Heartdrum, A Native-Focused Imprint of HarperCollins

Cynthia Leitich Smith (Muscogee) is the author-curator of the Heartdrum imprint at HarperChildren’s (and includes YA titles). The in-house editor is Rosemary Brosnan. Published in partnership with We Need Diverse Books. Also published by HarperCollins Canada. Read submissions information and Teacher and Librarian Resources for Native Children’s and YA Books.

Educator Guide by Andrea Page (Lakota)

Find also links below to teacher guides for our 2020-2021 paperback releases: JINGLE DANCER, RAIN IS NOT MY INDIAN NAME, INDIAN SHOES and I CAN MAKE THIS PROMISE.

About Heartdrum

The Beat of Heartdrum by Cynthia Leitich Smith from HarperStacks. PEEK: “We’re sending the message that Native kids can be heroes that everyone cheers, that Native young readers belong in the world of books, and that every kid who enjoys an adventurous, funny, resonant, or magical story will have a chance to embrace Native heroes, too.”

Children’s Book Imprint Heartdrum Focuses On Contemporary Native Stories by Rachel Kramer Bussel from Forbes. PEEK: “The imprint is expected to start curriculum integration in classrooms in the upcoming 2020-2021 school year, with Lakota educator Andrea Page creating teacher guides for all Heartdrum titles.”

Interview with Cynthia Leitich Smith (Muscogee) and Dawn Quigley (Ojibwe) by Zach Miller from Indigenous Representations Newsletter. PEEK: “Native and non-Native young readers all deserve better, more inclusive stories—across the board. Heartfelt stories, laugh-out-loud stories, page turning adventures! Any kid can be a hero that everybody cheers. Of course, that includes Native kids and literature!”

Heartdrum Authors Panel Discussion featuring Christine Day (Upper Skagit), Cynthia Leitich Smith (Muscogee) and Brian Young (Navajo) moderated by Celeste Trimble from Tucson Festival of Books. CYN NOTE: Video panel presentation.

Celebrating the Launch of Heartdrum: featuring Cynthia Leitich Smith (Muscogee), Christine Day (Upper Skagit), Dawn Quigley (Ojibwe) and Brian Young (Navajo), moderated by Ellen Oh from HarperCollins, We Need Diverse Books and Birchbark Books & Native Arts. CYN NOTE: Video panel presentation.

Talks with Roger: Cynthia Leitich Smith (Muscogee) & Rosemary Brosnan by Roger Sutton from The Horn Book. PEEK: “…there used to be conversations—and there still are to an extent, particularly with BIPOC creators—where authors would struggle with: Can I get away with saying this? Will this alienate too much of the mainstream audience? Will the reviewer get it? There was that effort to navigate what’s sometimes called the white gaze. That has started to fall away, and the work is stronger because of it.”

Austin Author Shares Native Stories in New Children’s Book Imprint by Sharyn Vane from the Austin American-Statesman. PEEK: “Heartdrum’s books aim to fill a significant gap in the market: Only 1 percent of children’s books published in 2019 featured Native or indigenous characters, according to the most recent survey from the Cooperative Children’s Book Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. By design, the books are also page-turning contemporary stories, Smith said.”

Cynthia Leitich Smith (Muscogee) and Rosemary Brosnan, Native Creatives: Behind the Scenes at Heartdrum from BookPage. PEEK: “We’ll publish mostly contemporary fiction—realistic and fantastical—that centers young Native heroes. Why? Because we are still here, and that’s where the biggest need is in the body of literature…. that will translate to both concept and narrative books. We’re going to publish poetry and short stories, prose and graphic format books, picture books, chapter books, middle grade and young adult titles, and series and standalone titles.”

Interviews: Cynthia Leitich Smith (Muscogee) and Rosemary Brosnan: Behind the Scenes at Heartdrum by Stephanie from BookPage. PEEK: “I’m seeking high quality literary and visual art that centers young Native heroes and advances the conversation of Native literature. In nonfiction manuscripts, the second part of that equation is especially important.”

Heartdrum Interview: Cynthia Leitich Smith (Muscogee) and Rosemary Brosnan by Nancy Bo Flood from Bookology. PEEK: “We are publishing in all genres and for all age groups, from birth through young adult. We’re open to everything: picture books, board books, fiction for all ages, nonfiction, graphic novels. We’re not concerned with over-explaining to a non-Native audience, but we’re including back matter that will be helpful to readers and the adults who read the books with them.”

Picture Books

Teacher Guide

JINGLE DANCER, written by Cynthia Leitich Smith (Muscogee), illustrated by Cornelius Van Wright and Ying-Hwa Hu (Heartdrum, 2021)(paperback edition). Ages 4-up.

Jenna, a contemporary Muscogee girl in Oklahoma, wants to honor a family tradition by jingle dancing at the next powwow. But where will she find enough jingles for her dress?

The paperback edition features new cover typography, updated text and ancillary materials, including a new author’s note.

Awards & Honors
  • American Indians in Children’s Literature (AICL) Best Books of 2021
  • 2020 Teaching for Change: Social Justice Books Selection
  • Reading Is Fundamental 2011 Multicultural Books List
  • Notable Children’s Trade Book in the Field of Social Studies and a Selector’s Choice for 2001
  • 2001 Texas Library Association 2 x 2 Reading List (two through second grade)
  • Finalist, Oklahoma Book Award (children’s/YA division)
  • Runner-up, the Western Writers Association Storyteller Award
  • 2001 Cooperative Children’s Book Center Choice
  • “Debuts That Deliver” (Book Magazine)
  • Editor’s Choice, Library Talk
  • Read Across Texas Bibliography (Texas State Library and Archives Commission)
  • Suggested Title, Recommended Native Literature for Youth Reading Circles from American Experience: “We Shall Remain,” PBS
  • Listed Title, Talk Story: sharing stories, sharing culture: a joint project of the American Indian Library Association and the Asian/Pacific American Librarians Association
  • Featured Title, Native American Children’s Literature Reading List (First Nations Development Institute)
  • Read In Color Recommended Reading List (Little Free Library)
Reviews

Booklist: “The way Jenna gathers her jingles (borrowing enough to make a row, but not so many that the lender’s dress will ‘lose its voice’), and her promise to dance for the women who cannot dance for themselves illustrate the importance of family and community ties.”

School Library Journal: “Watercolor paintings in bright, warm tones fill each page. In scenes where she is dancing, backgrounds of blurred figures effectively represent both the large audience and the many generations whose tradition the gathering honors. Seeing Jenna as both a modern girl in the suburban homes of her intertribal community and as one of many traditionally costumed participants at the powwow will give some readers a new view of a contemporary Native American way of life.”

American Indians in Children’s Literature: “…a treasure, one that I love to share with friends, colleagues, students, and others who look for the best children’s books about American Indians.”

ALA/OLOS Subcommittee for Library Services to American Indian People/American Indian Library Association: “Engaging colors and flowing words make this book a joy to read over and over.”

JUST LIKE GRANDMA, written by Kim Rogers (Wichita), illustrated by Julie Flett (Cree–Métis)(Heartdrum, Jan. 23, 2023).

Becca loves spending time with Grandma. Every time Becca says, “Let me try,” Grandma shows her how to make something beautiful. Whether they are beading moccasins, dancing like the most beautiful butterflies, or practicing basketball together, Becca knows that, more than anything, she wants to be just like Grandma. And as the two share their favorite activities, Becca discovers something surprising about Grandma too.

Read letters about the book by Kim Rogers and Cynthia Leitich Smith from We Need Diverse Books.

Chapter Books

Teacher Guide

INDIAN SHOES by Cynthia Leitich Smith (Muscogee), cover art by Sharon Irla (Cherokee), interior art by MaryBeth Timothy (Cherokee)(Heartdrum, 2020, 2021). Ages 7-up.

What do Indian shoes look like, anyway? Like beautiful beaded moccasins…or hightops with bright orange shoelaces?

The paperback edition features a new cover, new interior illustrations, updated text and ancillary materials, including a new author’s note.

Awards & Honors
  • NCSS Notable Trade Book in the Field of Social Studies
  • American Indians in Children’s Literature (AICL) Best Books of 2021
  • Finalist, Texas Institute of Letters
  • CCBC Choice
  • 2020 Amazon Bestseller in Native American Children’s Books
  • 2020 Teaching for Change: Social Justice Books Selection
  • NCSA Children’s Crown Award List
  • NEA Native American Book List
  • 2003 Bank Street Best Books List
  • Saratoga Reads All-City Read
  • Featured Title, Texas Book Festival
  • 2018 We’re the People Summer Reading List
  • Amazon.com Teachers’ Picks
  • Featured Intermediate Title, “Read On, Wisconsin”
Reviews

The Bulletin of the Center of Children’s Books: “So permeated with affection that many readers will just bask in the warmth and envy Ray his cool Grampa.”

Cooperative Children’s Book Center: “An excellent collection of interrelated short stories will appeal to newly independent young readers ready to tackle one or more of these accessible stories.”

Multicultural Review: “These stories are goofy, quirky, and laugh-out-loud funny, and poignant, sometimes all together. INDIAN SHOES is about belonging to family and community, about helping neighbors, about learning life’s lessons, and about sometimes feeling different but most times knowing who you are in the world.”

School Library Journal: “[INDIAN] SHOES is a good for any elementary-reluctant reader, and a necessity for Indigenous children everywhere.”

The JO JO MAKOONS series

Teacher Guides

JO JO MAKOONS: THE USED-TO-BE BEST FRIEND by Dawn Quigley (Ojibwe), illustrated by Tara Audibert (Wolastoqey)(Heartdrum, 2021). Ages 7-up. Also published by Scholastic Book Club.

Hello/Boozhoo—meet Jo Jo Makoons! Full of pride, joy, and plenty of humor, this first book in an all-new chapter book series by Dawn Quigley celebrates a spunky young Ojibwe girl who loves who she is.

Read an excerpt. Listen to an audio sample narrated by Jennifer Bobiwash (under the cover art).

Read Braiding My Past and Present in Native Children’s Literature by Dawn Quigley from HarperStacks.

Reviews

Kirkus Reviews (starred): “Young readers will revel in the humor this chapter book offers: the wordplay, the nicknames, and Jo Jo’s irrepressible narrative voice. A joyful book about growing up Native in a loving community—not to be missed.”

Publishers Weekly (starred): “In a winning, straightforward voice, Quigley adeptly creates strong classroom scenes that convey an inclusive student body’s realistic dynamic and an endearing, assured seven-year-old protagonist who appreciates her cultural identity.”

The Horn Book (starred): “Through it all, the first-person narrative is consistently engaging, with just the right touch of primarygrade silliness to balance out Jo Jo’s fears about friendship…Audibert’s cartoony illustrations add humorous layers to this exemplary transitional reader.”

Shelf Awareness (starred): “An Ojibwe girl sorts out friendship struggles in a hilarious series starter from #OwnVoices creators.”

School Library Journal (starred): “The story playfully captures age-appropriate concerns and interests, as young Jo Jo navigates family traditions and shifting friendships. Audibert’s fun illustrations utilize big expressions to convey the book’s gentle highjinks and Jo Jo’s rambunctious, carefree nature.”

A Fuse #8 Production (SLJ Blog): “Funny and smart, with a sly sense of humor that’s entirely its own, prepare for a series that you’ll want to see much more of in the future.”

BookPage: “Readers come to know Jo Jo’s quirky perspective, her insecurities and her cultural identity, which informs how she sees the world. Jo Jo’s sense of humor, playful attitude and frequent misinterpretations of dialogue and body language are sure to lead to plenty of giggles. Jo Jo’s family, teachers and friends keep her on her toes, learning and growing. Quigley’s first-person narration is fast paced, witty and engaging, while illustrator Tara Audibert’s black-and-white cartoon-style illustrations assist with character development and deepen the story’s setting.”

Canadian Review of Materials: “Dawn Quigley has written a lighthearted and endearing early chapter book, a perfect introduction to Ojibwe culture. Young readers, who will find Jo Jo to be adorably funny, will easily relate to her as they may be experiencing similar things. Tara Audibert’s black and white comic style illustrations complement Jo Jo and the storyline and add a fun component to this early chapter book. Highly recommended.”

JO JO MAKOONS: FANCY PANTS by Dawn Quigley (Ojibwe), illustrated by Tara Audibert (Wolastoqey)(Heartdrum, 2022). Ages 7-up.

Filled with lots of glitter, raised pinkies, and humorous misunderstandings, this second book in the Jo Jo Makoons series—written by Dawn Quigley and illustrated by Tara Audibert—is filled with the joy of a young Ojibwe girl discovering her very own special shine from the inside out.

Free 'Jo Jo Makoons Gets Caught Reading' Poster

Get Caught Reading is a year-round campaign to promote the fun of reading books for all ages. Launched in 1999 by the Association of American Publishers and now managed by Every Child a Reader. Get Caught Reading provides teachers, librarians, and booksellers with free bulletin-board-sized posters of authors, artists, athletes, musicians, and beloved book characters “caught” reading a favorite book.

Order Jo Jo Makoons Gets Caught Reading from Every Child a Reader.

Middle Grade

Teacher Guide

ANCESTOR APPROVED: INTERTRIBAL STORIES FOR KIDS by Cynthia Leitich Smith (Muscogee), cover art by Nicole Niedhardt (Navajo)(Heartdrum, 2021). A collection of intersecting stories set at a powwow that bursts with hope, joy, resilience, the strength of community, and Native pride.

In a high school gym full of color and song, Native families from Nations within the borders of the U.S. and Canada dance, sell beadwork and books, and celebrate friendship and heritage. They are the heroes of their own stories.

Featuring: “Between the Lines” by Cynthia Leitich Smith.

Read an excerpt. Listen to an audio sample narrated by Kenny Ramos and DeLanna Studi (under the cover art).

Awards & Honors
Reviews

Booklist (starred): “With exceptionally strong writing throughout, and appended with glossary, author notes, and acknowledgements, this makes an appealing choice for those just learning about contemporary Indigenous life as well as readers well-versed with the powwow circuit.”

Kirkus Reviews (starred): “A groundbreaking Indigenous anthology for young people. Readers can join the fun in this collection of 18 contemporary stories and poems about loving families from various parts of the U.S. and Canada who travel to meet, dance, sing, socialize, and honor Native traditions at an intertribal powwow.”

Publishers Weekly (starred): “…a wonderful introduction to the included authors’ work and a persuasive encouragement to seek out more Indigenous stories.”

Shelf Awareness (starred): “…this uplifting assembly affirms the vitality of Indigenous life today and offers accessible situations and characters to all young readers.”

Contributors

Editor: Cynthia Leitich Smith.

Contributors: Joseph Bruchac; Art Coulson; Christine Day; Eric Gansworth; Dawn Quigley; Carole Lindstrom; Rebecca Roanhorse; David A. Robertson; Andrea L. Rogers; Kim Rogers; Cynthia Leitich Smith; Monique Gray Smith; Traci Sorell; Tim Tingle; Erika T. Wurth; Brian Young.

Illustrator: Nicole Niedhardt.

Teacher Guide

HEALER OF THE WATER MONSTER by Brian Young (Navajo), cover art by Shonto Begay (Navajo)(Heartdrum, 2021). Ages 8-up.

Brian Young’s powerful debut novel tells of a seemingly ordinary Navajo boy who must save the life of a Water Monster—and comes to realize he’s a hero at heart.

Read an excerpt. Listen to an audio sample narrated by Shaun Taylor-Corbett (under the cover art).

Awards & Honors
Reviews

Publishers Weekly (starred): “Gentle, complex characters and flawed, loving human relationships lend depth to Young’s worlds-spanning novel.”

Kirkus Reviews (starred): “The deeply grounded and original perspective of this story brings readers into both the worlds of Navajo blessing songs, rain songs, and traditional healing and everyday family relationships. Hands readers a meaningful new take on family love.”

Booklist: “Young’s narrative weaves traditional folklore, language, and mythos with modern emotion to craft a poignant tale of family, friendship, and protecting what you love most.”

American Indians In Children’s Literature:  “Brian Young reminds us that we are the original peoples of these lands. To some readers, this may pass unnoticed, but to others, they’ll feel an immense pride as they read passages like that one.”

Teacher Guide

I CAN MAKE THIS PROMISE by Christine Day (Upper Skagit), cover art by Michaela Goade (Tlingit)(Heartdrum, 2020)(paperback edition). Ages 8-up.

In her debut middle grade novel—inspired by her family’s history—Christine Day tells the story of a girl who uncovers her family’s secrets—and finds her own Native American identity.

Read an excerpt. Listen to an audio sample narrated by Kyla Garcia (under the cover art).

Awards & Honors
  • American Indian Youth Literature Award Honor Book
  • Charlotte Huck Award for Outstanding Fiction for Children Honor Book
  • New Mexico Land of Enchantment Book Award Nominee
  • ALA Rise: A Feminist Book Project List
  • Dorothy Canfield Fisher Children’s Book Award (Vermont)
  • One of NPR’s Favorite Books of 2019
  • School Library Journal, Kirkus Reviews, and Chicago Public Library Best Book of 2019
  • Publishers Weekly Flying Start selection
  • Contender for the 2020 Global Read Aloud
  • Project Literary Community Pick
  • Nominee for Sasquatch Award (Washington State, Kids’ Choice)
Reviews

Kirkus Reviews (starred): “The novel is enlightening and a must-read for anyone interested in issues surrounding identity and adoption. Debut author Day (Upper Skagit) handles family separation in Native America with insight and grace.”

Publishers Weekly (starred): “Beyond the mystery, important themes resonate throughout, including cultural identity and what makes a friendship worth keeping. Day’s affecting novel also considers historical truths about how Native Americans have been treated throughout U.S. history, particularly underlining family separations.”

A Fuse #8 Production (SLJ Blog): “A truly enticing, beautifully written story that delivers a historical reveal at just the right time.”

Teacher Guide

THE SEA IN WINTER by Christine Day (Upper Skagit), cover art by Michaela Goade (Tlingit)(Heartdrum, 2021). Ages 8-up.

In this evocative and heartwarming novel for readers who loved THE THING ABOUT JELLYFISH, the author of I CAN MAKE THIS PROMISE tells the story of a Native American girl struggling to find her joy again.

Read an excerpt. Listen to an audio sample narrated by Kimberly Woods (under the cover art).

Awards & Honors
Reviews

Kirkus Reviews (starred): “This meditative story about a middle school girl’s courageous journey toward healing follows a family as they navigate the complexities of supporting a tween’s life-changing injury. In her second novel, Day offers a heartening glimpse into the immense patience and love required to endure limitations, build strength, and repair damage. An insightful, stirring read about healing and resilience.

Publishers Weekly (starred): “A contemplative and emotional story of resilience and reinvention whose dedication sums it up well: ‘To anyone who needs a reminder that pain is temporary.'”

BookPage (starred): “THE SEA IN WINTER is a refreshing and moving story of grief and healing from one of middle grade’s brightest rising stars.”

Teacher Guide

SISTERS OF THE NEVERSEA by Cynthia Leitich Smith (Muscogee), cover art by Floyd Cooper (Muscogee)(Heartdrum, 2021). Ages 8-up. Also published by Scholastic Book Club.

An Indigenous and girl-centered re-imagining of the classic.

The second star from the right will take them very far from home…

Read an excerpt. Listen to an audio sample narrated by Katie Anvil Rich.

Reviews

Booklist (starred): “Smith has brilliantly reshaped the Pan story with a modern, inclusive sensibility. The usual elements are there—Merfolk, Fairies, pirates, lost boys—but all reimagined for the better, especially the Native characters.”

Kirkus Reviews (starred): “The poignant dislocation of the Lost and the fierce familial love of the stepsisters illustrate the importance of remembering where you come from and to whom you belong. A refreshing adventure that breathes new life into a classic text.”

Publishers Weekly (starred): “A sharp, contemporary retelling of a classic that puts the focus on the Indigenous kids….”

School Library Journal (starred): “Full of fantastic storytelling, thrills, and humor, this book is a recommended purchase for all upper elementary and early middle school collections.”

Shelf Awareness (starred): “Socially conscious readers may most appreciate Smith’s supportive portrayal of blended families and Native youth, but any reader looking for a brilliant, suspenseful fantasy adventure should also find SISTERS OF THE NEVERSEA thrilling and tremendously fun.”

AudioFile: “[Katie Anvil] Rich’s warm tones and fervent pacing bring out the heart and intensity in this stunning adventure.”

Young Adult

Teacher Guide

RAIN IS NOT MY INDIAN NAME by Cynthia Leitich Smith (Muscogee), cover art by Natasha Donovan (Métis)(Heartdrum, 2021)(paperback edition). Ages 10-up.

In a voice that resonates with insight and humor, New York Times bestselling author Cynthia Leitich Smith tells the story of a teenage girl who must face down her grief and reclaim her place in the world with the help of her intertribal community.

The paperback edition features a new cover, updated text and ancillary materials, including a new author’s note.

Awards & Honors
  • Writer of the Year (Children’s-YA), Wordcraft Circle of Native Writers and Storytellers
  • American Indians in Children’s Literature (AICL) Best Books of 2021
  • Named one of the 30 Most Influential Children’s Books of All Time by Book Riot
  • 2020 Teaching for Change: Social Justice Books Selection
  • Finalist, Oklahoma Book Award
  • Featured Title, National Book Festival
  • Featured Title, Texas Book Festival
  • Dishchii’Bikoh High School Reader Award (DHS is on the White Mountain Apache Reservation in eastern Arizona)
  • Book of the Month, Red Tales, Aboriginal Voices Radio
  • Suggested Title, Recommended Native Literature for Youth Reading Circles from American Experience: “We Shall Remain,” PBS
Reviews

Kirkus Reviews: “Tender, funny, and full of sharp wordplay, Smith’s first novel deals with a whole host of interconnecting issues, but the center is Rain herself. What’s amazing here is Rain’s insights into her own pain, and how cleanly she uses language to contain it.”

School Library Journal: “There is a surprising amount of humor in this tender novel. It is one of the best portrayals around of kids whose heritage is mixed but still very important in their lives. It’s Rain’s story and she cannot be reduced to simple labels. A wonderful novel of a present-day teen and her ‘patch-work tribe.’”

Publishers Weekly: “…readers will feel the affection of Rain’s loose-knit family and admire the way that they, like the author with the audience, allow Rain to draw her own conclusions about who she is and what her heritage means to her.”

Teacher Guide

THE SUMMER OF BITTER AND SWEET by Jen Ferguson (Métis and white), cover art by Reyna Hernandez (Iháŋktuŋwaŋ Dakota (Yankton Sioux)), beading by Kim Stewart (Métis)(Heartdrum, May 2022).

In this complex and emotionally resonant novel, debut author Jen Ferguson serves up a powerful story about rage, secrets, and all the spectrums that make up a person—and the sweetness that can still live alongside the bitterest truth.

Read an excerpt. Listen to an audio sample narrated by Julie Lumsden.

Reviews

 BookPage (starred): “It’s moving and inspiring to witness Lou’s tenacious drive to understand, on her own terms, what family and identity truly mean.”

★ Kirkus Reviews (starred): “Heart-rending and healing; a winning blend that will leave readers satisfied.”

Horn Book (starred): “Young adult readers can relate to the struggles Lou is facing as she navigates her transition from high school to college, and also use them as a conversation starter about race, identity, sexuality, dating, and friendship.”

Publishers Weekly (starred): “In a layered first-person portrayal of a young Indigenous woman navigating the edge of adulthood, Ferguson (who is Métis and white) tackles necessary issues…through well-wrought, complicated characterizations and prose that sings with poetry.”

Booklist (starred): “Lou is complex, smart, and honest, and a narrator readers will trust, love, and learn from as she works to repair friendships and gain security for her treasured family.”

School Library Journal (starred): “The honesty and complexity of this book make it a gripping read; a great first purchase for libraries serving teens.”