18 Books by Native Authors To Read With Your Kids

Currently, there are 574 officially recognized tribes within the continental United States, including Alaska, each with its unique culture and way of life.

Three Book Covers by Native Authors

Penguin Workshop / Minnesota Historical Society Press / Orca Book Publishers

Not too long ago, there were few books that children could pick up and accurately read about the Native American experience and culture. Think Indian in the Cupboard or the representation of Native Americans in Peter Pan. Now, there's a wealth of books to choose from spanning dozens of Native tribes from Cherokee and Ojibwa to Cree and Navajo that are not only true representations of Indigenous culture but are also written by acclaimed native authors.

It's a joy for Native children to see themselves reflected in the books they read and share that with their peers.

Currently, there are 574 officially recognized tribes within the continental United States, including Alaska, each with its unique culture and way of life. And over 9 million Native Americans and Native Alaskans live in the United States today. Representation matters, especially at a young age when children are still forming their views about the world around them.

Exposure to different cultures is part of a larger lesson in global citizenship, one that can start right in your own home library with these 18 books by Native authors that are perfect choices for bedtime and beyond. From vibrant stories about dances and powwows to tales of courage and dedication, there's a story for everyone.

01 of 18

Jingle Dancer

Book cover illustration of a young Native American girl dancing

Courtesy of Heartdrum/Harper Collins

Jingle Dancer, by Cynthia Leitich Smith, follows a contemporary Native American girl who hopes to participate in the jingle dance, a tradition that has been shared through generations of her family and intertribal community. Will she get to dance at the next powwow? Find out by reading through the book's colorful pages.

02 of 18

Bowwow Powwow

Book cover illustration of two people in a truck driving at night

Minnesota Historical Society Press

Bowwow Powwow, by Brenda Child, introduces us to Windy Girl who loves listening to her uncle's stories about long-ago traditions, and she often reenacts them with the help of her dog, Itchy Boy. The three of them head to a powwow where she eats tasty foods, dances, and sings. Exhausted, she falls asleep by the campfire with her uncle and dog, then dreams of a very special powwow with a canine twist. The book also comes with a companion retelling in Ojibwa.

03 of 18

Fry Bread

Book cover illustration of a kid and an adult eating fry bread.

Roaring Brook Press

Fry Bread, by Kevin Noble Maillard, is the winner of the 2020 Robert F. Sibert Informational Book Medal and a 2020 American Indian Youth Literature Picture Book Honor Winner. Told in a lively and powerful verse, Fry Bread tells the story of a modern Native American home.

04 of 18

Thunder Boy Jr.

Book cover illustration of young boy on top of a man's shoulders

Little Brown Books For Young Readers

Thunder Boy Jr. wants a name of his own. His dad is known as big Thunder, and he is little Thunder. Written by acclaimed author Sherman Alexie, Thunder Boy Jr. goes on to tell the story of a boy who searches for a name that fits him like a glove, and a father and son relationship that flourishes.

05 of 18

Sweetest Kulu

Book cover illustration of a small child lying down by animals

Inhabit Media

Kulu is an Inuktitut term of endearment often bestowed upon babies and young children. Sweetest Kulu is a beautiful bedtime poem, written by award-winning Inuit throat singer Celina Kalluk, that describes the gifts given to a newborn baby by all the animals of the Arctic. The story is infused with traditional Inuit values of love and respect for the land and its animals.

06 of 18

My Heart Fills With Happiness

Book cover illustration of a young girl in a dress looking up

Orca Book Publishers

My Heart Fills With Happiness, by Monique Gray Smith, asks: what brings you happiness? This colorful board book brings to mind all the little things that bring us joy like the sun on your face or the smell of warm bannock cooking in the oven.

07 of 18

We Are Water Protectors

Book cover illustration of a girl in the water holding a feather

Roaring Brook Press

We Are Water Protectors, by Carole Lindstrom, serves as a reminder to save Earth and all of its natural resources, a plight that is at the forefront of many Indigenous movements across North America and beyond. We Are Water Protectors is the winner of the 2021 Caldecott Medal and a New York Times best seller.

08 of 18

We Are Still Here: Native American Truths Everyone Should Know About

Book cover illustration of people walking with flags


In We Are Still Here, by Frane Lessac, twelve Native American kids present historical and contemporary laws, policies, struggles, and victories in Native life, each with a powerful refrain: We are still here! It is a 2022 American Indian Youth Literature Picture Book Honor Book.

09 of 18


Book cover illustration of two people in a grassy field with birds flying in the sky

Greystone Kids

In Birdsong, by Julie Flett, we meet Katherena, who is new in town and feels lonely and out of place until she meets the old woman who lives next door. Together they share a passion for arts, crafts, birds, and nature. As the seasons change, their relationship strengthens and Katherena begins to find her place in her new town.

10 of 18

Chester Nez and the Unbreakable Code

Book cover illustration of a young boy with special powers.

Albert Whitman And Company

In Chester Nez and the Unbreakable Code, by Joseph Bruchac, Chester Nez was forced to leave his reservation and enter a boarding school where he was told his culture and language were useless. He refuses to give up his heritage and years later when WWII breaks out, he is able to help the U.S. Marines use the Navajo language as an unbreakable military code.

11 of 18

We Sang You Home

Book cover illustration of a kid singing

Orca Book Publishers

The gentle, rhythmic text of We Sang You Home, by Richard Van Camp, captures the wonder of new Indigenous parents and how they feel when bringing home a new baby.

12 of 18

Buffalo Bird Girl: A Hidatsa Story

Book cover illustration of a Native American Girl

Abrams Books for Young Readers

Buffalo Girl is a member of the Hidatsa, a Native American community that lived in villages along the Missouri River on the Great Plains. Buffalo Bird Girl, by S.D. Nelson, follows her life as she learns the ways of her people and makes friends along the way.

13 of 18

Rez Dogs, Joseph Bruchac

Book cover illustration of a girl petting a dog

Dial Books

Set during the COVID-19 pandemic, Rez Dogs, by Joseph Bructhis story is about a Wabanaki girl's quarantine on her grandparents' reservation and the local dog that becomes her best friend.

14 of 18

She Persisted: Maria Tallchief

Book cover illustration of kids looking at a framed painting of a dancer

Philomel Books

Maria Tallchief loved to dance and dreamed of becoming a ballerina. She was told to change her Osage name to something more American in order to reach the top, but she persisted and kept it. She Persisted, by Christine Day, shows us that was just one of many obstacles she overcame before becoming America's first prima ballerina.

15 of 18

The Sign of the Beaver

Book cover illustration of a bear silhouette

Clarion Books

In The Sign of the Beaver, a Newbery Honor Book by Elizabeth George Speare, a thirteen-year-old boy struggles to survive on his own in the wilderness of eighteenth-century Maine. His only friend is a Native boy from the neighboring Beaver tribe who teaches him that his people were there long before the European settlers.

16 of 18

Finding My Dance

Book cover illustration of a young Native American girl dancing

Penguin Workshop

In Finding My Dance, professional Indigenous dancer Ria Thundercloud tells the story of her path to dance and how it helped her take pride in her Native American heritage.

17 of 18

Berry Song

Book cover illustration of two people peeking out of a berry bush.

Little Brown Books For Young Readers

Berry Song, by Michaela Goade, is about a girl and her grandmother who gather gifts from the Earth: Salmon from the stream, herring eggs from the ocean, and in the forest, a world of berries.

18 of 18

The First Blade of Sweetgrass

Book cover illustration of a women sitting in a field of grass with birds

Tilbury House Publishers

In The First Blade of Sweetgrass, an award-winning story by Suzanne Greenlaw, a modern Wabanaki girl is excited to accompany her grandmother for the first time to harvest sweetgrass for basket making.

Thankfully, there are so many more book titles to chose from. Let us know what we missed!

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