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Here Now: Picture Books Portraying Contemporary Native Life, Part 2

In a 2018 School Library Journal article entitled, “Can Diverse Books Save Us?” 55% of the librarians surveyed reported that though authentic character portrayals of Native or Indigenous People were in demand, they were “hard to find” (see below).

Image Credit: School Library Journal (2018)

Author Traci Sorell (Cherokee Nation) -- whose first picture book, We Are Grateful: Otsaliheligaalso came out in 2018 -- keeps track of children’s literature featuring contemporary Native life. With her generous permission, we are sharing the picture book section of the list she compiled of books featuring contemporary portrayals of Indigenous children and adults. Her list indicates the tribal identification of any Indigenous authors/illustrators included. We have also linked to each book's page in our collection, when possible.

Children's Picture Books Centering Contemporary Indigenous Children and Adults

compiled by Traci Sorell

** This is not an exhaustive list. Search for these creators online as many of them have several books about Native people, some of which are more historical (pre-1900) than contemporary. **

Annino, Jan Godown, illus. by Lisa Desimini, afterword by Moses Jumper, Jr. (Seminole)

She sang promise: The Story of Betty Mae Jumper, Seminole Tribal Leader


by Jan Godown Annino and Lisa Desimini

Betty Mae Tiger Jumper was born in 1923, the daughter of a Seminole woman and a white man. She grew up in the Everglades under dark clouds of distrust among her tribe who could not accept her at first. As a child of a mixed marriage, she walked the line as a constant outsider. Growing up poor and isolated, she only discovered the joys of reading and writing at age 14. An iron will and sheer determination led her to success, and she returned to her people as a qualified nurse. When her husband was too sick to go to his alligator wrestling tourist job, gutsy Betty Mae climbed right into the alligator pit! Storyteller, journalist, and community activist, Betty Mae Jumper was a voice for her people, ultimately becoming the first female elected Seminole tribal leader.--publisher

Beautiful Life Biography Oppression & Resilience

Avingaq, Susan (Inuk) and Maren Vsetula, illus. by Charlene Chua

Fishing with grandma


by Susan Avingaq, Maren Vsetula and Charlene Chua

"Adventure begins when Grandma takes her two grandchildren out for a trip on the lake. After showing the kids how to prepare of a fishing trip, Grandma and the kids enjoy a day of jigging in the ice for fish. Grandma shows them everything they need to know to complete a successful fishing trip, from what clothes to wear, to how to drill and clear holes in the ice, to how to make a traditional Inuit jigging rod. By the end of the day, the kids have a yummy meal of Arctic char, and they have also learned everything they need to know to have a successful day on the lake."--Provided by publisher

Beautiful Life

Bruchac, Joseph (Abenaki), illus. by Liz Amini-Holmes

Campbell, Nicola I. (Interior Salish/Cree), illus. by Kim LaFave

Child, Brenda (Red Lake Ojibwe), illus. by Jonathan Thunder (Red Lake Ojibwe)

Bowwow powwow


by Brenda J. Child and Jonathan Thunder

When Uncle and Windy Girl attend a powwow, Windy watches the dancers and listens to the singers. She eats tasty food and joins family and friends around the campfire. Later, Windy falls asleep under the stars. Uncle's stories inspire visions in her head: a bowwow powwow, where all the dancers are dogs. In these magical scenes, Windy sees veterans in a Grand Entry, and a visiting drum group, and traditional dancers, grass dancers, and jingle-dress dancers -- all with telltale ears and paws and tails. All celebrating in song and dance. All attesting to the wonder of the powwow.--Provided by publisher

Beautiful Life

Coulson, Art (Cherokee Nation), illus. by Nick Hardcastle

Unstoppable: How Jim Thorpe and the Carlisle Indian School Defeated Army


by Art Coulson and Nick Hardcastle

In the autumn of 1912, the football team from Carlisle Indian Industrial School took the field at the U.S. Military Academy, home to the bigger, stronger, and better -equipped West Points Cadets. Sportswriters billed the game as a sort of rematch, pitting against each other the descendants of U.S. soldiers and American Indians who fought on the battlefield only 20 years earlier. But for lightning-fast Jim Thorpe and the other Carlisle players, that day's game was about skill, strategy, and determination. Known for unusual formations and innovative plays, the Carlisle squad was out to prove just one thing- -that it was the best football team in all the land.


Crowe, Ellie, illus. by Richard Waldrep

Dupuis, Jenny Kay (Ojibwe) and Kathy Kacer, illus. by Gillian Newland

I am not a number


by Jenny Kay Dupuis, Kathy Kacer and Gillian Newland

"A picture book based on a true story about a young First Nations girl who was sent to a residential school. 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 to force her to do otherwise. Based on the life of Jenny Kay Dupuis' own grandmother, I Am Not a Number brings a terrible part of Canada's history to light in a way that children can learn from and relate to"--|cProvide by publisher

Cross Group Oppression & Resilience

Edwardson, Debby Dahl, illus. by Annie Patterson. Whale Snow (Charlesbridge, 2003)

Flett, Julie (Cree/Métis)

Francis, Lee DeCora (Penobscot/HoChunk), illus. by Susan Drucker

González, Xelena (Tap Pilam Coahuiltecan Nation), illus. by Adriana M. Garcia

Herrington, John B. (Chickasaw). Mission to Space (White Dog Press, 2016)

Kirk, Connie Ann, illus. by Christy Hale

Lindstrom, Carole (Turtle Mtn Chippewa/Métis), illus. by Kimberly McKay

Maret, Sherri (Choctaw Nation), illus. by Merisha Sequoia Clark (Choctaw Nation). The Cloud Artist (Roadrunner Press, 2017)

Morrison, Kaylee (Muscogee Creek) and Nancy Smith (Muscogee Creek), illus. by Dorothy Shaw. Joshua and the Biggest Fish (Doodle & Peck, 2017)

Nelson, S.D. (Standing Rock Lakota). Greet the Dawn: The Lakota Way (South Dakota State Historical Society, 2012)

Rendon, Marcie (White Earth Anishinabe). Powwow Summer: A Family Celebrates the Circle of Life (Minnesota Historical Society Press, 2013)

Ortiz, Simon. (Acoma Pueblo), illus. by Sharol Graves

The people shall continue


by Simon J. Ortiz and Sharol Graves

"The People Shall Continue was originally published in 1977. It is a story of Indigenous peoples of the Americas, specifically in the U.S., as they endeavor to live on lands they have known to be their traditional homelands from time immemorial. Even though the prairies, mountains, valleys, deserts, river bottomlands, forests, coastal regions, swamps and other wetlands across the nation are not as vast as they used to be, all of the land is still considered to be the homeland of the people"--Foreword

Cross Group Oppression & Resilience

Robertson, David (Swampy Cree), illus. by Julie Flett (Cree/Métis)

When we were alone


by David Robertson and Julie Flett

When a young girl helps tend to her grandmother's garden, she begins to notice things that make her curious. Why does her grandmother have long, braided hair and beautifully colored clothing? Why does she speak another language and spend so much time with her family? As she asks her grandmother about these things, she is told about life in a residential school a long time ago, where all of these things were taken away. When We Were Alone is a story about a difficult time in history, and, ultimately, one of empowerment and strength. |cProvided by publisher

Oppression & Resilience

Robertson, Joanne (Ojibwe)

The Water Walker


by Joanne Robertson

"This is the story of a determined Ojibwe Grandmother (Nokomis) Josephine Mandamin and her great love for Nibi (Water). Nokomis walks to raise awareness of our need to protect Nibi for future generations, and for all life on the planet. She, along with other women, men, and youth, have walked around all of the Great Lakes from the four salt waters - or oceans - all the way to Lake Superior. The water walks are full of challenges, and by her example Josephine inspires and challenges us all to take up our responsibility to protect our water and our planet for all generations. Her story is a wonderful way to talk with children about the efforts that the Ojibwe and many other Indigenous peoples give to the protection of water - the giver of life"--|cProvided by publisher


Robertson, Sebastian (Mohawk), illus. by Adam Gustavson

Santiago, Chiori, illus. by Judith Lowry (Maidu/Pit River)

Savageau, Cheryl (Abenaki), illus. by Robert Hynes

Smith, Cynthia Leitich (Muscogee Creek), illus. by Ying-Hwa Hu and Cornelius Van Wright

Smith, Monique Gray (Cree/Lakota), illus. by Danielle Daniel

Sneve, Virginia Driving Hawk (Rosebud Sioux), illus. by Ellen Beier

Sorell, Traci (Cherokee), illus. by Frané Lessac

We are grateful: Otsaliheliga


by Traci Sorell and Frané Lessac

"The word otsaliheliga (oh-jah-LEE-hay-lee-gah) means “we are grateful” in the Cherokee language. Beginning in the fall with the new year and ending in summer, follow a full Cherokee year of celebrations and experiences. Written by a citizen of the Cherokee Nation, this look at one group of Native Americans is appended with a glossary and the complete Cherokee syllabary, originally created by Sequoyah."

Beautiful Life

Tahe, Rose Ann (Diné) and Nancy Bo Flood, illus. by Jonathan Nelson (Diné)

First laugh – Welcome Baby!


by Nancy Bo Flood, Rose Ann Tahe and Jonathan Nelson

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. --publisher

Beautiful Life Race/Culture Concepts

Tallchief, Maria (Osage) with Rosemary Wells, illus. by Gary Kelley. Tallchief: America’s Prima Ballerina (Puffin Books, 1999)

Taylor, Gaylia, illus. by Frank Morrison

George Crum and the Saratoga chip


by Gaylia Taylor and Frank Morrison

Growing up in the 1830s in Saratoga Springs, New York, isn't easy for George Crum. Picked on at school because of the colour of his skin, George escapes into his favorite pastimes--hunting and fishing. Soon George learns to cook too, and he lands a job as a chef at the fancy Moon's Lake House. George loves his work, except for the fussy customers, who are always complaining! One hot day George's patience boils over and he cooks up a potato dish so unique it changes his life forever. This spirited story of the invention of the potato chip is a testament to human ingenuity and a tasty slice of culinary history

Biography Cross Group Oppression & Resilience

Vandever, Daniel W. (Navajo)

Waboose, Jan Bourdeau (Ojibwe), illus. by Brian Deines

Many of the cover images on this site are from Google Books.
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