Native American Indian
Authors & Illustrators:
Picture Books

Books listed here are either by North Native American Indian authors or illustrators or both, including books that also feature non-Indian authors and Native illustrators. Where tribal affiliations are known, they are noted. Our intent is not to be all-inclusive but rather to highlight.

traditional stories within contemporary

MUSKRAT WILL BE SWIMMING by Cheryl Savageau (Abenaki-French Canadian), illustrated by Robert Hynes, featuring a Seneca traditional story retold by Joseph Bruchac (Abenaki) (Northland, 1996). When a young Native girl is called "Lake Rat," she is comforted by Grampa who both reveals how he was once called "Frog" because of his French-Indian heritage and shows how those intended insults are signs that the bullies don't appreciate the joy of the frog and wonder of the lake. Ages 4-up.

The Milky WayTHE STORY OF THE MILKY WAY, A CHEROKEE TALE by Joseph Bruchac (Abenaki) and Gayle Ross (Cherokee) with paintings by Virginia A. Stroud (Cherokee-Creek) (Dial, 1995). A spirit dog has been stealing the corn meal, and he can be driven away only with the combined efforts of a young boy, Beloved Woman, and the entire village. Read this book to find out why the Cherokee people call the Milky Way "the place where the dog ran." In "The Origin of the Story," Bruchac and Ross share how they came to know and be inspired by the story. Stroud's artwork depicts of Cherokee life in the early 1800s, after the coming of the Europeans and before the Trail of Tears. In a wrap-around, her illustrations show how Cherokee people today pass down their traditional stories to children. Ages 4-up.

stand-alone stories

A BOY CALLED SLOW by Joseph Bruchac (Abenaki), illustrated by Rocco Baviera (Philomel, 1995). A look at the boyhood of a young Lakota who grows into Sitting Bull, a medicine man and chief. Ages 4-up.

CIRCLE OF WONDER: A NATIVE AMERICAN CHRISTMAS STORY by N. Scott Momaday (Kiowa) (Clear Light, 1993). Inspired by the author's first childhood Christmas in Jemez Pueblo, this is the story of Tolo, a mute boy who follows a man who seems to be his late grandfather. Ages 5-up.

Crazy Horse's VisionCRAZY HORSE'S VISION by Joseph Bruchac (Abenaki), illustrated by S.D. Nelson (Lakota) (Lee & Low, 2000). Bruchac brings his poetic style to this story of young Curly, who would grow into the Lakota hero Crazy Horse. Nelson's illustrations are influenced by the traditional ledger style of his ancestors, and they are powerful. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

CROSSING BOK CHITTO: A CHOCTAW TALE OF FRIENDSHIP AND FREEDOM by Tim Tingle (Choctaw), illustrated by Jeanne Rorex Bridges (Cherokee)(Cinco Puntos, 2006). Chronicles the important relationship between citizens of Choctaw Nation and those people held in slavery in Mississippi prior to the U.S. Civil War and the Trail of Tears. An evocative story, wonderfully told and gorgeously illustrated. End material includes "Choctaws Today: Two Prosperous Nations, One Strong People" and "A Note on Choctaw Storytelling." Ages 9-up.

FOX SONG by Joseph Bruchac (Abenaki), illustrated by Paul Morin (Philomel, 1993). A gentle story about the relationship of Jamie and her Granma Bowman and about Jamie's acceptance of Granma's death. A sweet story. Probably my favorite by Bruchac, who is no doubt the most published Native author of children's books. Ages 4-up.

THE GOOD LUCK CAT by Joy Harjo (Creek) and illustrated by Paul Lee (Harcourt, 2000). Aunt Shelly says that Woogie is a good luck cat. As he survives one scrape after another, her analysis seems to be right on target. But one day when he doesn't come home, we wonder if this good luck cat's ninth life has run out. This is a delightful look at the friendship between a cat and a young girl. And it's -- yahoo! -- a children's picture book with Indian characters wherein Native culture isn't the main focus. Of course, it's wonderful to have children read accurate, respectful books that touch on Indian themes; however, they should be balanced with charming stories like this one that depict daily life. Ages 4-up.

GRANDMOTHER'S PIGEON by Louise Erdrich (Chippewa), illustrated by Jim La Marche (Hyperion, 1996). Grandmother has caught a ride to Greenland on the back of a porpoise, and what's more, a nest of birds has hatched in her bedroom. Where did they come from? Ages 4-up. See also Erdrich's picture book, THE RANGE ETERNAL (Hyperion, 2002).

Jingle Dancer by Cynthia Leitich SmithJINGLE DANCER by Cynthia Leitich Smith (Creek), illustrated by Cornelius Van Wright and Ying-Hwa Hu (Morrow, 2000). Jenna, a Muscogee (Creek)-Ojibwe girl, is enthusiastic about wanting to jingle dance at the upcoming powwow. With time running short, she seeks the assistance of women of her contemporary intertribal community in bringing together the remainder of her regalia. A story of reciprocity and respect. Ages 4-up.

LESS THAN HALF, MORE THAN WHOLE by Kathleen Lacapa (Mohawk-English-Irish) and Michael Lacapa (Apache-Hopi-Tewa), who also is the illustrator (Northland, 1994). When Will calls Tony "only half, or less than half Indian," Tony tries to figure out what that means. With TaTda's (Grandfather's) help, Tony realizes that, like the Creator's gift of corn, he is whole. Ages 4-up.

A MAN CALLED RAVEN by Richard Van Camp (Dogrib) with pictures by George Littlechild (Plains Cree) (Children's Book Press, 1997). A mysterious man confronts two Dogrib brothers, Chris and Toby Greyeyes, about their abusing a raven with hockey sticks. A skillful blend of cultural tradition and contemporary backdrop. Like Littlechild's first picture book, THIS LAND IS MY LAND, here A MAN CALLED RAVEN is proudly rendered, with a mastery of color, of line, and shape. One brother is black haired with brown eyes and tan skin, the other is golden-brown haired with blue eyes and fair skin. An unfortunate flurry of well-publicized mistreatment of animals by children makes the theme of this book especially timely. Ages 5-up.

SKYSISTERS by Jan Bourdeau Waboose (Ojibway), illustrated by Brian Deines (Kids Can Press, 2000). Big sister Allie and little sister Alex bundle up, venture into the night, encounter a deer, dance beneath the stars, and watch the northern lights. Lovely. (Waboose's previous book MORNING ON THE LAKE is also highly recommended.) Ages 5-up.

SONGS OF SHIPROCK FAIR by Luci Tapahonso (Navajo), illustrated by Anthony Chee Emerson (Navajo)(Kiva, 1999). All the joy, excitement, family love and creativity of the fair brought to life. A good book to settle in with. Ages 5-up.

TWO PAIRS OF SHOES by Esther Sanderson (of the Pas Reserve, living in Winnipeg), illustrated by David Beyer (Cree) (Pemmican, 1998). For Maggie's eighth birthday, she receives a pair of black patent shoes from her mother and a pair of moccasins from her Kokum (grandmother), who reminds her there are times and ways to wear each. Ages 3-up. Good for preschool. See Oyate for ordering.

A WALK TO THE GREAT MYSTERY by Virginia A. Stroud (Cherokee-Creek) (Dial, 1995). Dustin and Rosie take a walk with their Grandma Ann, a Cherokee medicine woman, and gain insight into the Great Mystery. Ages 5-up.

WHERE DID YOU GET YOUR MOCCASINS by Bernelda Wheeler (Cree-Saulteaux-Scottish-French) and illustrated by Herman Bekkering (Peguis Publishers, 1982 (now called Portage & Main Press).). A perfect picture book for introducing the balance of traditionalism and contemporary life to very young children, who will respond to the open-hearted questioning tone of this simple but well constructed story. Ages 3-up. Good for preschool. See Oyate or Good Minds for ordering.

WHITE BEAD CEREMONY: MARY GREYFEATHER GETS HER NATIVE AMERICAN NAME by Sherrin Watkins (Shawnee-Cherokee), illustrated by Kim Doner (Council Oak, 1994). With a strong emphasis on Shawnee language (including removable vocabulary flash cards) and fanciful illustrations, this book shows how Mary's family comes together to help her find a Native name. This same author-illustrator team also is credited with GREEN SNAKE CEREMONY: MARY GREYFEATHER LEARNS ABOUT HER NATIVE AMERICAN HERITAGE. These books are recommended for classroom use. Ages 5-up.

songs and traditional stories

The Mud PonyCAN YOU HEAR WIND SING YOUR NAME? AN ONEIDA SONG OF SPRING by Sandra De Coteau Orie (Oneida) and illustrated by Christopher Canyon (Cherokee)(Walker, 1995). Exquisite paintings compliment this celebration of the circle of life and the connection between Oneida people and the natural world. Great for even very young children. Lyrical and timeless. Author's note useful for curriculum and cross-cultural insight. Ages 3-up.

THE MUD PONY retold by Caron Lee Cohen and illustrated by Shonto Begay (Navajo)(Scholastic, 1992). In this retelling of a Pawnee traditional story, Mother Earth brings to life from herself a pony made of mud. Ages 5-up.

illustrated non-fiction

THIS LAND IS MY LAND by George Littlechild (Plains Cree)(Children's Book Press, 1993). In a collection of short essays, Littlechild offers insights into Native identity, history, and culture which compliment his internationally acclaimed art. Recognized with the Jane Addams Picture Book Award. A sophisticated picture book for older readers. Ages 7-up.

THE PEOPLE SHALL CONTINUE by Simon Ortiz (Acoma) and illustrated by Sharol Graves (Children's Book Press, 1998).For all of its poetry and brevity, this oral chronicle of the history of Native peoples to present day is honest, inspiring, and surprisingly complete. Ages 5-up.

TallChief: America's Prima BallerinaTALLCHIEF: AMERICA'S PRIMA BALLERINA by Maria Tallchief (Osage) with Rosemary Wells, illustrated by Gary Kelly (Viking, 1999). This picture book autobiography looks at the early life of America's and Native America's most outstanding ballet dancer. Ages 5-up.

photo essays

CYN NOTE: Books (below) from the WE ARE STILL HERE series were edited by Gordon Regguniti (Leech Lake Band Ojibway) with the consultation of W. Roger Buffalohead (Ponca) and Juanita G. Corbine Espinosa (Dakota/Ojibway).

CHILDREN OF NATIVE AMERICA TODAY by Yvonne Wakim Dennis (Cherokee) and Arlene Hirschfelder with a forward by Buffy Sainte-Marie (Charlesbridge, 2003). Featuring gorgeous full-color photographs, this nonfiction volume features two, strong overview introductions to contemporary Native America, followed by double-page spreads, each including a pronunciation guide and quick facts, on children from a regional cross-section of twenty-four Native Nations within U.S. borders as well as Native Hawaiians and urban Indians. The title also offers a color map, "resources for further study" (including a biblography listing nonfiction for children, nonfiction for parents and educators, related magazines and newspapers, related organizations, and related Web sites). A glossary and index are included, too, along with a history of the book itself. An excellent read for children and adults, a must-read for social studies educators. Ages 8-up. CHILDREN OF NATIVE AMERICA TODAY: AN ACTIVITY AND RESOURCE GUIDE also available. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

CLAMBAKE: A WAMPANOAG TRADITION (from WE ARE STILL HERE: NATIVE AMERICANS TODAY) by Russell M. Peters (Wampanoag) with photographs by John Madama (Lerner, 1992). Steven Peters and his grandfather, Fast Turtle, host an appanaug, a clambake. Ages 5-up.

DRUMBEAT HEARTBEAT: A CELEBRATION OF POWWOW (from WE ARE STILL HERE: NATIVE AMERICANS TODAY) written and photographed by Susan Braine (Ansiniboine, Fort Peck Reservation), illustrations by Carly Bordeau (Anishinabe, White Earth, Minnesota)(Lerner, 1995). A detailed overview of the powwow and its traditions. Ages 5-up.

FOUR SEASONS OF CORN: A WINNEBAGO TRADITION by Sally M. Hunter (Ojibway) with photographs by Joe Allen (Lerner, 1996). Hunter's husband and children are members of the Hochunk Eagle Clan. Russell, who lives in Minneapolis travels to a farm with his family to help plant and later harvest and enjoy corn. Includes recipe for Indian corn soup, glossaries. Ages 5-up.

GRANDCHILDREN OF THE LAKOTA by LaVera Rose (Rosebud Sioux) with photographs by Cheryl Walsh Bellville (Carolrhoda, 1998). A personal overview of her people by a talented author with a voice echoing oral tradition. Touches on Lakota diversity, history, economics, culture, government, families, children, education, lifestyles, and more. Includes a pronunciation guide. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED. Ages 5-up.

ININATIG'S GIFT OF SUGAR: TRADITIONAL NATIVE SUGARMAKING (from WE ARE STILL HERE: NATIVE AMERICANS TODAY) by Laura Waterman Wittstock (Seneca) with photographs by Dale Kakkak (Menominee) and illustrations by Carly Bordeau (Anishinabe)(publication information?). Beginning with the Ojibway story of Ininatig, "the man tree," this book celebrates the processes of sugarmaking as it relates to Ojibway heritage. Ages 5-up.

KINAADLDA: A NAVAJO GIRL GROWS UP (from WE ARE STILL HERE: NATIVE AMERICANS TODAY) by Monty Roessel (Navajo). Celinda McKelvey completes the coming-of-age ceremony for Navajo girls. Ages 5-up.

Lakota Hoop DancerLAKOTA HOOP DANCER by Jacqueline Left Hand Bull (Sicangu Lakota Nation) and Suzanne Haldane with photographs by Suzanne Haldane (Lerner, 1993). Left Hand Bull is an educator and lecturer about indigenous cultures in the Americas. She was born on the Rosebud Indian Reservation in South Dakota. This is her first children's book. Includes glossary. Ages 5-up.

THE SACRED HARVEST: OJIBWAY WILD RICE GATHERING (from WE ARE STILL HERE: NATIVE AMERICANS TODAY) by Gordon Regguinti (Leech Lake Band Ojibway) with photographs by Dale Kakkak (Menominee) and a forward by Michael Dorris (Modoc)(Lerner, 1992). Ages 5-up.

SHANNON, AN OJIBWAY DANCER (from WE ARE STILL HERE: NATIVE AMERICANS TODAY) by Sandra King (Red Lake band of Ojibway), photographs by Catherine Whipple (Lakota)(publication information?). A look at everyday life and preparations for powwow with a focus on a young shawl dancer. Ages 5-up.

SONGS FROM THE LOOM: A NAVAJO GIRL LEARNS TO WEAVE (from WE ARE STILL HERE: NATIVE AMERICANS TODAY) by Monty Roessel (Navajo)(Lerner, 1995). Although this list reflects many exquisitely photographed books, this one stands out. The subject matter lends itself to beauty, and the close look at tradition to warmth. Centered on photographer's daughter Jaclyn. Ages 5-up.

A STORY TO TELL: TRADITIONS OF A TLINGIT COMMUNITY (from WE ARE STILL HERE: NATIVE AMERICANS TODAY) by Richard Nichols (Tewa Pueblo) with photographs by D. Bambi Kraus (serves as an elected board member of the 13th Regional Corp., an Alaskan Native for-profit corporation created by the Alaskan Native Claims Settlement Act)(Lerner, 1998). A grandmother in the village of Kate on Kupreanof Island, one of the traditional areas of the Tlingit people, tells stories of their culture to her granddaughter, Marissa, 11, from Seattle. Ages 5-up.