A Longitudinal Look at Children’s and Young Adult Books Indexed as Native American
Ten Favorite Titles of American Indians in Children’s Literature
For more recommended titles visit AICL’s Best Books page:
Bruchac, Joseph. Killer of Enemies. Tu, 2013. 400p. $19.95. 978-1-62014-143-4.
Post-apocalyptic thriller wherein Lozen (the main character), named after an Apache ancestor, battles genetically modified monsters called gemods. A page-turner, it is one of the few books in this genre in which Native and characters of color have made it into the future.
Charleyboy, Lisa, and Mary BethLeatherdale. Dreaming in Indian. Annick, 2016. 128p. $12.95. 978-1-55451-686-5.
An edited volume of far-ranging artistic expression, it includes stunning art, poems, and prose—and yes, hip-hop, too—from over 60 different Native people in the U.S. and Canada.
Erdrich, Louise. The Round House. Harper Perennial, 2013. 368p. $15.99. 978-0-06-206525-4.
A gripping, but not gratuitous, contemporary story about a violent rape introduces readers to jurisdictional issues that impact the prosecution of crimes done to Native peoples in the United States.
Gansworth, Eric. If I Ever Get Out of Here. Arthur A. Levine, 2013. 373p. $17.99. 978-0-545-41730-3.
Music of the Beatles, Queen, and Wings wrap around and weave throughout the friendship between Lewis Blake, a seventh grader from the Tuscarora Reservation, and George Haddonfield, a white military brat. Deeply touching in profound ways as readers come to know Lewis, his family, and his tribal nation.
Monsionier, Beatrice. In Search of April Raintree. HighWater, 2008. 248p. $19.95. 978-1-55379-173-7.
An honest depiction of the lives of two young Metis sisters who are taken from their homes, separated, and placed in one white foster family after another; this novel has attained classic status in Canada.
Smith, Cynthia Leitich. Rain Is Not My Indian Name. HarperCollins, 2001. 144p. $16.99. 978-0-688-17397-5.
This contemporary story opens with universal experiences (first kiss, and death) but is infused with tribally specific details about Rain’s life in a Midwestern town, and includes a rarity in fiction: a character who is a Black Indian.
Starr, Arigon. Super Indian. Wacky Productions, 2012. 64p. $24.99 Trade pb. 978-9870985952.
A graphic novel that hits all the right notes about contemporary Native life, this hilarious story about a Native kid who ate contaminated commodity cheese and then can transform into a superhero rapidly became a much-loved book throughout Indian Country.
Tingle, Tim. House of Purple Cedar. Cinco Puntos, 2014. 192p. $21.95. 978-1-935955-69-6.
An unflinching work of historical fiction about Choctaws of the late 1800s during a time of violent racism directed at them. The story incorporates, in a realistic rather than exotic way, the spirituality of Choctaw people.
Van Camp, Richard. The Lesser Blessed. Douglas & McIntyre, 2004. 119p. $19.95 Trade pb. 978-1-77162-113-7.
A bestseller in Canada, this contemporary story about Larry, a Dogrib teen coping with an abusive father, drugs, and bullies, finds healing in the stories told to him by his mother’s boyfriend.
Wurth, Erika. Crazy Horse’s Girlfriend. Curbside Splendor, 2014. 288p. $15.95 Trade pb. 978-1-940430-43-0.
Margaritte, a mixed-blood sixteen-year-old who is pregnant and living within the Urban Native community in Colorado, goes through brutal experiences but perseveres, beautifully, as she finds her way in a society that expects Native people to behave in ways that aren’t realistic.
Tribally enrolled at Nambe Pueblo, Debbie Reese’s book chapters and articles are used in university classrooms that span English, library science, and education. Her website, American Indians in Children’s Literature, is ten years old in 2016 and is recommended as a resource for librarians serving on ALA awards committees.