22 Titles for Native American Heritage Month

November is Native American Heritage Month. As we celebrate and honor Native and Indigenous peoples and nations, here are 22 titles to share with children and teens.

November is Native American Heritage Month. As we celebrate and honor Native and Indigenous peoples and nations, here are 22 titles to share with children and teens.


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 Aquí era el paraíso/ Here Was Paradise: Selección de poemas de Humberto Ak’abal/ Selected Poems of Humberto Ak’abal by Humberto Ak’abal. illus. by Amelia Lau Carling. Groundwood. ISBN 9781773064956.
Gr 6 Up–Divided into sections that explore everything from wildlife, home life, nature, and ghosts, this collection of poetry introduces readers to poet Humberto Ak’abal’s home in Guatemala, and the pride and love felt for his Maya K’iche’ village and the history it carries. The watercolor and pencil illustrations depict everyday life and transform mundane sights, such as dogs, flowers, trees, and the moon, into something extraordinary. English and Spanish translations are provided side by side.  

 Firekeeper’s Daughter by Angeline Boulley. Holt. ISBN 9781250766564.
Gr 9 Up–Eighteen-year-old Daunis should be focused on a fresh start at college after her uncle’s untimely death. She is sucked back into the world of ice hockey and starts slowly falling for Jamie, one of her brother’s new teammates. Soon she finds herself living two disparate lives: one as a loving daughter, niece, and granddaughter in her family and Ojibwe community, and one as a confidential informant to the FBI as it investigates a deadly new drug.

Native Women Changing Their Worlds by Patricia J Cutright. 7th Generation. (Native Trailblazers: Bk. 9). ISBN 9781939053329.
Gr 6 Up–The ninth entry in the “Native Trailblazers” series explores the lives of 12 Native American and First Nations activists and changemakers. Each brief chapter narrates a different woman’s life, showcasing themes of perseverance, determination, and education. Cutright’s text is accessible, making this title both an appealing entry point for adolescent students researching Native women activists and a productive teaching tool for upper elementary and middle school. This wide-ranging look at Native American and First Nations female leaders will inspire further reading.

Sharice’s Big Voice: A Native Kid Becomes a Congresswoman by Sharice Davids with Nancy K. Mays. illus. by Joshua Mangeshig Pawis-Steckley. Harper. ISBN 9780062979667.
K-Gr 3–In a true story of determination, perseverance, and using her voice to help others, Davids shares her life growing up in Kansas as a member of the Ho-Chunk tribe. She seamlessly describes events of her childhood and her journey to become the first Indigenous woman to serve in Congress. A book with multiple areas of use, this may serve as inspiration for others learning how to use their big voices.

The Sea in Winter by Christine Day. Harper/Heartdrum. ISBN 9780062872043.
Gr 4-6–Maisie loves ballet. Now that she’s torn her ACL, a key ligament, she experiences depression. During an annual midwinter vacation to her stepdad’s native home, she realizes that her dreams of being a dancer may not come true. With the help of her family and therapist, Maisie learns that even though life may not work out the way she wants, she can still move forward. Maisie is Native American. Her mother is Makah, her father was Piscataway, and her stepdad is a citizen of the lower Elwha Klallam Tribe.

 The Sea-Ringed World: Sacred Stories of the Americas by María García Esperón. illus. by Amanda Mijangos. Levine Querido. ISBN 9781646140152.
Gr 5 Up–This text features sacred stories that have been passed down within and by Indigenous cultures of the Americas for thousands of years. Stories pass on messages of hope and resilience, but also provide events filled with sadness and tragedy. The vibrant blue, black, and white palette used in the illustrations brings events from the stories beautifully to life. Highly recommended for readers young and old, this work is breathtaking and simply beautiful.  

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 Apple: Skin to the Core by Eric Gansworth. illus. by author. Levine Querido. 2020. ISBN 9781646140138.
Gr 7 Up –This bittersweet but ultimately inspiring memoir in verse chronicles Gansworth's experience raised on a reservation. Gansworth, who is a member of Eel clan and an enrolled Onondaga, was born and raised at the Tuscarora Nation. The text aims to illuminate the truth about his family history and the trauma that shaped Gansworth's life. All teens will relate to Gansworth's profound portraits of joy, pain, and hope.

Living Ghosts and Mischievous Monsters: Chilling American Indian Stories by Dan SaSuWeh Jones. illus. by Weshoyot Alvitre. Scholastic Nonfiction. ISBN 9781338681628.
Gr 4 Up–Jones (Ponca) explains that these 32 entries have been handed down from a variety of tribes and storytellers across Indigenous country. This collection is divided into five sections—ghosts, spirits, witches, monsters, and the supernatural. Illustrator Alvitre (Tongva) provides unsettling yet age-appropriate visuals to accompany the selections. While most collections of creepy stories feature fictional tales, this volume is composed of scary reads that come directly from cultural and historical accounts, including the author’s own.

Notable Native People: 50 Indigenous Leaders, Dreamers, and Changemakers from Past and Present by Adrienne Keene. illus. by Ciara Sana. Ten Speed. ISBN 9781984857941.
Gr 8 Up–Keene, the founder of Native Appropriations—a forum for discussing representations of Native peoples, including stereotypes, cultural appropriation, news, and activism—and a professor at Brown University, highlights members of federally recognized tribes as well as Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian communities. Explanations of terms and concepts like “settler colonialism” are interspersed among the one-page biographies of politicians, artists, athletes, and educators.

 We Are Water Protectors by Carole Lindstrom. illus. by Michaela Goade. Roaring Brook. ISBN 9781250203557.
Gr 2-4 –This multilayered picture book was written in support of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, who protested the Dakota Access Pipeline. It can be used on a surface level with younger children and on a deeper, more informed level with older students. The author’s and illustrator’s notes provide valuable information, and there is a pledge children can sign to protect the environment.

Elatsoe by Darcie Little Badger. illus. by Rovina Cai. Levine Querido. ISBN 9781646140053.
Gr 5 Up–Elatsoe (Ellie) is a Lipan Apache teen who lives in Texas, where bizarre supernatural occurrences are the norm and people encounter magic, monsters, shape-shifters, and various supernatural events beyond reason. Ellie has inherited the spiritual skills of her people and has raised the ghost of her dog Kirby. Ellie uses her supernatural abilities and keen observation skills to investigate the gruesome, suspicious death of her cousin Trevor. In a time-bending web of travel between past, present, and the underworld, Ellie confronts the killer.

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A Snake Falls to Earth by Darcie Little Badger. Levine Querido. ISBN 9781646140923.
Gr 7-10–Little Badger’s sophomore effort is an atmospheric, world-straddling, dual-narrative tale laced with themes of climate change, family, and identity. Magic and monsters combine with internet stardom and hurricane warnings to create a wonderful fable set in modern-day Texas. Following traditional Lipan Apache storytelling structure, this is an entertaining and illuminating look at how traditions and magic can exist in the modern world.  

 If You Lived During the Plimoth Thanksgiving by Chris Newell. illus. by Winona Nelson. Scholastic. ISBN 9781338726374.
Gr 2-5–Newell is a member of the Passamaquoddy Tribe; Nelson is a member of the Leech Lake Band of Minnesota Chippewa. Together they provide an account of the arrival of the of English colonists to the shores of North America in a region where the Wampanoag, the People of the First Light, had been living for thousands of years. Providing alternating information from the perspectives of the Wampanoag (and other tribes and nations) and European colonists offers a more comprensive, full-circle look at these events and their devastating aftermath.

Jo Jo Makoons: The Used-to-Be Best Friend by Dawn Quigley. illus. by Tara Audibert. Heartdrum. ISBN 9780063015371.
Gr 2-5–Seven-year-old Jo Jo Makoons Azure lives on a fictional version of an Ojibwe reservation, and likes to do things a little differently than everyone else. Readers follow Jo Jo through a myriad of first grade adventures involving her family, classmates, and cat Mimi. The story playfully captures age-appropriate concerns and interests, as young Jo Jo navigates family traditions and shifting friendships. Audibert’s fun illustrations utilize big expressions to convey the book’s gentle high jinks and Jo Jo’s rambunctious, carefree nature.  

Native Actors and Filmmakers: Visual Storytellers by Gary Robinson. 7th Generation. (Native Trailblazers: Bk. 8). ISBN 9781939053312.
Gr 6-10–Writer and filmmaker Robinson, who is of Choctaw and Cherokee descent, introduces 12 Native individuals from different Indigenous nations and regions and explores how they started work in front of or behind the camera as actors or filmmakers. While the writing is a bit dry at times, the personal stories from the actors and filmmakers are fun and entertaining. Overall, the book provides good insight into their lives and careers in the film industry.

Ancestor Approved: Intertribal Stories for Kids by Cynthia Leitich Smith, ed. Heartdrum. ISBN 9780062869944.
Gr 3-6–Editor Smith and 16 other authors and artists collaborate in this #OwnVoices short story collection from HarperCollins’s HeartDrum imprint, which was created to “highlight the voices of Native creators.” Each story focuses on a different character and their experience of an intertribal powwow in Michigan. The stories range from solemn to silly, but each emphasizes the power of the tribal community to support and heal its members. This anthology aims to both increase Native representation in middle grade literature and promote knowledge and understanding in non-Native readers.

 Sisters of the Neversea by Cynthia Leitich Smith. Heartdrum. ISBN 9780062869975.
Gr 4-7–Lily Roberts, a member of the Muscogee Creek Nation, and white Wendy Darling are stepsisters who share many things, including a younger brother, Michael. As Wendy reads to Michael the night before she leaves, they are interrupted by a braggart boy, Peter, and his fairy friend, Belle. Peter wants a storyteller, and Wendy, always in love with fantasy, agrees to go (with Michael) by fairy dust to Neverland. Thus begins a wondrous story skillfully hung on the framework of Peter Pan, but Smith makes it all her delightful own. A member of the Muscogee Creek Nation herself, she subverts the flaws of the original story into strengths, while firmly rooting her fantasy in realistic character development.

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 We Are Still Here!: Native American Truths Everyone Should Know by Traci Sorell. illus. by Frané Lessac. Charlesbridge. ISBN 9781623541927.
Gr 4-6–Students at the Native Nations Community School share presentations about the history, present, and future of Indigenous communities. The narrative starts with a general introduction of Native Nations in the United States. Each presentation contains illustrations with the student’s name, an overview of the subject, a brief list of the impact that the concept or historical moment had on Native American people, and the refrain “We Are Still Here!”

Redbone: The True Story of a Native American Rock Band by Christian Staebler and Sonia Paoloni. illus by Thibault Balahy. IDW. ISBN 9781684057146.
Gr 6 Up –The band Redbone is best known for the 1974 hit “Come and Get Your Love,” which saw renewed interest when it was used in the 2014 film Guardians of the Galaxy, but there was much more to them than that. This graphic novel, originally published in France, is framed as an interview of Pat Vegas, who formed the backbone of the group with his brother Lolly.

A Man Called Horse: John Horse and the Black Seminole Underground Railroad by Glennette Tilley Turner. Abrams. ISBN 9781419749339.
Gr 6-9– This fascinating look at the complex life of Black Seminole leader John Horse, a warrior, diplomat, and champion for his people, follows his tireless search for freedom, safety, and home. Foundational background is given about Seminole Indians and Black Seminoles (descendants of Seminoles and free Blacks and escaped slaves) as well as the First Seminole War, the Indian Removal Act, and the Second Seminole War.

 Everything You Wanted to Know About Indians but Were Afraid to Ask: Young Readers Edition by Anton Treuer. Levine Querido. ISBN 9781646140459.
Gr 6 Up–In the book, adapted from the title of the same name aimed at adults, the author answers nearly 200 questions and covers topics ranging from Indian casinos to ceremonies, politics to powwows. This book is an important resource about contemporary North American Indigenous peoples.  

Little You: Gidagaashiinh by Richard Van Camp. illus. by Julie Flett. Orca. ISBN 9781459825505.
PreS-Gr 1–A simple yet beautiful ode to a newborn child and the parents who love them. With gentle multi-textured illustrations, the story, suited for babies and toddlers alike, explores the potential of every child as they are guided by loving caregivers. The new translated edition has dual-language text in both English and Anishinaabemowin, a rare language to find in a picture book.

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