Kids Books by Indigenous Authors and Illustrators
While November is Native American Heritage Month, it’s always the right time to refresh your bookshelves to include Indigenous voices. We believe in the power of storytelling, and its ability to connect people.
According to the Children’s Book Council (2018), only 1% of children’s books depict American Indians/First Nations characters. While more books exist now than ever before, we still have a long way to go.
We have carefully crafted a book list that features both informative types of books as well as ones that showcase joy and connection. This list is incredibly diverse and yet so many common themes connect the stories, such as the importance of family, tradition, stewardship, and community.
You can see our full list of our recommendations here. It includes board books, picture books, middle grade and young adult books.
Looking for more book recommendations by Indigenous creators? Check out the resources below.
Educators, if you’re looking to deepen your instruction about Native American literature, you should check out the resources below.
My Heart Fills with Happiness
Author: Monique Gray Smith | Illustrator: Julie Flett | Publisher: Orca Book Publishers
“The sun on your face. The smell of warm bannock baking in the oven. Holding the hand of someone you love. What fills your heart with happiness? This beautiful board book, with illustrations from celebrated artist Julie Flett, serves as a reminder for little ones and adults alike to reflect on and cherish the moments in life that bring us joy.
International speaker and award-winning author Monique Gray Smith wrote My Heart Fills with Happiness to support the wellness of Indigenous children and families, and to encourage young children to reflect on what makes them happy.”
Author: Richard Van Camp | Illustrator: Julie Flett | Publisher: Orca Book Publishers
“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!”
I Can See You
Author: Rosemarie Avrana Meyok | Illustrator: Michelle Simpson | Publisher: Inhabit Media
“In this adorable book to be shared with babies and toddlers, mothers explore their love for their babies as experienced through the five senses. From the sound of a baby's giggles to the smell of a kunik, this book celebrates the unique bonds shared between mothers and babies.”
Beautiful You, Beautiful Me
Author: Tasha Spillett-Sumner | Illustrator: Salina Perera | Publisher: Owlkids
“Izzy’s favorite place to be is in Mama’s arms—skin to skin, safe and warm. One night, cuddled up on Mama’s lap, Izzy notices something she’s never noticed before: her skin is the color of chocolate, but Mama’s skin is the color of sand.
When Izzy realizes she’s different from Mama in other ways, too, she feels sad and confused. She wants to be beautiful like Mama! But Mama addresses Izzy’s disappointment with a gentle, loving refrain: You’re part of me, and I’m part of you. I’m beautiful like me, and you’re beautiful like you. Finding lessons from nature and repeating her affirming message, Mama encourages Izzy to see her own unique beauty.
This story about a multiracial child navigating identity and belonging draws from author Tasha Spillett-Sumner’s own experience growing up as an Afro-Indigenous girl. Lyrical text and warm, lively illustrations show Izzy’s journey as she learns to celebrate the differences that make her uniquely beautiful, and the connection to her mother that transcends physical traits.”
Author/Illustrator: Michaela Goade | Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
“On an island at the edge of a wide, wild sea, a girl and her grandmother gather gifts from the earth. Salmon from the stream, herring eggs from the ocean, and in the forest, a world of berries. Salmonberry, Cloudberry, Blueberry, Nagoonberry. Huckleberry, Snowberry, Strawberry, Crowberry.
Through the seasons, they sing to the land as the land sings to them. Brimming with joy and gratitude, in every step of their journey, they forge a deeper kinship with both the earth and the generations that came before, joining in the song that connects us all. Michaela Goade's luminous rendering of water and forest, berries and jams glows with her love of the land and offers an invitation to readers to deepen their own relationship with the earth.”
Author: Laurel Goodluck | Illustrator: Jonathan Nelson | Publisher: Charlesbridge
“In this Native American story, Kara and Amanda are best-friend cousins. Then Kara leaves the city to move back to the Rez. Will their friendship stay the same?
Kara and Amanda hate not being together. Then it's time for the family reunion on the Rez. Each girl worries that the other hasn't missed her. But once they reconnect, they realize that they are still forever cousins. This story highlights the ongoing impact of the 1950s Indian Relocation Act on Native families, even today.
This tender story about navigating change reminds readers that the power of friendship and family can bridge any distance.”
Authors: Hinaleimoana Wong-Kalu, Dean Hamer and Joe Wilson | Illustrator: Daniel Sousa | Publisher: Kokila
“An Indigenous legend about how four extraordinary individuals of dual male and female spirit, or Mahu, brought healing arts from Tahiti to Hawaii, based on the Academy Award–contending short film.
In the 15th century, four Mahu sail from Tahiti to Hawaii and share their gifts of science and healing with the people of Waikiki. The islanders return this gift with a monument of four boulders in their honor, which the Mahu imbue with healing powers before disappearing.
As time passes, foreigners inhabit the island and the once-sacred stones are forgotten until the 1960s. Though the true story of these stones was not fully recovered, the power of the Mahu still calls out to those who pass by them at Waikiki Beach today.
With illuminating words and stunning illustrations by Hinaleimoana Wong-Kalu, Dean Hamer, Joe Wilson, and Daniel Sousa, KAPAEMAHU is a monument to an Indigenous Hawaiian legend and a classic in the making.”
Authors: Daniel Greendeer, Anthony Perry, and Alexis Bunten | Illustrator: Garry Meeches Sr. | Publisher: Kokila
“In this Wampanoag story told in a Native tradition, two kids from the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe learn the story of Weeâchumun (corn) and the first Thanksgiving.
The Thanksgiving story that most Americans know celebrates the Pilgrims. But without members of the Wampanoag tribe who already lived on the land where the Pilgrims settled, the Pilgrims would never have made it through their first winter. And without Weeâchumun (corn), the Native people wouldn't have helped.
An important picture book honoring both the history and tradition that surrounds the story of the first Thanksgiving.”
Go Show the World: A Celebration of Indigenous Heroes
Author: Wab Kinew | Illustrator: Joe Morse | Publisher: Tundra Books
"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."
Sharice’s Big Voice: A Native Kid Becomes a Congresswoman
Authors: Sharice Davids and Nancy K. Mays | Illustrator: Mangeshig Pawis-Steckley | Publisher: HarperCollins
“This acclaimed picture book autobiography tells the triumphant story of Sharice Davids, one of the first Native American women elected to Congress, and the first LGBTQ congressperson to represent Kansas.
When Sharice Davids was young, she never thought she’d be in Congress. And she never thought she’d be one of the first Native American women in Congress. During her campaign, she heard from a lot of doubters. They said she couldn’t win because of how she looked, who she loved, and where she came from.
But everyone’s path looks different and everyone’s path has obstacles. And this is the remarkable story of Sharice Davids’ path to Congress.
Beautifully illustrated by Joshua Mangeshig Pawis-Steckley, an Ojibwe Woodland artist, this powerful autobiographical picture book teaches readers to use their big voice and that everyone deserves to be seen—and heard!
The back matter includes information about the Ho-Chunk written by former Ho-Chunk President Jon Greendeer, an artist note, and an inspiring letter to children from Sharice Davids.”