17 books for kids and young adults to read for National Indigenous History Month 2022
June is National Indigenous History Month in Canada. In honour of this month, here's a list of great books for young readers to check out.
Mii maanda ezhi-gkendmaanh / This Is How I Know by Brittany Luby, illustrated by Joshua Mangeshig Pawis-Steckley, translated by Alvin Ted Corbiere & Alan Corbiere
This Is How I Know is a vibrant story poem about an Anishinaabe child, her grandmother and a look at the wonders and beauty of the natural world.
This Is How I Know is for ages 3 to 7.
Brittany Luby is an academic and children's book author. She is the great-granddaughter of Chief Kawitaskung, an Anishinaabe leader who signed the North-West Angle Treaty of 1873.
Joshua Mangeshig Pawis-Steckley is an Ojibway multidisciplinary artist from Ontario, whose family is from Wasauksing First Nation.
Alvin Ted Corbiere and Alan Corbiere are Anishinaabe from M'Chigeeng First Nation. The father and son duo translated the Anishinaabemowin text for the book.
On the Trapline by David A. Robertson, illustrated by Julie Flett
David A. Robertson and Julie Flett of award-winning picture book When We Were Alone fame team up again for On the Trapline. The picture book is a celebration of Indigenous culture and fathers and grandfathers as it tells the generational story of a boy and his grandfather.
On the Trapline won the 2021 Governor General's Literary Award for young people's literature — illustrated books.
On the Trapline is for ages 4 to 8.
Robertson is an author and graphic novelist based in Winnipeg. The multi-talented writer of Swampy Cree heritage has published 25 books across a variety of genres, including the graphic novels Will I See? and Sugar Falls, a Governor General's Literary Award-winning picture book called When We Were Alone, illustrated by Julie Flett, and the YA book Strangers.
Flett is a Cree Métis author, illustrator and artist. Flett has illustrated several picture books including Little You, My Heart Fills with Happiness, We Sang You Home and Birdsong. Birdsong was a finalist for the 2019 Governor General's Literary Award for young people's literature — illustration.
Jigging for Halibut with Tsinii by Sara Florence Davidson & Robert Davidson, illustrated by Janine Gibbons
This picture book reflects the Haida Sk'ad'a Principles as it looks at Haida artist Robert Davidson's own experiences with Tsinii (grandfather). Jigging for Halibut with Tsinii is a cultural look at a young boy, his grandfather and a day spent fishing using traditional methods.
Jigging for Halibut with Tsinii is for ages 6 to 8.
Sara Florence Davidson is a Haida/Settler author and assistant professor in Indigenous education at Simon Fraser University.
Robert Davidson is one of the most respected and important contemporary artists in Canada. A Northwest Coast native of Haida descent, he is a master carver of totem poles and masks and works in a variety of other media as a printmaker, painter and jeweller.
Janine Gibbons, a Haida Raven of the Double-Fin Killer Whale Clan, Brown Bear House, is a multi-disciplinary artist and illustrator. She has illustrated three books in the Sealaska Heritage's Baby Raven Reads series, including Raven Makes the Aleutians.
Una Huna?: Ukpik Learns to Sew by Susan Aglukark, illustrated by Amiel Sandland & Rebecca Brook
This picture book from Inuk singer-songwriter Susan Aglukark follows Ukpik, whose mom is keen to teach her how to make mitts from caribou skin. But Ukpik can't stop thinking about the bright and beautiful beads her mother traded the Captain for on his last visit. Her mom knows it's more important that she learn the skills to make her own clothes in the cold Arctic climate — but she does have a surprise for Ukpik that will let her enjoy something beautiful while also doing something practical.
Una Huna?: Ukpik Learns to Sew is for ages 3 to 5.
Susan Aglukark is an Inuk musician and author of children's books. Her picture book Una Huna? What is This? was published in 2018.
Amiel Sandland is an illustrator living in the Toronto area. He studied illustration at Seneca College, eventually specializing in comic arts and character design.
Rebecca Brook is a Toronto-based artist working in the animation industry.
Tâpwê and the Magic Hat by Buffy Sainte-Marie, illustrated by Michelle Alynn Clement
Tâpwê and the Magic Hat is a chapter book by Indigenous icon Buffy Sainte-Marie involving oral histories and traditions. Set on a prairie reserve, Tâpwê receives a mysterious gift from Kokhom — a magical hat that comes with its own set of surprises. Tâpwê goes on a trip featuring trickster characters and adventure.
Tâpwê and the Magic Hat is for ages 6 to 9.
Cree singer-songwriter Buffy Sainte-Marie's long career includes an expansive catalogue of music, art and work in activism. Hey Little Rockabye, published in 2020, was her first children's picture book.
Michelle Alynn Clement is an award-winning book designer and illustrator from Vancouver.
Forever Birchwood by Danielle Daniel
Forever Birchwood is the story of a adventurous, trail-blazing Wolf. She is the great-granddaughter of a tree talker, lives in a northern mining town, and spends her days exploring the mountains and wilderness with her three best friends Penny, Ann and Brandi. Forever Birchwood is a story of destiny as Wolf works with her friends to save her hometown from forces who are trying to harm the environment.
Forever Birchwood is for ages 8 to 12.
Danielle Daniel is a writer and artist of settler and Indigenous ancestry living in the traditional territory of the Atikameksheng Anishnawbek (Sudbury, Ont.). Her other books include The Dependent, which was shortlisted for the 2017 Northern Lit Award, and the picture books Once in a Blue Moon and Sometimes I Feel Like a Fox, which won the Marilyn Baillie Picture Book Award and was a finalist for the Blue Spruce Award and First Nation Communities Read Awards. She also illustrated the 2018 Marilyn Baillie Award-shortlisted picture book You Hold Me Up, written by Monique Gray Smith.
The Gift of the Little People by William Dumas, illustrated by Rhian Brynjolson
The Gift of the Little People is a middle-grade book about a Rocky Cree Elder named Kakakiw and a quest to find a medical cure before lives are lost. Kakakiw's journey is based on his traditional teachings of the Asiniskaw Ithiniwak and he must learn to trust in the gift of the Little People.
The Gift of the Little People is for ages 9 to 11.
William Dumas is an educator and Rocky Cree Storyteller who was born in Manitoba. Dumas is the author of The Six Seasons of the Asiniskaw Ithiniwak series and uses the power of storytelling to teach Indigenous youth about identity and belonging.
Rhian Brynjolson is a visual artist, author, book illustrator and art educator who lives and works on the edge of Treaty 3 territory in eastern Manitoba. Brynjolson is the illustrator of over 15 children's books and author of Teaching Art: A Complete Guide for the Classroom.
Rabbit Chase by Elizabeth LaPensée, illustrated by KC Oster, translated by Aarin Dokum
Rabbit Chase is a middle-grade book that incorporates Anishinaabe culture with an Alice in Wonderland-type story. Aimée is an non-binary Anishinaabe student who travels on a school trip to meet with water spirits known as Paayehnsag. Aimée soon finds themself in an adventure featuring an alternate dimension, a Trickster and a Queen with robot guards who are trying to claim the land.
Rabbit Chase is for ages 8 to 12.
Elizabeth LaPensée is an Anishinaabe, Métis and Irish writer and illustrator whose work appears in Moonshot: The Indigenous Comics Collection series, Deer Woman: An Anthology and more.
KC Oster is an Ojibwe-Anishinaabe comic artist and illustrator. They live in the Rainy River District of Northwestern Ontario.
Giju's Gift by Brandon Mitchell, illustrated by Veronika Barinova and Britt Wilson
In the first volume of this graphic novel series inspired by traditional stories, a Mi'kmaw girl, Mali, is sad after her favourite hair clip goes missing. Her mom thinks she lost it, but Mali knows deep down it was stolen by the pugulatmu'j, or Little People, the original guardians of the land who make their presence known by the tricks they play. When she meets Puug, he's wearing her hair clip, but she has to help him hunt for the objects on his list before she can get it back. One small problem: first they have to outsmart the ancient giant that's chasing them.
Giju's Gift is for ages 6 to 8.
Brandon Mitchell is the Fredericton-based founder of Birch Bark Comics and creator of the Sacred Circles comic series, which draws on his Mi'kmaq heritage.
Veronika Barinova is an emerging illustrator currently living in Calgary. She has a Bachelor in visual communication design from the Alberta University of the Arts and works primarily in digital media.
Britt Wilson is an Ontario ceramic artist, illustrator, cartoonist and letterer. A graduate from Sheridan College, Britt is the author-illustrator of Britt Wilson's Greatest Book on Earth, Ghost Queen, and Cat Dad, King of the Goblins.
Ben the Sea Lion by Roy Henry Vickers
Ben the Sea Lion was inspired by an adventure from Tsimshian storyteller and artist Roy Henry Vickers' own childhood in the Indigenous village of Kitkatla, on B.C.'s north coast. When Uncle Johnny accidentally catches an orphaned sea lion pup in his fishing net, young Roy and his cousin Bussy nurse it back to health. They name the pup Ben, short for Teeben — the Tsimshian word for sea lion. But eventually Ben must return to the wild, leaving his human friends to remember him fondly.
Ben the Sea Lion is for ages 3 to 5.
Roy Henry Vickers is a B.C.-based carver, painter and printmaker. He is the co-author of the popular children's Northwest Coast Legends series: Raven Brings the Light in 2014, Cloudwalker in 2015, Orca Chief in 2016 and Peace Dancer in 2017.
Runs with the Stars by Darcy Whitecrow and Heather M. O'Connor, illustrated by Lenny Lishchenko
Runs with the Stars is a picture book featuring the Ojibwe Horses that used to roam the forests of northwestern Ontario. The horses once ran wild and free, but when Grandfather was a boy, they almost disappeared. Now he is the caretaker of his own small herd, keeping the breed alive for future generations and teaching his grandchild about the loving bond between humans and animals.
Runs with the Stars is for ages 6 to 8.
Author Darcy Whitecrow is Ojibwe and Dakota; he is a member of the Seine River First Nation band in Northwestern Ontario, where he lives. Whitecrow practices traditional lifestyles like trapping, fishing, and ricing, as well as traditional spirituality in both the Midewiwin and Sundance traditions.
Heather M. O'Connor is a children's author and freelance writer based in Peterborough, Ont. She first learned about Ojibwe Horses while writing for the Ontario Parks blog and quickly became obsessed.
Lenny Lishchenko is an Ontario illustrator, graphic designer and comics maker who will never give up the chance to draw a good birch tree. Ukrainian-born and Canadian-raised, she's interested in telling stories that people remember years later in the early mornings, when everything is quiet and still.
Tanna's Lemming by Rachel Qitsualik-Tinsley and Sean Qitsualik-Tinsley, illustrated by Tamara Campeau
Inspired by a true story, in this follow-up to Tanna's Owl, Tanna finds a small grey lemming — far too cute to turn over to the scientist who had sent kids out to gather lemmings for his research. Instead, Tanna deems Fluffi to be a family member and attempts to raise the lemming in her home. But when Fluffi strays from its cozy bed behind the stove and into Tanna's mother's things, Tanna is forced to consider whether she has really done what is best for the creature.
Tanna's Lemming is for ages 6 to 8.
Born in an Arctic wilderness camp and of Inuit ancestry, Rachel Qitsualik-Tinsley is a scholar specializing in world religions and cultures. Her numerous articles and books concerning Inuit magic and lore have earned her a Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal.
Of Scottish-Mohawk ancestry, Sean Qitsualik-Tinsley is a folklorist and fantasist, specializing in mythology, magic, and Inuit lore. He has won an award for writing short science fiction ("Green Angel"), but his focus is on fiction and nonfiction for a young audience.
Tamara Campeau is a Montreal-based artist who works digitally to create her painterly storytelling illustrations. Her work has a strong sense of lighting, naturalistic colours, and dynamic composition. She is strongly inspired by wildlife, children, and the environments in which they reside.
White Raven by Teoni Spathelfer, illustrated by Natassia Davies
White Raven is a picture book about Little Wolf, a woman who moves from her home in the city to her ancestral island. The move is inspired by a desire to show her family their roots and culture. Little Wolf's mother, White Raven, soon arrives to tell the family stories of her own childhood, which wasn't always a happy one. White Raven is a story of reconnecting with the past in order to move forward into the future.
White Raven is for ages 4 to 8.
Teoni Spathelfer is a radio journalist and author who is a member of the Heiltsuk Nation from coastal British Columbia.
Natassia Davies is a Victoria-based artist and graphic designer and is of Coast Salish ancestry.
Buffalo Wild! by Deidre Havrelock, illustrated by Azby Whitecalf
Buffalo Wild! features a magical night about buffalo and a boy. Declan and his kokum love stories and art of Buffalo and he really wants to see one. One night, a herd of the animals stampede down from the sky and a wonderful adventure awaits.
Buffalo Wild! is for ages 4 to 7.
Deidre Havrelock is a member of the Saddle Lake Cree Nation in Alberta. She was raised in Edmonton. Buffalo Wild! is her first picture book.
Azby Whitecalf is a Plains Cree illustrator and character designer residing in Saskatchewan.
Little Moar and the Moon by Roselynn Akulukjuk, illustrated by Jazmine Gubbe
Little Moar and the Moon is a picture book about fear and facing the unknown. Moar loves the fall season — but when the days grow shorter and colder, he becomes a bit more concerned and fearful look on the moon's eerie face. Moar wants to get home after school before it gets dark but there are so many fun things to do!
Little Moar and the Moon is for ages 6 to 8.
Roselynn Akulukjuk is an author and filmmaker who was born in Nunavut. Roselynn wrote and directed her first film, the live-action and puppetry short The Owl and the Lemming, on which her book by the same title is based.
Jazmine Gubbe is an illustrator from Ontario currently working in the animation industry.
Thunder and the Noise Storms by Jeffrey Ansloos & Shezza Ansloos, illustrated by Joshua Mangeshig Pawis-Steckley
In the picture book Thunder and the Noise Storms, children learn about the restorative powers of the natural world. Thunder often finds that the world around him can be too loud. When his grandfather asks him what he hears while on a nature walk one day, Thunder learns how the many different sounds of the natural world can have calming and empowering effects.
Thunder and the Noise Storms is for ages 4 to 7.
Jeffery Ansloos is a Cree educator and psychologist. He is also the author of The Medicine of Peace.
Shezza Ansloos is a Cree writer, educator, artist and speaker. She is the author of two children's books, I Loved Her and The Fire Walker. Ansloos is also a singer-songwriter and visual artist.
Joshua Mangeshig Pawis-Steckley is an Anishinaabe artist and illustrator from Wasauksing First Nation. He is a self-taught artist who works in the Woodland art style of the Anishinaabe people.
Aggie and Mudgy by Wendy Proverbs
Aggie and Mudgy is based on the true story of the author's biological mother and aunt. It traces the long and frightening journey of two Kaska Dena sisters as they are taken from their home to attend residential school. It focuses on the journey to residential school and offers a glimpse into the act of being physically uprooted and transported far away from loved ones.
Aggie and Mudgy is for ages 9 to 12.
Wendy Proverbs is an emerging Indigenous author of Kaska Dena descent. She holds a BA and MA in anthropology from the University of Victoria. As an infant she was caught in the sweeping scoop of Indigenous children taken from their birth families, and was reunited with biological family members as a young adult.