10 books for Aboriginal History Month

Jun 12, 2013

June is National Aboriginal History Month. To celebrate, I offer you and your family this list of 10 amazing kids' books. These stories explore the richness of Aboriginal culture, as well as the challenges of the past and the present. (There were so many wonderful books - it was hard to choose just 10!)


I is for Inuksuk: An Arctic Celebration by Mary Wallace
Using the letters of the word INUKSUK, Mary Wallace highlights elements of Inuit traditions and life in the Arctic. Each letter represents a new concept and is accompanied by its Inuktitut word. The concept is then explained in simple terms with just the right amount of detail for young readers. Lively illustrations help to support and explain. A guide to inuksuit and their meanings appears at the end.




Alego by Ningeokuluk Teevee  This simply told story follows Alego as she goes to the shore with her grandmother to collect clams for dinner. Along the way, Alego sees a number of tide pools teeming with marine creatures. Written in Inuktitut and English, the English text is interspersed with Inuktitut words. A glossary of sea creatures is included, as well as a map of Baffin Island.






Missuk's Snow Geese by Anne Renaud; illustrated by Geneviève Côté
Many springs ago, a little girl named Missuk lived in the land of the Northern Lights, and dreamed of becoming a great soap stone carver like her father. When Missuk's father goes missing in a storm, it's thanks to her talents that he finds his way home, and she discovers she is a great carver in her own right. Geneviève Côté's light and airy illustrations perfectly complement this heartwarming story.





Ancient Thunder by Leo Yerxa
Inspired by his childhood love of horses and his admiration for the native people of The Great Plains, Leo Yerxa creates a beautifully illustrated and poetic homage to the magnificence of the wild horse. Using an innovative style of illustration, he treats paper to look like leather so it appears that the glorious horses are painted directly on leather shirts and dresses.





Owls See Clearly at Night: A Michif Alphabet by Julie Flett
Michif is the language of the Métis. It combines Cree and French with other regional language elements. It's also a language in danger of disappearing. This alphabet book by Métis author and illustrator Julie Flett is meant to both celebrate and preserve the traditions of the Métis people. For each letter of the alphabet, we see a Michif word and its English equivalent, along with one of Flett's delicate illustrations.



SkySisters by Jan Bourdeau Waboose; illustrated by Brian Deines
Two Ojibway sisters, Allie and Alex, head out toward Coyote Hill to witness the wonder of the Sky Spirits, the Northern Lights. As they set off on their quiet journey, they see a rabbit and a deer, and hear the call of the coyote. And as they wait for the arrival of the Sky Spirits, the sisters revel in the quiet stillness of the night and each other's company. Brian Deines's evocative illustrations lend an ethereal quality to this story of sisterly connection and the wonder of nature.



Shin-chi's Canoe by Nicola I. Campbell; illustrated by Kim LaFave |
In this sequel to Shi-shi-etko, in which a young girl spends her last days with her family before heading off to residential school, Shi-shi-etko returns to residential school with her younger brother, Shin-chi. Nicola I. Campbell's lyrical narrative provides a gentle and age-appropriate introduction to this difficult period in our history, which continues to affect Aboriginal families generations later.




Mikissuk's Secret by Isabelle LaFonta; illustrated by Barroux
Mikissuk admires her older brother, and her greatest wish is to go hunting on the dogsled with him, but he says she's too little. Determined to prove him wrong, she undertakes a secret project. Non-fiction features, including a map, a guide to creatures of the North, and guides to the clothing and music of the Inuit, are included at that end of the book.




The Elders Are Watching by David Bouchard; images by Roy Henry Vickers
The Elders Are Watching is just as timely and relevant today as it was when it was first published in 1990. Written as a poem, it is a call to action from Aboriginal leaders of the past to the people of today to respect our natural environment. The vibrant yet refined artwork of Roy Henry Vickers adds another layer of meaning to the work as a whole.



Bones in the Basket by C.J. Taylor
Mohawk artist C.J. Taylor brings together seven legends - drawn from peoples across North America - that explain how humans came to be on Earth. In her introduction to the reader, Taylor points out that the stories share a common view of the Earth as a gift given to us, and the interconnectedness of life. Taylor's brilliant paintings add a magical quality to these fascinating tales.

Article Author Tamara Sztainbok
Tamara Sztainbok

Read more from Tamara here.

Tamara Sztainbok is the mother of two school-aged children. A children's book editor with Scholastic Canada, she believes anything you ever need to know you can learn from a children's book. She also runs Puzzle Box Communications, providing communication services to small businesses. She writes about adult books on her ClubMom blog, Turning Pages. Follow her on Twitter @PuzzleBoxCom. Opinions expressed here are Tamara's alone.