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thumbnail Picture Books by Native Americans

by Valerie Morris on January 4, 2018
Tags: kids (48), picture books (23)

This post was written by Valerie, Youth Services Librarian.

Recently I have been reviewing the Whitefish Bay Public Library’s picture book collection focusing on books by and about Native Americans/First Nations. Unfortunately, many of the books reinforced stereotypes of Native Americans and many more told native stories inaccurately and disrespectfully. So, I would like to share this list of picture books written by Native American writers that we have in our collection.

The Apple Tree – Sandy Tharp-Thee (XP THAR)
A Cherokee boy plants an apple seed in his backyard. When the tree fails to produce apples, the boy comes up with a plan. The reader follows as the boy and the tree grow up together with the tree finally producing apples. This book is bilingual in English and Cherokee which is a great introduction to a Native written language. The author is a tribal librarian and received the White House Champion of Change Award for her work. She is an enrolled member of the Cherokee Nation. 


Thanks to the Animals – Allen Sockabasin (XP SOCK)
This is the tale of a Passamaquoddy (American Indian people of the Northeast) family who must pack up their house and belongings to move to their winter home. On the way baby Zoo Sap falls off the loaded bobsled. Upon hearing his cries, the forest animals come to keep the baby warm until his father, Joo Tum, finds him. The back of the book provides the Passamaquoddy words for the animals featured in the book. The author is a member of the Passamaquoddy tribe in northern Maine.


My Heart Fills with Happiness – Monique Gray Smith (XP BOARD)
This wonderfully illustrated board book shares the things that bring us happiness. The illustrations indicate that the characters are indigenous but no particular group is mentioned. We all share the things that make us happy like singing, drumming, seeing the sun, or holding hands with someone we love. The author is Cree, Lakota, and Scottish.


Hiawatha and the Peacemaker – Robbie Robertson (XP ROBE)

The author shares the real story of Hiawatha as it was told to him by a respected elder when he would often visit his family on the Six Nations of the Grand River Reservation near Toronto, Canada. Many people know of Hiawatha through Longfellow’s Song of Hiawatha poem however Longfellow confused Hiawatha with another Native American of the time making the details of the poem inaccurate. Robertson corrects that image of Hiawatha in this beautifully written and illustrated book (by David Shannon). The author is Cayuga and Mohawk.


You Hold Me Up – Monique Gray Smith (XP GRAY)

As the title implies, this book focuses on kindness and respect for others. The little acts of kindness we do for others hold us up as in “you hold me up when you laugh with me” or “when you listen to me”. Again the characters are native people without naming a specific group but this emphasizes that these are common to all humans. The illustrations are respectful to native peoples, no stereotypes here. The author is Cree, Lakota, and Scottish.