Picture, middle grade, and YA books examine Indigenous life through historical, contemporary, and fantastical lenses.
Traci Sorell, illus. by Michaela Goade. Kokila, May. Ages 4–8
Sibert Honoree Sorell, a citizen of the Cherokee Nation, and Caldecott Medalist Goade, an enrolled member of the Tlingit & Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska, convey the significance of returning to one’s ancestral land through the eyes of a Cherokee girl who’s excited by her family’s move from their urban home to their reservation.
Hearts of Fire and Snow
David Bowles and Guadalupe García McCall. Bloomsbury, June. Ages 13–up
The Mexican American coauthors of 2023’s Secret of the Moon Conch, which depicted “the treatment of Indigenous communities through engaging present-day and 16th-century lenses,” per PW’s review, return with a romantasy rooted in Nahua lore. The story of star-crossed lovers Popoca, a warrior, and Iztac, a princess, ended in tragedy; when the pair are reincarnated as teens in contemporary Nevada, will they be able to save their happily ever after?
It Bears Repeating
Tanya Tagaq, illus. by Cee Pootoogook. Tundra, Aug. Ages 3–7
This concept book from an Inuit author-illustrator team simultaneously teaches counting and simple Inuktitut words—atausiq nanuq (one bear), marruk nanuuk (two bears)—while highlighting the culturally significant polar bear. Tagaq is a well-known throat singer and novelist; Pootoogook is a gallery-exhibited fine artist.
Leslie Stall Widener, illus. by Johnson Yazzie. Charlesbridge, July. Ages 5–8
In 1845, when the people of the Choctaw Nation learn of the potato famine in Ireland, they liken it to the suffering along the Trail of Tears and gather what they can to donate in relief. In 2020, as Covid devastates the Navajo and Hopi Nations, the Irish reciprocate the generosity Native Americans showed them 175 years earlier. Widener, a citizen of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, and Yazzie, who was born on the Navajo Nation, in Pinon, Ariz., relate the true story.
The Kodiaks: Home Ice Advantage
David A. Robertson. HighWater, Apr. Ages 9–12
Two-time Governor General’s Literary Award winner Robertson, a member of Norway House Cree Nation, introduces 11-year-old Alex, who finds himself removed from his Cree culture when his family relocates to the city. He tries out for the local hockey team, where his talent on the ice earns him respect and friendship even as his Indigenous heritage makes him the target of racist bullies. As the story progresses, Alex adjusts to his new surroundings and learns to be proud of where he comes from.
Julie Flett. Greystone, May. Ages 3–8
Through practice and patience, a boy gains the confidence to join other kids he sees skateboarding in a gentle story enhanced by kinetic illustrations from author-illustrator Flett, a Cree-Métis artist whose accolades include the American Indian Youth Literature Award. In a note at the back, she offers Cree words and phrases that could apply to skateboarding, including the idiomatic refrain haw êkw (let’s go).
Ambelin Kwaymullina. Knopf, May. Ages 12–up
Kwaymullina, a First Nations writer and illustrator who comes from the Palyku people of the Pilbara region of Western Australia, celebrates the strength of Aboriginal women in this anticolonialist YA fantasy. Bell Silverleaf enters a competition to win the crown of the realm, not because she wants to rule, but because she wants to undermine the regime that oppresses her people.
Looking for Smoke
K.A. Cobell. Heartdrum, June. Ages 13–up
This debut YA thriller, which highlights the epidemic of missing and murdered Indigenous women, follows four teens who, as the last to see one of their classmates alive, are suspected of killing her. Amid the suspense, Cobell, an enrolled member of the Blackfeet Nation, offers a glimpse of life as a modern teen living on the Blackfeet reservation.
Anna Rose Johnson. Holiday House, Mar. Ages 8–12
In 1912, an orphaned French-Ojibwe girl named Lucy is sent to foster with a large Anishinaabe family, lighthouse keepers who live on an island in the middle of Lake Superior. In what PW’s starred review called a “tender, wholesome book about family,” Johnson, a member of the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians, “acknowledges the importance of kindness and patience, especially in matters of grief and settling into new places and situations.”
Where Wolves Don’t Die
Anton Treuer. Levine Querido, June. Ages 12–up
Treur, a professor of Ojibwe studies whose previous books include Everything You Wanted to Know About Indians But Were Afraid to Ask, makes his fiction debut with this YA thriller. Ojibwe teen Ezra hates nearly everything about city life in Northeast Minneapolis, including Matt, the bully who torments him. When Matt’s house burns down and suspicion unjustly falls on Ezra, he’s sent to stay with his grandparents until the real culprit is found—but even under their protection in rural Canada, he may not be safe.