9 beautiful children's books by Indigenous writers to read
June is Indigenous Book Club Month and National Indigenous History Month in Canada. To mark this occasion, Métis writer Cherie Dimaline curated this list of nine children's books by Indigenous writers and artists that are worth checking out.
Dimaline is the author of the books Red Rooms, The Girl Who Grew a Galaxy, A Gentle Habit and The Marrow Thieves. In 2017, she won the Governor General's Literary Award for young people's literature — text and Kirkus Prize for young readers' literature for The Marrow Thieves. In 2018, singer Jully Black defended The Marrow Thieves on Canada Reads.
A Day with Yayah by Nicola I. Campbell, illustrated by Julie Flett
Nicola I. Campbell is a powerful storyteller (you should go to a reading, trust me) and a unique voice. Passionately connected to her community, she works to preserve, protect and hand down her stories — and she does so while putting forth excellence in the craft. A Day with Yayah is one of those books parents are happy to read again and again to their children.
When We Were Alone by David Roberston, illustrated by Julie Flett
Winner of the 2017 Governor General's Literary Award for children's illustration, this heartwarming story of a grandmother explaining residential schools will bring you all the feels. It's so beautiful and so gentle, and therein lies its transformative power. Julie Flett continues to dazzle with her highly original illustrations.
I Am Not a Number by Jenny Kay Dupuis & Kathy Kacer, illustrated by Gillian Newland
This remarkable story of Dupuis' grandmother and her family's journey with residential schools deserves every accolade it's received since being published. Dupuis is an advocate for community stories and it shows in her vivid book, a volume that has made it into classrooms and homes across the continent, sparking conversation and building reconciliation through story.
Just a Walk by Jordan Wheeler, illustrated by Christopher Auchter
Kids' books need to be joyful, full of adventure, lively and most of all, to have a great and lovable hero. Wheeler manages to bring all these elements together in his fun-loving children's book.
Amik Loves School by Katherena Vermette, illustrated by Irene Kuziw
Amik Loves School is just one book in a seven volume series written by multi-award winning superstar Katherena Vermette and illustrated by Irene Kuziw. Each story illustrates one of the Seven Grandfather Teachings (Anishinaabe): Humility, Truth, Wisdom, Love, Bravery, Honesty and Respect. Geared toward readers from kindergarten to Grade 4, this is an invaluable teaching tool for all children.
We Sang You Home by Richard Van Camp, illustrated by Julie Flett
There are works that remind you that there is still magic in the world. This one reminds you that the magic is you. The dynamic duo of Richard Van Camp and Julie Flett is nothing short of the very best. Get this board book for every little one you know.
What's My Superpower? by Aviaq Johnston, illustrated by Tim Mack
Governor General's Literary Award-nominated YA author Aviaq Johnston proves she is as versatile as she is skilled with her children's book about a little Inuk girl trying to find her own power. We get to meet the immensely likable Nalvana and learn Inuktitut words as we follow her on her journey. Heartwarming and energizing for all readers. Oh, and the kids will love it too.
Owls See Clearly at Night (Lii Yiiboo Nayaapiwak lii Swer) by Julie Flett
Flett's work is like a quilt cut from storybooks — the images folded into one another to make a beautiful whole, yet each one is a piece of art worthy of a frame. Here she brings her stand-out style to preserve and illuminate the endangered Michif language.
You Hold Me Up by Monique Gray Smith, illustrated by Danielle Daniel
A gorgeously illustrated picture book, You Hold Me Up is an important tool in starting and maintaining conversation about just what it means to have connections, to build relationships and to truly find reconciliation. It is exactly the kind of top-notch children's literature we have come to expect from Monique Gray Smith. And she delivers every time.