8 Native American Picture Books for Young Readers

Picture books can teach you a lot growing up. We here at Bookstr are rounding up eight books with Native American representation!

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Pictures books are primarily made for our young to teach them lessons of life. It’s also a way to introduce them to the literary world. With Native American Month ending soon, we here at Bookstr thought it was best to display eight pictures you and your little ones can read together!

1. Fry Bread: A Native American Family Story

Fry Bread: A Native American Family Story- book cover
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The author, Kevin Noble Maillard, introduced the world to a beautiful depiction of modern Native American family life. He and his illustrator, Juana Martinez Neal, depict an intermix of old and new, traditional and modern, thus showing the similarities and differences between the world then and the world now through fry bread. 

2. The Star People: A Lakota Story

The Star People: A Lakota Story- book cover
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When a sister and brother get lost in the woods, the world around them shifts into fantasy. The two sit in the grass, and as the clouds start moving, they form different animals and creatures. And soon, these animals begin to appear around them. These two siblings are on a wild ride. Will they find their way back home?

3. Stolen Words

Stolen Words- book cover
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Grandparents are the joy to any growing child’s heart. A little girl and her grandfather have a close bond in The Stolen Words. One day she asks him how to say something in his Cree language. Sadly, the grandfather tells her his language was taken from him. So the little girl sets off on a journey to find it. Although heartwarming on the surface, the story tells the very true story of assimilation. How the school system made it a mission to separate young Native children from their families to make them appear more “white American.” This pain can be passed down, but so can the healing process. 

4. The Train

The Train- book cover
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The Train is a heart-wrenching story of assimilation. Ashely and her great-uncle talk about the turmoil he endured when he boarded a train that led him to residential schools. He and many other boys and girls’ lives changed forever. The children were alone and isolated. They could no longer speak the Native language of Mi’gmaq, and the children would be punished if they did. The two wait by the train tracks in mourning for their lost culture.

5. Notable Native People: 50 Indigenous Leaders, Dreamers, and Changemakers from Past and Present

Notable Native People: 50 Indigenous Leaders, Dreamers, and Changemakers from Past and Present- book cover
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Now whoever said picture books were only for children didn’t realize the impact that these types of books could do. They capitalize on the Natives that genuinely impacted their Nations, providing information about past heritage, history, and culture. In this book, you’ll find an array of Natives in different jobs. This picture book will educate anyone who decides to pick it up.

6. Finding My Dance

Finding My Dance- book cover
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It’s always great to bring some dance into the mix. In this story, we meet Ria Thundercloud and her life journey with dance! She was brought into the powwow circle, in which she grew to love. As she got older, she learned various dance styles like tap, jazz, and ballet. This did not make her like powwow any less, however. Even though she felt out of place at times because she was one of the few Native American kids at her school, she always managed to make herself feel better with her love of the powwow dances! Her story is heartwarming and sweet as she strives to make it into the professional league while maintaining her Native upbringing. 

7. When the Shadbush Blooms

When the Shadbush Blooms- book cover
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In all Native traditions, cycles are an essential part of their culture. Seasons, generations, and traditions always come back to the start. When the Shadbush Blooms discloses the eyes of a young Lenape girl. As she ventures down the stream, she recognizes that people before her in her nation have walked the same path. The cycle remains continuous – from family, the way you get food, or past stories persisting by word of mouth – family stays united. 

8. We Are Grateful: Otsaliheliga

We Are Grateful: Otsaliheliga- book cover- picture books
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Take a stroll in the Cherokee community. Language is a huge part of any Native group. And within the Cherokee nation, they have the word otsaliheliga (oh-jah-LEE-hay-lee-gah). This word is used to express absolute gratitude. The different seasons transitioning from hot, warm summer nights to fall weather tells us a lot of Cherokee culture that you never knew before. Immerse yourself in the culture!

Native American history has too long been undermined due to forced assimilation and misplaced history. We are done erasing Native Nation culture. So raise your young with these picture books! Make them aware of the diverse Indigenous peoples of past and present.

If you want more reads with Native American representation, click here!

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