On the second Monday of October, Indigenous Peoples’ Day works to recognize the Indigenous communities that have lived in the United States for thousands of years. In honor of the day, we present a list of stunning and powerful picture books from Indigenous creators that celebrate their cultures and traditions. This is a short sampling of important and inspiring works from such creators that we hope motivates readers to continue expanding their reading lists and find new voices that tell important stories of native peoples.
Illustrated by Michaela Goade
This stunning picture book depicts a meeting between two very different individuals, and how they embrace all that makes them different, while realizing all their many similarities as well. An important reminder for young readers, and adults, everywhere that no matter how different we may seem, we all can find common ground.
A powerful imagining by two Native creators of a first encounter between two very different people that celebrates our ability to acknowledge difference and find common ground–with art by New York Times bestselling illustrator and Caldecott Medalist Michaela Goade.
Based on the real journal kept by French explorer Jacques Cartier in 1534, Encounter imagines a first meeting between a French sailor and a Stadaconan fisher. As they navigate their differences, the wise animals around them note their similarities, illuminating common ground.
This extraordinary imagining by Brittany Luby, Professor of Indigenous History, is paired with stunning art by Michaela Goade, winner of 2018 American Indian Youth Literature Best Picture Book Award. Encounter is a luminous telling from two Indigenous creators that invites readers to reckon with the past, and to welcome, together, a future that is yet unchartered.
Illustrated by Michaela Goade
There is a powerful bond between mother and child and this beautiful book illustrates the journey to motherhood and the connection a new baby has to the generations that come before. It’s a wonderful gift for moms-to-be and families everywhere, to celebrate new additions.
This unique baby book sings with Native cultural detail, while striking a universal chord in its celebration of the blossoming of love that comes with expecting and welcoming a new baby–with art by New York Times bestselling illustrator and Caldecott Medalist Michaela Goade.
As she waits for the arrival of her new baby, a mother-to-be gathers gifts to create a sacred bundle. A white feather, cedar and sage, a stone from the river . . .
Each addition to the bundle will offer the new baby strength and connection to tradition, family, and community. As they grow together, mother and baby will each have gifts to offer each other.
Tasha Spillett-Sumner and Michaela Goade, two Indigenous creators, bring beautiful words and luminous art together in a resonant celebration of the bond between mother and child.
Illustrated by Yuyi Morales
As kids, we don’t always understand why things are the way that they are, or why we might do things differently than our friends. It’s through important lessons that we learn more about our family and culture and the many reasons to be proud of who we are, and this delightful, colorful picture book shows us just how exciting those discoveries can be.
From New York Times bestselling author Sherman Alexie and Caldecott Honor winning Yuyi Morales comes a striking and beautifully illustrated picture book celebrating the special relationship between father and son.
Thunder Boy Jr. wants a normal name…one that’s all his own. Dad is known as big Thunder, but little thunder doesn’t want to share a name. He wants a name that celebrates something cool he’s done like Touch the Clouds, Not Afraid of Ten Thousand Teeth, or Full of Wonder.
But just when Little Thunder thinks all hope is lost, dad picks the best name…Lightning! Their love will be loud and bright, and together they will light up the sky.
Carole Lindstrom; Michaela Goade (Illustrator)
This inspiring and educational book helps motivate young readers to do everything they can to protect the beautiful planet we call home. Illustrating the powerful connection humans have to the Earth, this bold book encourages us all to stand up for environmental justice.
Inspired by the many Indigenous-led movements across North America, We Are Water Protectors issues an urgent rallying cry to safeguard the Earth’s water from harm and corruption―a bold and lyrical picture book written by Carole Lindstrom and vibrantly illustrated by Michaela Goade.
Water is the first medicine.
It affects and connects us all . . .
When a black snake threatens to destroy the Earth
And poison her people’s water, one young water protector
Takes a stand to defend Earth’s most sacred resource.
Kevin Noble Maillard; Juana Martinez-Neal (Illustrator)
Fair warning that this one might make you hungry! This award-winning book celebrates the traditions, old and new, that tie a family and culture together. Read this one with your whole family and cook up a recipe that’s special to you to enjoy along with it.
Told in lively and powerful verse by debut author Kevin Noble Maillard, Fry Bread is an evocative depiction of a modern Native American family, vibrantly illustrated by Pura Belpre Award winner and Caldecott Honoree Juana Martinez-Neal.
Fry bread is food.
It is warm and delicious, piled high on a plate.
Fry bread is time.
It brings families together for meals and new memories.
Fry bread is nation.
It is shared by many, from coast to coast and beyond.
Fry bread is us.
It is a celebration of old and new, traditional and modern, similarity and difference.
by Thomas King
Illustrated by Natasha Donovan
And for independent readers (or to read together!) a middle-grade graphic novel, illustrating a powerful story of strength and identity, from two Indigenous creators.
From celebrated Indigenous author Thomas King and award-winning Métis artist Natasha Donovan comes a powerful graphic novel about a family caught between nations.
Borders is a masterfully told story of a boy and his mother whose road trip is thwarted at the border when they identify their citizenship as Blackfoot. Refusing to identify as either American or Canadian first bars their entry into the US, and then their return into Canada. In the limbo between countries, they find power in their connection to their identity and to each other.
Borders explores nationhood from an Indigenous perspective and resonates deeply with themes of identity, justice, and belonging.