15 children's & YA books by Indigenous creators in Canada
June is Indigenous Book Club Month and National Indigenous History Month in Canada. Celebrate with younger readers by picking up one of these books by Indigenous creators.
In musician Susan Aglukark's first picture book, Ukpik loves her life at camp in the North with her family, friends and puppy. When a trader from the south arrives, Ukpik learns how to use forks, knives and spoons and is excited to teach other children as well. But then Ukpik wonders if the new tools will change her community's way of life and turns to her grandmother for guidance.
This board book teaches the youngest readers to count from one to 10 in both English and Mi'kmaw. Accompanied with vibrant illustrations of animals like the turtle, bear and beaver, Mi'kmaq artist Loretta Gould weaves in central concepts of her people's culture throughout the book.
When a young girl misplaces a batch of her Kôhkum's famous bannock, forest animals gather ingredients so she can replace what she lost. UBC professor Dallas Hunt includes a list of Cree words in the back of the book, as well as his own Kôhkum's bannock recipe. The book is illustrated by Michif filmmaker Amanda Strong.
Cousins Sam, Otter, Atim and Chickadee are known as the Mighty Muskrats of Windy Lake First Nation. When an archaeologist goes missing, they investigate his disappearance amidst increasingly heated environmental protests. The Case of Windy Lake, written for readers aged 9 to 12, is the first book by Michael Hutchinson, who is a member of Misipawistik Cree Nation.
After being trapped in a spirit world, a young shaman named Pitu returns to his life in the Arctic. When Pitu gets wind of a nearby community that is starving, he realizes he must travel to the depths of the ocean to meet with the sea goddess Nuliajuk. Those Who Dwell Below, written for readers 12 and up, is a sequel to Aviaq Johnston's debut novel, Those Who Run in the Sky, which was a finalist for the Governor General's Literary Award for young people's literature — text.
Following his sister's suicide, Shane, a gay Indigenous teenager in Northern Ontario, struggles to support his family. Shane is eventually forced to choose between his family's home and his own future. Fire Song is an adaptation of Adam Garnet Jones's award-winning film.
This rap-song-turned-picture-book by Manitoba NDP leader Wab Kinew and Joe Morse celebrates Indigenous leaders in the U.S. and Canada. Some of the figures mentioned include Crazy Horse, Net-no-kwa, former NASA astronaut John Herrington and Montreal Canadiens goalie Carey Price. Go Show the World was a finalist for the 2018 Governor General's Literary Award for young people's literature — illustrated books.
Children's author Robert Munsch and illustrator Jay Odjick team up for a second picture book called Bear for Breakfast. In this tale, a boy named Donovan decides to catch a bear to eat for breakfast, just like his grandfather used to eat. When he goes hunting, Donovan discovers the bear might have other plans. The book is inspired by a visit with the Chippewan community in La Loche, Sask. in 1990, where Munsch met a boy named Donovan who said he loved to eat bear. Jay Odjick is a writer, artist and television producer from the Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg community.
Ghosts is the third book in David A. Robertson's Reckoner series following an Indigenous teen named Cole Harper, who returns home after many years away. In Ghosts, Cole is dead and time is running out for Wounded Sky First Nation as Mihko Laboratories, which manufactured an illness that once afflicted the community, has reopened its research facilities.
In this traditional Inuit story, two rabbit sisters play on the open tundra in spite of their parents' warnings. When a hungry owl finds the sisters, a wild chase ensues and the rabbits must use their guile to escape. Nadia Sammurtok is an Inuit writer and educator now based in Iqaluit, Nunavut. Marcus Cutler is a children's illustrator from Ontario.
High school students Miikwan, who is of Anishinaabe descent, and Dez, who is of Inninew descent, are best friends in Winnipeg. Both have experienced loss, as women in their lives have gone missing or been murdered. In Surviving the City, Miikwan and Dez lean on each other and their communities for support and strive to change the devastating trend of missing and murdered Indigenous women. Surviving the City is the first graphic novel by Spillett, a Nehiyaw and Trinidadian scholar based in Saskatchewan. Natasha Donovan is an award-winning Métis illustrator who lives in B.C.
Alan Syliboy introduces young readers to a variety of Canadian animals, like caribou, moose and whales, with his beautiful artwork. On each page, the English and Mi'kmaw word for the animal is present. Syliboy is a celebrated Mi'kmaq artist and author based in Nova Scotia.
In this picture book, a little girl gets lost in the woods while picking berries. A large grey wolf is able to tell where she is from by smelling her and helps her get home. In the meantime, the little girl realizes she had the skills to find her way back all along. Both Katherena Vermette and Julie Flett are Governor General's Literary Award-winning artists — Vermette for the poetry collection North End Love Songs and Flett for the children's book When We Were Alone.
In the second book of Katherena Vermette's A Girl Called Echo series, Echo Desjardins is settling into a new home, making new friends and going to class when she's once again yanked through time to an important moment in Indigenous history. It's the summer of 1869 and Echo is on the banks of the Red River where Canadian surveyors are taking land from Métis families and the young heroine gets caught up in the resistance movement.
This stunning board book showcases the majestic changing of the seasons on Canada's west coast, as illustrated by world-renowned First Nations artist Roy Henry Vickers. Vibrant colours dance through the pages to illustrate the flora, fauna and weather of the Pacific Northwest, including grey winter rains, jewel red huckleberries and white ptarmigans.