson learned the story of Hiawatha and his spiritual guide, the Peacemaker, as part of the Iroquois oral tradition. Now he shares the same gift of storytelling with a new generation.
Hiawatha was a strong and articulate Mohawk who was chosen to translate the Peacemaker’s message of unity for the five warring Iroquois nations during the 14th century. This message not only succeeded in uniting the tribes but also forever changed how the Iroquois governed themselves—a blueprint for democracy that would later inspire the authors of the U.S. Constitution. (From Abrams)
The artwork in Hiawatha and the Peacemaker is done in striking oil paintings, but still has the touch of Caldecott Honor-winning David Shannon, known for his funny children’s books “No, David!”.
By Celina Kalluk, Illustrated by Alexandria Neonakis
2014, Inhabit Media
Sweetest Kulu is a beautiful bedtime poem, written by acclaimed Inuit throat singer Celina Kalluk, describes the gifts given to a newborn baby by all the animals of the Arctic.
Lyrically and tenderly told by a mother speaking to her own little “Kulu,” an Inuktitut term of endearment often bestowed upon babies and young children, this visually stunning book is infused with the traditional Inuit values of love and respect for the land and its animal inhabitants. (From Inhabit Media)
A Boy Called Slow
By Joseph Bruchac, Illustrated by Rocco Baviera
1995, Puffin Books
Ages 5 to 7
Anxious to be given a name as strong and brave as that of his father, a proud Lakota Sioux grows into manhood, acting with careful deliberation, determination, and bravery, which eventually earned him his proud new name: Sitting Bull. (From Penguin Random House)
For over thirty years Joseph Bruchac has been creating poetry, short stories, novels, anthologies and music that reflect his Native American heritage and traditions. (from the author’s website)
By Aaron Bell
13 to 15 years
When Jak goes to the ravine near his home in Brandford to get away from Steven Burke, a bully who’s been tormenting him, he discovers the ravine has a history that’s much older than he thought. He meets Grandfather Rock, who shares with him the story of the people who have lived near the ravine for thousands of years. Soon Jak’s eyes are opened to a new world of beings and respect.
Aaron Bell has been sharing the teachings and stories of the First Nations people of southern Ontario for eighteen years. He owns and operates two businesses, Ojibway Storyteller and Gonrah Desgohwah White Pin Dancers, out of his home in Brantford, Ontario. (From Dundurn)
Storytelling and sharing books with your children helps instill a love of reading in them. It is also a great way to start talking about our shared past, and to continue the conversation about the Indigenous cultures all around us. Perhaps you will find a new favourite in our list of children’s books by Indigenous authors. Be sure to let us know what you think, or if you have one that we should include in our next list!