Native American Indian
Children's Literature: Novels

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.

Birchbark House thumbTHE BIRCHBARK HOUSE by Louise Erdrich (Ojibway) (Hyperion, 1999). Touching on the same era as the Little House Books by Laura Ingalls Wilder, this first book in a planned trilogy is in some ways Erdrich's answer to the imbalance in the way Native-white relations have historically been portrayed in children's literature. Readers will be engaged by appealing protagonist, Omakayas, educated by this glimpse at Ojibway daily life, and perhaps inspired to look at history with an eye to different points of view. Elegant writing. This novel was a finalist for the 1999 National Book Award and a 2000 ALA Notable Book in Children's Literature. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED. Ages 8-up. Don’t miss the companion novels, THE GAME OF SILENCE (HarperCollins, 2005) and THE PORCUPINE YEAR (HarperCollins, 2008).

DAUGHTER OF SUQUA by Diane Johnston Hamm (Whitman, 1997). Ida, a young Suqhamish girl, and her people are faced with allotment, boarding schools, and more harsh changes. But through it all, the relationships between this young girl and the people of her community, especially her grandmother, are truly inspiring. Ages 8-up.

DOVE DREAM by Hendle Rumbaut (Chickasaw) (Houghton Mifflin, 1994). In the summer of 1963, Eleanor "Dove" Derrysaw, age 13, is sent to live with her aunt in Kansas. Eleanor comes of age with her first romance, her first job, and a greater appreciation of her Chickasaw heritage while looking to her aunt's life for inspiration. Ages 8-up.

EAGLE SONG by Joseph Bruchac (Abenaki) with pictures by Dan Andreasen (Dial, 1997). Danny Bigtree encounters racism when he moves from the Mohawk reservation to the city. However, Danny is inspired by the Iroquois hero Aionwahta and by his own father to choose peace. Ages 7-up.

GUESTS by Michael Dorris (Modoc) (Hyperion, 1994). An exploration of an event analogous to the mythical "Thanksgiving" story, told from the point of view of a Native boy. Ages 7-up.

THE HEART OF A CHIEF by Joseph Bruchac (Abenaki) (Dial, 1998). Chris is an eleven year old Penacook (Abenaki) boy, living on a fictional reservation in New Hampshire. He is facing a new school, a possible new casino on a tribal island as well as his father's alcoholism and the issue of Indian sports mascots. Touches on mixed-race themes. Ages 8-up.

LONGWALKER'S JOURNEY: A NOVEL OF THE CHOCTAW TRAIL OF TEARS by Beatrice O. Harrell (Choctaw) (Dial, 1999). Minko Ushi and his family are part of the Choctaw removal, or Trail of Tears, from their ancestral land to Indian Territory. In this story Minko, his father, and a pony actually travel ahead of the rest and have various adventures along their way. Ages 8-up.

MORNING GIRL by Michael Dorris (Modoc) (Hyperion, 1992). It's 1492, and Morning Girl and her brother Star Boy are two very different children who are about to encounter whites for the first time. A Native twist on the "discovery" mythology. Winner of the Scott O'Dell Award for Historical Fiction. Ages 7-up.

OWL IN THE CEDAR TREE by Natachee Scott Momaday (Cherokee) and illustrated by Don Perceval (University of Nebraska Press, 1965). A break-through book featuring Navajo life in the middle of the twentieth century and a boy's relationship with his changing community and his love for a horse. Ages 7-up.

Rain Is Not My Indian Name by Cynthia Leitich SmithRAIN IS NOT MY INDIAN NAME by Cynthia Leitich Smith (Muscogee Creek)(HarperCollins, 2001). Cassidy Rain Berghoff didn't know that the very night she decided to get a life would be the night that Galen would lose his. It's been six months since her best friend died, and up until now, Rain has succeeded in shutting herself off from the world. But when controversy arises around her aunt Georgia's Indian Camp in their mostly white Kansas community, Rain decides to face the world again—at least through the lens of a camera. Ages 10-up.

SEES BEHIND TREES by Michael Dorris (Modoc) (Hyperion, 1996). Set in the sixteenth century, Walnut grows into his adult name and learns to cope with his limited vision. At its heart, a journey story. My favorite of the three, outstanding children's novels by Dorris. Ages 8-up.

SKELETON MAN by Joseph Bruchac (HarperCollins, 2001). Molly's parents are gone, vanished. She needs to find answers and a way to go on. But Molly has been taught well of her Mohawk traditions. She understands the importance of dreams. She knows to take them seriously. This very scary contemporary Native American novel is a must read and a scary one at that. Ages 10-up. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

Walking the Choctaw Road (book jacket)WALKING THE CHOCTAW ROAD by Tim Tingle (Choctaw)(Cinto Puntos Press, 2003). Not a novel but a collection of Choctaw stories (contemporary, historical, and traditional). Features black and white, archival photographs. Ages 12-up.

THE WINDOW by Michael Dorris (Modoc)(Hyperion, 1997). This story features an eleven-year-old Rayona Taylor, a character featured in two of Dorris's novels for adults, A YELLOW RAFT IN BLUE WATER, and CLOUD CHAMBER. The novel is probably best appreciated by readers of all three works; however, THE WINDOW is a step toward growing into the other two. Ages 8-up.

THE WORLD IN GRANDFATHER'S HANDS by Craig Kee Strete (Cherokee) (Clarion, 1995). Jimmy struggles to adjust after the death of his father and moving from the pueblo to his Grandfather Whitefeather's house. Strete's characters are complex and his themes are multi-layered. Most notably, the story incorporates the U.S. government policies that recently led to the unauthorized sterilization of so many Native women. Without romanticizing, he touches on much of the sadness tied to the Indian way of life and explores the strength, humor, and community ties that weigh in the balance. Ages 8-up.