5 essential children’s books from Native American authors


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Whether it’s the story of the Trickster Coyote of the Navajo Tribe or the turtle that cracked its shell from the Cherokee, there are so many Native American stories that elders and parents have passed on to their children. These stories often celebrated traditions – or even tried to curb wicked behavior.

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As we celebrate Native American Heritage Month in November, we want to shout out five must-have books for young children written by Native authors. All share the joys of Aboriginal life, including cooking, dancing and protecting our precious resources.

And, of course, parents are encouraged to read these Indigenous stories to their children at any time of the year.

Fry the bread, by Kevin Noble Maillard, $ 12.68

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This adorable book for ages 3 to 5 tells a modern Native American story about the popular pan-native fried bread. Author Kevin Noble Maillard, registered member of the Seminole Nation, writes in simple yet powerful verse that fried bread is more than just a meal. It is also a symbol of family unity and traditions celebrated by tribes across the country.

We are water protectors, by Carole Lindstrom, $ 15.99

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Defending one of the most sacred resources on Earth, a little girl decides to take a stand against a “snake” determined to poison the water of her people. We are water protectors, written by Carole Lindstrom (Anishinaabe / Metis / Turtle Mountain Band of Ojibwe) and aimed at children ages 2-7, won the Caldecott 2021 Medal and took first place on the New York Times list of the best sellers.

We are grateful: Otsaliheliga, by Traci Sorell, $ 13.29

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Written in a mixture of English and Cherokee, We are grateful: Otsaliheliga, by Traci Sorell (Cherokee), explains how grateful the tribal community is for the many blessings – and challenges – that accompany each season. The book, intended for ages 3 to 7, features definitions for each Cherokee word as well as the full syllabary, created by Sequoyah over 200 years ago.

Pow-wow, Brenda J. Child, $ 17.95

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When Windy Girl falls asleep after a powwow she attends with her uncle and her dog, Itchy Boy, she dreams of all the tasty food, gorgeous fringed dresses, and talented dancers – but in her dream, these are all dogs. As the dancers make their way to the Grand Entrance and the drummers sit in the circle of drums, they all magically have legs and tails. And they all celebrate the wonder of the powwow. Written by Brenda J. Child (Red Lake Band of Chippewa), Pow-wow is aimed at children from 3 to 7 years old.

Jingle dancer, by Cynthia Leitich Smith, $ 8.99

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In Jingle dancer, by Cynthia Leitich Smith (Muscogee (Creek)), Jenna wants to dance the jingle dance at the powwow just like her grandmother Wolfe. But with four rows of musical jingles missing from her dress, how will she be able? Jenna has to get creative. Intended for children from 4 to 8 years old, Jingle dancer shares the importance of tradition and community.

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If you liked this story, read children’s books by Latinx authors.

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