20 Canadian books for kids and teens to read for National Indigenous History Month
June is National Indigenous History Month. Celebrate by reading one of these books for younger readers by First Nations, Métis and Inuit authors.
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.
Una Huna? What is This is for ages 5-7.
Aglukark is a Juno award winning Inuk singer-songwriter.
I Will See You Again is an illustrated memoir that chronicles Lisa Boivin's journey through her grieving process following her brother's death. When Boivin learns of his passing overseas, she sets out to bring him home. She finds comfort and strength through memories and dreams of all the moments she and her brother shared together and through her Dene traditions. The lyrical art and story offers a universal message of hope and love.
I Will See You Again is for ages 12 and up.
Lisa Boivin is an interdisciplinary artist, a PhD student at the Rehabilitation Sciences Institute at University of Toronto Faculty of Medicine and a member of the Deninu Kue First Nation. I Will See You Again is her first book.
In Birdsong, a lonely girl becomes friends with her new neighbour, an elderly woman. Together, they watch the seasons change, but as they both grow older, the young girl learns to cope with her friend's declining health. Birdsong was a finalist for the 2019 Governor General's Literary Award for young people's literature — illustration.
Birdsong is for readers aged 5-8.
Julie Flett has illustrated several picture books including Little You, My Heart Fills with Happiness and We Sang You Home. She won the 2017 Governor General's Literary Award for young people's literature — illustration for When We Were Alone, which was written by David A. Robertson.
In The Case of the Missing Auntie, the latest instalment of The Mighty Muskrats Mystery series, the four cousins from the Windy Lake First Nation head to the city to visit the Exhibition Fair. There, they learn about their grandfather's little sister, who was scooped up by the government and adopted out to strangers without her parents' permission many years ago. They launch a search for their auntie and, along the way, they learn about the treatment of First Nations people in Canada.
The Case of the Missing Auntie is for ages 9-12.
Michael Hutchinson is a novelist and member of the Misipawistik Cree Nation. He currently lives in Ottawa and works at the Assembly of First Nations. He is the author of The Case of Windy Lake.
Life Cycles of Caribou is a bilingual book, featuring text in Inuktitut syllabics, Inuktitut Roman orthography and English. It shares six Inuktitut terms for caribou throughout their life cycles, giving the young readers an understanding of the rich Inuktitut terminology for these important animals.
Life Cycles of Caribou is for ages 0-3.
Monica Ittusardjuat is a residential school survivor. For many years, she worked as a teacher in elementary schools, high schools and teacher education programs. She is now the senior Inuktitut editor at Inhabit Education.
Emma Pedersen is a Toronto-based illustrator and visual storyteller.
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.
Fire Song is for ages 13 and up.
Jones is an author, screenwriter and director from Edmonton.
Those Who Dwell Below is a sequel to Aviaq Johnston's debut novel, Those Who Run in the Sky. 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 is for readers aged 12 and up.
Aviaq Johnston is an Inuk author from Igloolik, Nunavut. She is also the author of the charming children's book What's My Superpower? illustrated by Tim Mack. Her YA novel Those Who Run in the Sky was a finalist for the 2018 Governor General's Literary Award for young people's literature — text.
A ringed seal, known in Inuktitut as ᓇᑦᑎᖅ nattiq, has returned to his Arctic home from a long trek south in ᓇᑦᑎᖅ Nattiq And The Land Of Statues. His friends — a polar bear, caribou, raven, walrus and narwhal — gather to hear about the amazing sights he saw on his journey. The book also includes a glossary of Inuktitut words.
ᓇᑦᑎᖅ Nattiq And The Land Of Statues is for ages 3-7.
Barbara Landry has written several books of poetry, including ᓄᓇᒥ nunami. ᓇᑦᑎᖅ Nattiq And The Land Of Statues is her first children's book.
Martha Kyak is an Inuit artist who has illustrated numerous children's books.
The Ghost Collector by Allison Mills is about a young girl named Shelly with an important job. She catches ghosts in her hair and helps them transition to the afterlife. But when Shelly's mom dies, she stops helping the ghosts and starts hoarding them, as she waits for her mother's ghost to arrive. The Ghost Collector is inspired by Mills's great-grandmother's life and influenced by her Cree heritage.
The Ghost Collector is for readers aged 10 and up.
Mills is a writer based in Vancouver. The Ghost Collector is her first book.
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.
Bear for Breakfast is for readers aged 3-8.
Two Earth Protectors are charged with saving the planet from evil pioneers and cyborg sasquatches in Dakwäkãda Warriors. The comic, translated into two dialects of Southern Tutchone, serves as an allegory for colonialism.
Cole Pauls is a Tahltan comic artist. He created Dakwäkãda Warriors as a language revival initiative. In 2017, it won Broken Pencil Magazine's Best Comic and Best Zine of the Year Award.
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.
Ghosts is for readers 13 and up.
Robertson is an author and graphic novelist based in Winnipeg. He has published more than 20 books across a variety of genres, including the graphic novels Will I See? and Sugar Falls and the picture book When We Were Alone.
Nibi is Water, written and illustrated by Joanne Robertson, looks at the importance of Nibi—which means water in Anishinaabemowin (Ojibwe) — and our role to thank, respect, love and protect it. Babies and toddlers can follow Nibi as it rains and snows, splashes or rows, drips and sips. The picture book is written from an Anishinaabe water protector's perspective and is in dual language — English and Ojibwe.
Nibi is Water is for ages 0-3.
Joanne Robertson is Anishinaabekwe and a member of Atikameksheng Anishnawbek. She is the founder of the Empty Glass for Water campaign, which draws attention to the ongoing drinking water crisis in Indigenous communities across Canada.
An amautik is a pouch inside a parka where you can carry children. The picture book In My Anaana's Amautik is told from the perspective of a baby safely nestled in their mother's amautik.
In My Anaana's Amautik is for ages 3-7.
Nadia Sammurtok is an Inuk writer and educator. Her books include The Caterpillar Woman and The Owl and the Two Rabbits.
Lenny Lishchenko is an illustrator based in Toronto.
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 for ages 12 and up.
Tasha Spillett is an educator, poet and scholar of Nehiyaw and Trinidadian descent.
Natasha Donovan is an illustrator based in British Columbia. She also contributed to the graphic anthology This Place: 150 Years Retold.
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 girl realizes she had the skills to find her way back all along.
The Girl and the Wolf is for readers aged 3-5.
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.
Northwest Resistance by Katherena Vermette, illustrated by Scott B. Henderson, colour by Donovan Yaciuk
The next chapter in Katherena Vermette's graphic novel series follows time-travelling teen Echo Desjardins as she witnesses the return of Louis Riel. The first two books in the A Girl Called Echo series were Pemmican Wars and Red River Resistance.
Northwest Resistance is for ages 11-15.
Artists Scott B. Henderson and Donovan Yaciuk were contributors to the first two books in the graphic novel series.
What the Eagle Sees is a follow-up to 2017's Turtle Island. It looks at historical events to reflect an underrepresented Indigenous perspective of our collective past and how to move on in the present and future. Academic Eldon Yellowhorn again works with author Kathy Lowinger to continue an examination of the lasting impact of settler culture on the Indigenous community.
What the Eagle Sees is for readers aged 11 and up.
Yellowhorn is an academic and author from the Peigan Indian Reserve (Piikani Nation). Yellowhorn explores the mythology and folklore of his Indigenous ancestors and in how the past informs the present in his books.
I Lost My Talk by Rita Joe & I'm Finding My Talk by Rebecca Thomas, both illustrated by Pauline Young
This children's book shares Rita Joe's iconic poem I Lost My Talk with a new generation. I Lost My Talk is about how Joe, a Mi'kmaw elder and poet, lost her language and culture after she was sent to residential school.
I'm Finding My Talk is Rebecca Thomas's response to Rita Joe's poem I Lost My Talk. Thomas is a poet and a second-generation residential school survivor. In I'm Finding My Talk, she celebrates reconnecting with her language and culture.
Both books are for readers aged 4-8.
Both books are illustrated by Pauline Young, a Mi'kmaw illustrator who lives in New Brunswick.