These picture, middle grade, and YA books render real-life and fictional stories of adversity and adventure and celebrate a panoply of cultures.

Ahiahia the Orphan

Levi Illuitok, illus. by Nate Wells. Inhabit Media, Apr. Ages 12–up

Kugaaruk Elder Illuitok retells a traditional story from the Nunavut region, graphic novel style. When Ahiahia’s parents are murdered, his grandmother does what she can to keep him safe, voicing protective chants over the clothing she sews for him, the amulet she gives him, even his companion dog. But Ahiahia is surrounded by enemies, and when they attack, he must rely on his agility and hunting skills as well as his grandmother’s care.

 

Âmî Osâwâpikones (Dear Dandelion)

SJ Okemow. Annick, May. Ages 4–7

This debut picture book by Okemow, a Nehiyaw and Eastern European multidisciplinary artist, celebrates the wild dandelion for its healing medicine and tenacity. Cree words figure throughout her child’s-eye perspective: “Sîpihkâw flower”—resilient flower—“you are a memory waiting for the frost to thaw.”

Contenders

Traci Sorell, illus. by Arigon Starr. Kokila, Apr. Ages 6–9

In 1911, Philadelphia Athletics pitcher Charles Bender and New York Giants catcher John Meyers became the first two Native players to face off in a World Series. Sorell, an enrolled citizen of the Cherokee Nation, and Starr, an enrolled member of the Kickapoo Tribe of Oklahoma, share their trailblazing story in the context of ongoing efforts around Native American representation in sports.

Funeral Songs for Dying Girls

Cherie Dimaline. Tundra, Apr. Ages 14–up

The Marrow Thieves author Dimaline, who is from the Georgian Bay Métis Community, centers her latest on the grounds of a cemetery, where teenage Winifred lives with her father, who works in the crematorium. Winifred’s father believes her mother has returned from the grave, and the teen tries to get him to face the truth; when Winifred meets a ghost herself, she begins to question her own perspective on reality.

 

Heroes of the Water Monster

Brian Young. Heartdrum, May. Ages 8–12

PW’s starred review called Young’s 2021 debut, Healer of the Water Monster, a “worlds-spanning novel,” praising its “gentle, complex characters and flawed, loving human relationships.” The author, an enrolled member of the Navajo Nation, continues in that vein with this companion volume, in which two Navajo stepbrothers in Phoenix, Ariz., must confront the traumas of their people’s past to save the world from destruction.

 

Indigenous Ingenuity

Deidre Havrelock and Edward Kay. Little, Brown/Ottaviano, May. Ages 8–12

Havrelock (Buffalo Wild!), a member of the Saddle Lake Cree Nation in Alberta, Canada, teams up with STEM writer Kay to highlight centuries of North American Indigenous innovation and knowledge. Topics including environmental stewardship, mathematics, and civil engineering get their due, and the authors also know what makes middle graders tick—the Lakota, they note, reportedly used inflated animal bladders as proto–whoopee cushions.

My Powerful Hair

Carole Lindstrom; illus. by Steph Littlebird. Abrams, Mar. Ages 4–8

A child’s excitement to grow her hair long connects her to her culture and the strength of her ancestors. Lindstrom, who is Anishinaabe/Métis, tribally enrolled with the Turtle Mountain Band of Ojibwe, and the author of the Caldecott Medal winner We Are Water Protectors, teams up with debut illustrator Littlebird, a registered member of Oregon’s Grand Ronde Confederated Tribes, for a story influenced by Lindstrom’s grandmother, who was forced to cut her hair short at a residential school.

Phoenix ani’ Gichichi-I’/Phoenix Gets Greater

Marty Wilson-Trudeau with Phoenix Wilson, illus. by Megan Kyak-Monteith. Second Story, May. Ages 6–8

“In this personal-feeling family story, Wilson-Trudeau gives loving voice to the early experiences of her child Wilson, who also contributes,” PW’s review said when the original version of this picture book about a two-spirit child pubbed in 2022; this is a dual-language edition, translated into Anishinaabemowin (Ojibwe) by Kelvin Morrison. “Kyak-Monteith’s portrait-oriented art offers warmth to an individual narrative about acceptance, authenticity, and identity.”  

Remember

Joy Harjo, illus. by Michaela Goade. Random House Studio, Mar. Ages 4–8

Caldecott Medalist Goade, an enrolled member of the Tlingit & Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska, illustrates a 1983 poem by Harjo, a mem­ber of the Mvskoke Nation and the 23rd U.S. poet laureate. The pair “explore people’s links to one another and to nature,” per PW’s starred review, making for “a smartly constructed, reflective picture book based in connection and noticing.”

 



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Saints of the Household

Ari Tison. FSG, Mar. Ages 14–up

Growing up in small-town Minnesota, Bribri (Indigenous Costa Rican) brothers Max and Jay usually avoid conflict to protect themselves and their mother from their abusive father. When they break up a fight and harm the school’s star soccer player in the process, the act of violence endangers their futures. Debut novelist Tison, a Bribri American and African-descended poet, deploys alternating points of view and incorporates verse and elements of Bribri culture.

The Secret Pocket

Peggy Janicki, illus. by Carrielynn Victor. Orca, Apr. Ages 6–8

Janicki, a Dakelh teacher from the Nak’azdli Whut’en First Nation, tells a story based on her mother’s experience at a residential school where the girls survived by sneaking food in hidden pockets they sewed into their dresses. This is her debut; Victor, a descendant of Coast Salish ancestors, also illustrated 2021’s Stand Like a Cedar by Nicola I. Campbell (Portage & Main).

 

Stand as Tall as the Trees

Patricia Gualinga and Laura Resau, illus. by Vanessa Jaramillo. Charlesbridge, July. Ages 6–9

Writing with children’s and YA novelist Resau, Gualinga shares her life’s work as an Indigenous rights defender of the Pueblo Kichwa de Sarayaku, a community in the Ecuadorian Amazon, and relates stories she heard as a child about the Amazanga, mystical beings who help protect the forest.

 

The Storyteller

Brandon Hobson. Scholastic, May. Ages 9–12

In his first book for children, Hobson, a National Book Award finalist for his novel Where the Dead Sit Talking, sends an anxiety-ridden boy named Ziggy on a quest to find his mother, who, like many Native women, went missing without explanation. The story incorporates Cherokee history and lore as Ziggy discovers how his tale is tied to those who came before him.

 

Visions of the Crow

Wanda John-Kehewin, illus. by nicole marie burton and Kielamel Sibal. HighWater, Apr. Ages 15–up

Cree graphic novelist John-Kehewin introduces Damon Quinn, who’s trying to make it through senior year while facing familiar challenges—problems with classmates, a mother who struggles with alcohol abuse, a nosy new girl at school—as well as more mysterious ones, such as the crow that’s begun to follow him around and the waking dreams that may hold the key to his past and future.

 

When Naiche Visits the Stars

Erika T. Wurth, illus. by Sharon Irla. Reycraft, June. Ages 7–10

Inspired by her parents, who work for NASA, young Naiche dreams of building spaceships and even traveling to distant planets. Photorealistic paintings by Cherokee artist Irla accompany text by Wurth (White Horse), who is of Apache/Chickasaw/Cherokee descent and whose father was an aerospace engineer.    

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