Heartdrum, A Native-Focused Imprint

Heartdrum is an imprint of HarperChildren’s, centering Indigenous stories, authors, and illustrators for kids and teens! Heartfelt, groundbreaking, and unexpected, these children’s-YA books emphasize the present and future of Indigenous peoples, especially the strength of young Native heroes.

Cynthia Leitich Smith (Muscogee) is the author-curator of the Heartdrum imprint (official HarperChildren’s microsite), which is published in partnership with We Need Diverse Books and also published by HarperCollins Canada. Heartdrum logo designed by author-illustrator Nasuġraq Rainey Hopson (Inupiaq).

Educator Guides
Educator Guides

See also links 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.

More About Heartdrum

Find submissions information and Teacher and Librarian Resources for Native Children’s and YA Books.

Less Than 2 Percent of Children’s Books Feature Indigenous Characters. Heartdrum Wants to Change That. by Kaiya Little from Texas Monthly. PEEK: “We decided to lean into fiction that was really centered on individual kids, that other kids can get to know and become friends with and care about on the page,” Smith says. “We wanted to give them three-dimensional people that they could fall in love with, both Native and non-Native kids.”

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.

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.”

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.”

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.”

Fall 2024 Preview

Fall 2024 Children’s Sneak Previews from Publishers Weekly:

“Heartdrum threads its needle for STITCHES OF TRADITION (GASHKIGWAASO TRADITION) by Marcie Rendon, illus. by Joshua Mangeshig Pawis-Steckley, which finds an Ojibwe grandmother and her granddaughter sharing the cultural tradition of sewing ribbon skirts to honor previous generations and celebrate women; A CONSTELLATION OF MINOR BEARS by Jen Ferguson, the story of how Molly navigates a long-planned hike along the Pacific Crest Trail with Tray, whom she blames for her brother’s debilitating accident; THE UNFINISHED by Cheryl Isaacs, about small-town athlete Avery, who is haunted by the Black Water and Unfinished beings of Kanien’kéha:ka stories and must turn to the culture she hasn’t felt connected to in order to save her town; ON A WING AND A TEAR by Cynthia Leitich Smith, in which close friends Melanie and Ray join Grampa Charlie Halfmoon to drive the legendary player Great-grandfather Bat to the rematch of the Great Ball Game; and YÁADILÁ! (GOOD GRIEF) by Laurel Goodluck, illus. by Jonathan Nelson, following siblings Dezba and Bahe as they help their grandmother move out of her sheep camp home.”

Picture Books

CIRCLE OF LOVE, written by Monique Gray Smith (Cree-Lakota-Scottish), illustrated by Nicole Niedhardt (Navajo)(Heartdrum, 2024). Ages 4-up.


In this warmhearted book, we join Molly at the Intertribal Community Center, where she introduces us to people she knows and loves: her grandmother and her grandmother’s wife, her uncles and their baby, her cousins, and her treasured friends.

They dance, sing, garden, learn, pray, and eat together. And tonight, they come together for a feast! Molly shares with the reader how each person makes her feel—and reminds us that love is love.

Through tender prose and radiant artwork, author Monique Gray Smith (Cree/Lakota) and illustrator Nicole Neidhardt (Diné) show how there is always room for others in our lives. Circle of Love is a story celebrating family, friends, community, and, most of all, love.


School Library Journal (starred): “a positive, lovely picture book highlighting belonging, equity, culture, community, inclusiveness…  A must-have for every balanced picture book collection.”

Kirkus Reviews: “Queer and gender-nonconforming relatives figure prominently in Neidhardt’s vibrant images; Molly’s community is lovingly portrayed as one that includes people with many gender expressions, skin tones, and styles of dress, and the words ‘love is love’ appear throughout the book’s colorful spreads. This is a beautiful and moving glimpse into the rich intersections of Indigenous cultures and the Native queer and trans people who co-create them.”

Publishers Weekly: “Via Molly’s iterative first-person lines, two-spirit Cree/Lakota author Smith creates a loving environment with plentiful queer representation. In digital illustrations, two-spirit illustrator Neidhardt, who is Diné, uses bold, bright colors to convey the celebration as well as the love that surrounds the intersectionally inclusive community.”

I AM OSAGE: HOW CLARENCE TINKER BECAME THE FIRST NATIVE AMERICAN MAJOR GENERAL, written by Kim Rogers (Wichita), illustrated by Bobby Von Martin (Choctaw)(Heartdrum, 2024). Ages 4-up.


This informative and inspiring picture book by acclaimed author Kim Rogers (Wichita), with striking artwork by debut illustrator Bobby Von Martin (Choctaw), celebrates the achievements of Clarence Tinker, a member of the Osage Nation who became the first Native American major general.

Clarence Tinker always knew that he wanted to do something extraordinary. Something adventurous. Something that made a difference in the world. But as a member of the Osage Nation at the turn of the twentieth century, there were a lot of obstacles that he had to face to achieve his dreams. When he was a child, Clarence was taken away from his family and community. He was forced to attend a prison-like boarding school, like many other Native children of his generation. There, he wasn’t able to speak his language or practice his Osage customs.

Still, Clarence kept his dream close to his heart and joined the US Army with the goal of becoming an officer. Though he was treading an unfamiliar path, he worked hard and never forgot his Osage values and traditions that, ultimately, paved his way to success.

I AM OSAGE, the first nonfiction project from the Heartdrum imprint, combines gorgeous, vibrant artwork with a stirring text that celebrates an unsung hero while also shedding light on significant American history.


★ School Library Journal (starred): “Tinker’s life unfolds and is not separate from the struggles of Indigenous people in North America, as colonial entities unlawfully or immorally controlled and restricted their freedom to pursue dreams. Von Martin’s illustration glow with the radiance of oil paintings, drawing the eye to key moments in Tinker’s life and highlighting aspects of Osage culture. VERDICT An excellent addition to nonfiction collections for young readers.”

Kirkus Reviews: “Von Martin’s bold, photorealistic images complement the text; lighter, superimposed images of his ancestors make it clear that Tinker’s Osage identity was a constant source of strength. Rogers’ storytelling brings to life a kindhearted, resilient historical figure who was devoted to his community.”

Booklist: “With the refrain, ‘I am Osage. I am Osage,’ pounding like a drumbeat throughout her account, Rogers celebrates the way he held onto his Indigenous roots through Indian boarding school, military academy training, and afterward, before closing with a note explaining his importance to her as a role model on her personal journey toward acceptance of her Native American heritage.”

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
  • 2023 Teaching for Change: Social Justice Books Selection
  • Native Ways of Knowing Book List
  • American Indians in Children’s Literature (AICL) Best Books of 2021
  • 2020 Teaching for Change: Social Justice Books Selection
  • School Library Journal’s Top 100 Books by Indigenous Masters
  • 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)

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, 2023). Ages 4-up.


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.

Awards & Honors
  • Charlotte Zolotow Award Winner
  • Erza Jack Keats Honor Book
  • Reading the West Award Longlist
  • 2023 MISelf in Books List
  • Bank Street Best Books of the Year
  • CCBC Choices
  • 2023 Teaching for Change: Social Justice Books Selection
  • Recommended, California Department of Education
  • New York Public Library Best Books for Kids 2023
  • Chicago Public Library Best Board & Picture Books of 2023
  • Booklist Editors’ Choice for Youth 2023
  • American Indians in Children’s Literature (AICL) Best Books of 2023

★ Booklist (starred): “A tender and touching tribute to the loving, reciprocal bonds of intergenerational relationships.”

Publishers Weekly (starred): “…emphasizes a love of family and sense of tradition that anchor this subtly told story’s world.”

★ School Library Journal (starred): “…highly recommended for its heartwarming portrayal of intergenerational relationships and cultural heritage.”

Mirrors and Window (The Ohio State University College of Education and Human Ecology): “…celebrates the special bond between grandchild and grandparent and shows that regardless of age, we can all learn from one another. Flett provides minimalist, warm-hued illustrations that feel like a sunset, with pops of red standing out in small places, such as butterflies, Grandma’s regalia, and her artwork.”

The Horn Book: “Handsome book design, eloquent text, and an authentic portrayal of its subject make this a welcome addition to collections.”

Kirkus Reviews: “A sweet celebration of family, intergenerational bonds, and traditions.”

Bulletin of the Center of Children’s Books: “The reverence and respect Grandma, Becca, and Grandpa have for each other is evident in Flett’s mixed media illustrations; an earth-toned color palette conveys comfort and familiarity, while expansive bleeds signify the freedom and openness Becca and her family find in their life together.”

Shelf Awareness: “The characters radiate joy in their activities and companionship. This affirming, sunlit story is equally accessible to families with grandparents as primary or secondary caregivers and celebrates the richness of Indigenous life.”

A LETTER FOR BOB, written by Kim Rogers (Wichita), illustrated by Jonathan Nelson (Navajo)(Heartdrum, 2023). Ages 4-up.


A touching, humorous story of a family saying thank you and farewell to their beloved car.

Awards & Honors
  • American Indian Youth Literature Award
  • CCBC Choices
  • Charlotte Zolotow Highly Commended List
  • 2024 ALSC Summer Reading List
  • 2024-2025 VA Reads: Picture Books
  • 2023 Teaching for Change: Social Justice Books Selection
  • Kirkus Reviews Best Picture Books of 2023 About Families
  • Kirkus Reviews Notable Fall Releases
  • Kirkus Reviews Podcast Editors’ Picks
  • American Indians in Children’s Literature (AICL) Best Books of 2023
  • Center for the Study of Multicultural Children’s Literature (CSMCL) Best Multicultural Children’s Books of 2023

★ Kirkus Reviews (starred): “For its tender vignettes of modern Indigenous life, this tale will make a glowing addition to any…library.”

★ Booklist: (starred): “Imaginative children from many backgrounds will empathize with Katie’s feelings and her reluctance to say goodbye. An engaging, emotionally resonant picture book.”

★ Publishers Weekly (starred): “Easy prose and crisply drawn digital illustrations give equal weight to each member of family caring for its members through life’s seasons.”

The Horn Book: “The engaging illustrations show Bob as a standard car without eyes, mouth, or other human features, and yet Katie’s heartfelt narrative enables readers to imagine Bob as an actual family member.”

School Library Journal: “The outings are common enough to help readers make connections to Katie as well as the family trips and gatherings, but specific enough so that modern ­Indigenous culture is allowed to shine through.”

American Indians in Children’s Literature: “Highly recommended! I adore this book with a completeness I didn’t anticipate. I’ll be sharing it at every workshop I do, with librarians, educators, teacher-educators… everyone.”

ROCK YOUR MOCS, written by Laurie Goodluck (Mandan-Hidatsa-Tsimshian), illustrated by Madelyn Goodnight (Chickasaw)(Heartdrum, 2023). Ages 4-up.


We’re stepping out and kicking it up.

Wearing beauty on their feet—as art, as tradition, with style, with pride—kids from different Native Nations know every day is a day to rock your mocs. In this happy, vibrant nod to Rock Your Mocs Day, author Laurel Goodluck and artist Madelyn Goodnight celebrate the joy and power of wearing moccasins all year round—and the Native pride that comes with them.

Awards & Honors
  • American Indian Youth Literature Honor Award
  • CCBC Choices
  • American Indians in Children’s Literature (AICL) Best Books of 2023

American Indians in Children’s Literature (highly recommended): “Just look at that cover and you’ll see another huge plus. Those are Native kids of the present day.  The art is gorgeous, the idea is brilliant and the opportunity to know us for who we are: outstanding!”

Kirkus Reviews: “informative and inspiring, Goodluck’s (Mandan/Hidatsa) text is concise. The upbeat tone is echoed in Goodnight’s (Chickasaw Nation) bright illustrations, which feature people in urban, suburban, and rural landscapes…. Joyfully inspiring.”

Booklist: “Goodluck emphasizes the variety of styles and names given to moccasins (reflecting available materials, climate requirements, and languages) and encourages children to celebrate their Indigenous identities. Goodnight’s colorful illustrations employ a realistic style and often focus on the colors, designs, and beading present on the depicted footwear.”

School Library Journal: “Recommended for cultural studies of the First Nations, especially for those interested in incorporating art, history, and modern life in an always respectful but dazzling display of mocs! A good choice for all picture book shelves.”

American Indians in Children’s Literature: “A couple of years ago when I saw that Laurel Goodluck and Madelyn Goodnight were doing a picture book about Rock Your Mocs day, I was absolutely delighted! Turning that day into a picture book is brilliant! It is one way to show readers that Native peoples are people of tribal nations located across the continent, and that our names, languages, histories, stories, songs homes–and clothing–are unique.” “Highly recommended.”

STITCHES OF TRADITION (GASHKIGWAASO TRADITION), written by Marcie Rendon (Ojibwe), Illustrated by Mangeshig Pawis-Steckley (Ojibwe)(Heartdrum, 2024).


“Noozhishenh, bimadiziwin,” Nookomis says. “My granddaughter, live a good life.”

An Ojibwe grandmother carefully measures and selects just the right colors of fabric, and her sewing machine hums whirr, whirr, whirr late into the night.

In the morning, her growing granddaughter has a beautiful new ribbon skirt to wear, a reminder of her nookomis and the cultural traditions that stitch together her family with love.

This heartwarming story by Marcie Rendon (Ojibwe), with stunning illustrations by Joshua Mangeshig Pawis-Steckley (Ojibwe), celebrates the power of Indigenous craft and community and weaves together the spirit of resilience, female empowerment, and gratitude for the generations that came before us.

WHEN WE GATHER (OSTADAHLISIHA): A CHEROKEE TRIBAL FEAST, written by Andrea L. Rogers (Cherokee), illustrated by Madelyn Goodnight (Chickasaw)(Heartdrum, 2024). Ages 4-up.


Nothing welcomes spring like a wild onion dinner!

As the dirt warms and green sprouts poke up, a Cherokee girl joins her family in the hunt for green onions. Together, they pick enough to bring to a feast, which is cooked with love and shared by their community.


Let’s all eat!

Written with simple, sensory lyricism by Andrea Rogers (Cherokee) and featuring warm, vibrant art by Madelyn Goodnight (Chickasaw), this picture book celebrates the spring tradition of wild onion dinners—and the community and comfort that are shared when we gather.


Booklist: “This picture book’s simple story and appealing illustrations introduce the lives of Cherokee children and their families today.”

School Library Journal: “An excellent choice for a preschool story time collection.”

American Indians in Children’s Literature (highly recommended): “Any teacher or librarian that is doing something that is about family gatherings can add this book to that unit or program. And if you’ve got a way to do so, make some of the food you see in the book! [Rogers] provides four recipes. Dig in!”

Chapter Books

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.


Listen to an audio sample narrated by Shaun Taylor-Corbett.

Awards & Honors
  • 2023 Teaching for Change: Social Justice Books Selection
  • Little Free Library Indigenous Read in Color Recommended Reads
  • AudioFile Earphones Award
  • Native Ways of Knowing Book List
  • 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
  • School Library Journal’s Top 100 Books by Indigenous Masters
  • 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”

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

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. Ages 6-up.


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.

Jo Jo Makoons Azure is a spirited seven-year-old who moves through the world a little differently than anyone else on her Ojibwe reservation. It always seems like her mom, her kokum (grandma), and her teacher have a lot to learn—about how good Jo Jo is at cleaning up, what makes a good rhyme, and what it means to be friendly.

Even though Jo Jo loves her #1 best friend Mimi (who is a cat), she’s worried that she needs to figure out how to make more friends. Because Fern, her best friend at school, may not want to be friends anymore…


Read an excerpt. Listen to an audio sample narrated by Jennifer Bobiwash.

Awards & Honors

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.


Read an excerpt. Listen to an audio sample narrated by Jennifer Bobiwash.

Awards & Honors

JO JO MAKOONS: SNOW DAY by Dawn Quigley (Ojibwe), illustrated by Tara Audibert (Wolastoqey)(Heartdrum, Sept. 19, 2023). Ages 7-up.

Oh, snow day, snow day, what a very fun no school day!

Jo Jo has noticed that the family members she loves most—Mama, Kokum, and even her cat, Mimi—all have their own ways of being healthy. So when Teacher says that their class will be learning about healthy habits, Jo Jo is ready to be neighborly by helping everyone around her be healthy too.

After a snowstorm shuts down power on her Ojibwe reservation, Jo Jo uses her big imagination and big personality to help both Elders and classmates alike. Because after all, being healthy means being together!

With her signature heart and hilarity, in this third book in her series Jo Jo Makoons shows care for her Ojibwe community as only this vibrant young girl can.


Listen as Dawn Quigley reads the first chapter from Follett.

Read an excerpt. Listen to an audio sample narrated by Jennifer Bobiwash.

Awards & Honors
  • American Indian Youth Literature Honor Award
  • CCBC Choices
  • American Indians in Children’s Literature (AICL) Best Books of 2023
  • Kirkus Reviews Notable Fall Releases
  • SLJ Best Transitional Books of 2023
  • 2024 CBC Building a Home Library Book List

Kirkus Reviews: “This third book in Quigley’s (Turtle Mountain Band of Ojibwe) series is a charmer, with the spunky, bighearted protagonist continuing to raise laughs and inspire. Readers will be enchanted by Jo Jo’s voice and Audibert’s (of Wolastoqey and French heritage) cute, cartoon-style illustrations, rendered in grayscale. Ojibwe values are woven deftly into the fabric of the story.”

School Library Journal: “Readers will laugh out loud at JoJo’s antics and opinions as she embraces her community, heritage, and love for life. Give to fans of ‘Junie B. Jones.’ ­Recommended for all libraries.”

Booklist: “Audibert (Wolastoqey/French) nails Jo Jo’s animated personality with her ebullient, cartoonish spot and full-page grayscale illustrations. Quigley (Turtle Mountain Band of Ojibwe) continues to affirm Native identity through peppered use of Michif and Ojibwe language while eliciting Amelia Bedelia–style giggles with Jo Jo’s high jinks and wholesomely naive worldview. A terrific pick for fans of plucky protagonists like Ryan Hart, Marisol Rainey, and Jasmine Toguchi.”


JO JO MAKOONS: RULE SCHOOL by Dawn Quigley (Ojibwe), illustrated by Tara Audibert (Wolastoqey)(Heartdrum, Sept. 10, 2024). Ages 7-up.

It is good to follow the rules. But there are just so many! In this fourth book in the beloved Jo Jo Makoons chapter book series, Jo Jo’s talents may not quite include following her substitute teacher’s rules…

Jo Jo and her classmates are excited that the Elders’ Tribal Center has changed the rules for the talent show to invite the whole tribe to perform. But the rules have also changed in Jo Jo’s classroom, where instead of their teacher, they have a substitute. Since Jo Jo has a knack for being helpful, she puts her mind to helping her classmates decide on their talents—but can she manage to follow the substitute teacher’s rules?

Even if no one else quite understands Jo Jo’s own rules (like that saying “please” makes words softer and fluffier to hear and that square foods are too pointy to be yummy), her undeniable talents for celebrating, curiosity, and class keep her happily hop-skipping in step with her Ojibwe community.

Book Boys Brain Break: Jo Jo Makoons Dance Video

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

ANCESTOR APPROVED: INTERTRIBAL STORIES FOR KIDS by Cynthia Leitich Smith (Muscogee), cover art by Nicole Niedhardt (Navajo)(Heartdrum, 2021). Ages 8-up.


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.

SEE ALSO: Literary Analysis Questions and Teaching Guide for “Between The Lines,” created by Lyn Fairchild Hawks at Success Story.

Awards & Honors

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.”


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.

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.

Awards & Honors

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.”

HEROES OF THE WATER MONSTER by Brian Young (Navajo), cover art by Shonto Begay (Navajo)(Heartdrum, 2023). Ages 8-up.


An unmissable companion to HEALER OF THE WATER MONSTER, which won the American Indian Library Association Youth Literature Award, this novel by Navajo author Brian Young tells the story of two contemporary young Navajo heroes—and one water monster—who must learn to work together to save their present world from the lasting hurts of their people’s past.


Read an excerpt. Listen to an audio sample narrated by Shaun Taylor-Corbett.

Awards & Honors
  • Nominee, Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Children’s Literature
  • American Indian Youth Literature Honor Award
  • Junior Library Guild Gold Standard Selection
  • Kirkus Reviews Best Books of 2023
  • American Indians in Children’s Literature (AICL) Best Books of 2023
  • Pima County Public Library Southwest Books of the Year 2024 for Children and Young Adults
  • 2023 MISelf in Books List

Kirkus Reviews (starred): “The bittersweet ending is as beautiful as the prose describing the fantastical journey to get there. Thought-provoking and full of heart; a genuinely pleasurable read.”

The Horn Book: “…interweaves the atrocities of the Long Walk, Navajo traditional beliefs, and modern issues of climate change and water consumption in an action-filled adventure featuring two appealing Indigenous protagonists. Young readers are faced with big questions about identity, justice, and inherited trauma.”

School Library Journal: “An immersive and heartfelt story that tackles tough topics with grace.”

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.

Awards & Honors
  • Little Free Library Indigenous Read in Color Recommended Reads
  • American Indian Youth Literature Award Honor Book
  • Charlotte Huck Award for Outstanding Fiction for Children Honor Book
  • Native Ways of Knowing Book List
  • 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)

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.”

School Library Journal (starred): “Readers will be drawn into Edie’s emotions as she copes with overprotective parents and honesty in relationships. Keep an eye out for Day, as her writing is powerful. Highly recommended.”

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

ON A WING AND A TEAR by Cynthia Leitich Smith (Muscogee), cover art by Natasha Donovan (Métis)(Heartdrum, 2024). Ages 8-up.


A living legend roosting in the backyard. An unmissable game. A hair-raising mystery. A road trip full of adventure and danger. And all the overlapping circles that connect us.


Kirkus Reviews (starred): “A unique and noteworthy tale that weaves together past and present with humor through stellar, multilayered writing.”

Publishers Weekly (starred): Combining humor, suspense, and a quiet reverence for one’s ancestry, Smith examines how the power of community can affect emotional and physical healing, and the strength it takes to do both.”

RED BIRD DANCED by Dawn Quigley (Ojibwe), cover art by Carla Joseph (Cree)(Heartdrum, 2024). Ages 8-up.


Ariel and Tomah have lived in the city’s intertribal housing complex all their lives. But for both of them, this Dagwaagin (Autumn) season is different than any before. With lyrical verse and powerful emotion, Dawn Quigley tells the story of urban Native kids who find strength in connection with those who came before–and in the hope that lets them take flight.


Booklist (starred): “Quigley seems to have carefully and painstakingly placed every word on the page in such a way that, like the red bird, the entire novel spreads its wings and dances.”

Publishers Weekly (starred): “Through Ariel and Tomah’s steadfast resolve, this heartbreaking yet heartening story tackles themes of grief and the strength it takes to grow through adversity. Even as the tweens confront personal challenges, they remain committed to bettering their surroundings in a moving narrative that highlights issues relating to the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women crisis while celebrating the healing power of art—including dance, folklore, music, and poetry—and the solace one can find in connecting with one’s heritage.”

School Library Journal (starred): “An impactful story about discovering how to declare yourself proudly and bring awareness to your community; this opens an important window into the modern-day life of Native American culture that has yet to be fully explored thoroughly in middle grade ­literature.”

Kirkus Reviews (starred): “The protagonists’ dual perspectives convey a mix of hurt and optimism; above all, the power of community comes through. A captivating, exquisitely penned story of hope and survival.”

Bulletin of the Center of Children’s Books (recommended): “This verse novel is spare but powerful, with the visual formatting especially effective as words tighten, trail, or scatter across otherwise barren pages, giving distinct personalities to the dual narrators…walks a delicate line between terrible sorrow and tentative hope; the emphasis on art as a healing tool does not overlook the tragedy of Auntie’s disappearance…. Both Ariel and Tomah are deeply sympathetic, and readers will be glad to see them on a path to healing.”

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.

Awards & Honors

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.”

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…

Awards & Honors

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.”

Booklist (starred for the audio edition): “The narration is well done, with Anvil Rich providing pacing that is easy to follow and differentiated character voices. Various accents are believable and add to the story. In the end, it turns out that to grow as people, everyone needs to grow up a little bit.”

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

TWO TRIBES by Emily Bowen Cohen (Jewish-Muscogee)(Heartdrum, 2023). Ages 8-up.


A Jewish Muscogee girl, navigating sensitive family dynamics, “learns to embrace the complexity, meaning, and deep love that comes from being part of two vibrant tribes.”

Awards & Honors
  • 2024 YALSA Great Graphic Novels for Teens
  • Finalist, National Jewish Book Award
  • Vermont Youth Book Award Nominee (Grades 4-8 Kids-Choice)
  • 2024 ALSC Summer Reading List
  • 2023 MISelf in Books List
  • Missouri Association of School Librarians Denny O’Neil Graphic Novel List
  • Georgia Children’s Book Awards (Grade 4-8) 2025 Finalist
  • American Booksellers Association Indie Next List
  • Jewish Women’s Archive Book Club Pick
  • New York Public Library Best Books for Kids 2023
  • New York Times Editor Recommended Book
  • School Library Journal Best Books of 2023
  • School Library Journal Best Graphic Novels of 2023
  • Texas Library Association Bluebonnet List
  • Texas Library Association Little Maverick Graphic Novel Reading List
  • American Indians in Children’s Literature (AICL) Best Books of 2023
  • 2023 Nerdies: Graphic Novels

★  School Library Journal (starred): “A must-purchase for young readers everywhere on how to learn about, be empowered by, and embrace one’s ­identity.”

★  Shelf Awareness (starred): “A brilliant coming-of-age story.”

Los Angeles Review of Books: “The kids in this graphic novel instruct the adults about hyphenated identities, and they do so without seeing a reflection of themselves in society or literature. By representing this, TWO TRIBES makes a compelling case for the necessity of its own existence.”

Publishers Weekly: Just like Mia, I am Muscogee (Creek) and Jewish,” Cohen writes in a concluding author’s note. In Mia’s struggle to reconcile her ancestries, the creator develops a credible portrayal of self-image and acceptance. Plentiful panels rendered in earth tones further enhance this nuanced portrait of Mia’s search for identity.

BCCB (recommended): “Interpersonal family drama feels realistic but never crushing, as Mia’s independent and curious nature allows her to learn from her elders in order to advocate for herself among them, ultimately bringing her blended family together. The narrative about the rich diversity within the Native community is as vibrantly told as it is drawn, in lightly textured, saturated warm tones and dark linework.”

WE STILL BELONG by Christine Day (Upper Skagit), cover art by Madelyn Goodnight (Chickasaw)(Heartdrum, 2023). Ages 8-up.


In this warm hug of a novel, award-winning author Christine Day assures readers that even with all the very real problems they may face, they are worthy, their voices matter—and they belong.


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

Awards & Honors
  • American Indian Youth Literature Award
  • CCBC Choices
  • 2023 MISelf in Books List
  • School Library Journal Books Books of 2023
  • Chicago Public Library Best Fiction of 2023
  • Kirkus Reviews Best Books of 2023
  • Kirkus Reviews 20 Best Books to Read in August
  • Texas Library Association Lone Star Reading List
  • 2023 Teaching for Change: Social Justice Books Selection
  • Junior Library Guild Gold Standard Selection
  • American Indians in Children’s Literature (AICL) Best Books of 2023
  • Center for the Study of Multicultural Children’s Literature (CSMCL) Best Multicultural Children’s Books of 2023

Kirkus Reviews (starred): “A rich, captivating story that will resonate with readers.”

★ Publishers Weekly (starred): “Via Wesley’s self-aware and astoundingly perceptive first-person voice, Day highlights everyday tween conflicts about fitting in alongside experiential concerns surrounding identifying with one’s heritage in this warmhearted approach to searching for—and finding—community and inclusion.”

The Horn Book: “a story of quiet determination and triumph, with well-defined characters who push each other and are there for each other….”

School Library Journal: “A creative peek into the life of a relatable gamer girl who is finding her place in the social and emotional world of middle school while dealing with the ways Indigenous peoples are ignored and celebrated.”

Booklist: “Acutely relatable and contemporary, this snapshot of a single day in Wesley’s life authentically captures the struggle of being 12 and of finding—and using—your voice.”

School Library Journal (audio edition): Rich is especially empathic voicing Wesley’s quick-changing emotions—nervous, disappointed, bewildered, joyful—and switching effortlessly between middle schoolers and adults; she’s incisively affecting as Wesley’s wise Grandpa and her unpredictable biofather. Day’s treatment of Wesley’s “blood quantum,” further explicated in her author’s note, is notably informative.

Cover Blurbs

“Christine Day has told a story that doesn’t shy away from hard truths of the past and the present. But with a keen ear for the voice of an Indigenous girl finding her way, with compassion and love and poetry, this is a celebration of community, family, and identity. It will stay with you for a long time, in the best possible way.”  — David A. Robertson, author of THE MISEWGA SAGA series 

“Wesley Wilder is big-hearted, thoughtful and kind. She’s figuring out who she is in the context of a wonderful family while bravely becoming her unique, starry self–and she holds space for readers to do the same. I can’t wait for them to meet her.” — Natalie Lloyd, author of A SNICKER OF MAGIC AND HUMMINGBIRD 

“Told over the course of one day, this cozy and warm story captured my heart. Readers will root for Wesley as she follows her heart and finds her voice. An important story of belonging and identity.” — Jasmine Warga, author of OTHER WORDS FOR HOME 

Tween/Middle School

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
  • 2023 Teaching for Change: Social Justice Books Selection
  • 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
  • Native Ways of Knowing Book List
  • 2020 Teaching for Change: Social Justice Books Selection
  • School Library Journal’s Top 100 Books by Indigenous Masters
  • 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

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.”

Young Adult

A CONSTELLATION OF MINOR BEARS by Jen Ferguson (Métis and white), cover art by Bailey Macabre (Plains Cree; Michif/Ukrainian)(Heartdrum, 2024). Ages 13-up.


Award-winning author Jen Ferguson has written a powerful story about teens grappling with balancing resentment with enduring friendship—and how to move forward with a life that’s not what they’d imagined.

Before that awful Saturday, Molly used to be inseparable from her brother, Hank, and his best friend, Tray. The indoor climbing accident that left Hank with a traumatic brain injury filled Molly with anger.

While she knows the accident wasn’t Tray’s fault, she will never forgive him for being there and failing to stop the damage. But she can’t forgive herself for not being there either.

Determined to go on the trio’s postgraduation hike of the Pacific Crest Trail, even without Hank, Molly packs her bag. But when her parents put Tray in charge of looking out for her, she is stuck backpacking with the person who incites her easy anger.

Despite all her planning, the trail she’ll walk has a few more twists and turns ahead. . . .


Publishers Weekly: “With a rhythm and tone that reads like poetry…an emotionally resonant tale in which profound interpersonal conflict unfolds against the lushly described natural backdrop of an adrenaline-inducing outdoor environment.”

LOOKING FOR SMOKE by K.A. Cobell (Blackfeet), cover photo by Leah Rose Kolakowski (Keweenaw Bay Ojibwe)(June 4, 2024). Ages 13-up.


In her powerful debut novel, author K. A. Cobell (Blackfeet) weaves loss, betrayal, and complex characters into a thriller that will illuminate, surprise, and engage readers until the final word.


Publishers Weekly (starred): “Via four alternating POVs informed by the intricacies of reservation life, Cobell highlights the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women crisis and delivers a gut-punch of an ending in this timely debut thriller that is by turns spine-tingling and emotionally raw.”

★ Shelf Awareness (starred): “movingly brings attention to—and demands awareness and justice for—stolen Indigenous girls.”

Bulletin of the Center of Children’s Books (recommended): “All the hallmarks of a page-turning thriller are here, with unreliable alibis aplenty and clues interspersed at a compelling pace, as well as a final, satisfying showdown with a twist that’s the perfect culmination of the quest for justice. Hanging over the thriller elements is the tragic but realistic length to which the characters have to go to seek and mete out justice on their own as they track down incriminating images on social media and perform stakeouts to get answers the cops should already have.”

The Horn Book: “Emotion and suspense build as more people close to the protagonists become suspects. As each character fights to prove their innocence, secrets are revealed and longtime friendships are questioned.”

Kirkus Reviews: “…novel skillfully raises awareness of the tragedy of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women while offering up an unflinching thriller that’s full of clever misdirection. This thriller grounded in very real problems doesn’t disappoint.”

Booklist: “Cobell takes an already solid thriller and raises the stakes by setting it on a Blackfeet Nation reservation…a story that is gritty and tense but also showcases the deep-rooted strength Native American communities have to summon hope in challenging times.”

School Library Journal: “Cobell’s debut thriller addresses injustice and homicide within the Montana Blackfeet community…The book shines in its character development; there are a lot of initial details to sort through, but each narrator comes into their own after the festival…windows into contemporary Native American culture make this a compelling read.”

Awards & Honors
  • American Booksellers Association Indies “Introduce Kids” Summer/Fall 2024 Pick
  • Amazon Editors’ Best Books of 2024 (So Far)
  • Amazon Editors’ Best Books of June in Teen and Young Adults
  • Barnes & Noble Best Books of 2024 (So Far)
  • !ndigo Best Teen Books of 2024

REZ BALL by Bryon Graves (Red Lake Ojibwe), cover art by Natasha M. Donovan (Métis)(Heartdrum, 2023). Ages 13-up.


This compelling debut novel by new talent Byron Graves (Ojibwe) tells the relatable, high-stakes story of a young athlete determined to play like the hero his Ojibwe community needs him to be.


Read an excerpt. Listen to an audio sample narrated by Jesse Nobess.

Awards & Honors
  • Boston Globe – Horn Book (Fiction) Honor Book
  • William C Morris YA Debut Award Winner
  • American Indian Youth Literature Award
  • Colorado (YA) Book Award
  • Reading the West Award Winner
  • Reading the West Award Short List
  • 2024-2025 Maine North Star YA Book Award Nominees
  • 2024-2025 VA Reads: Picture Books
  • Vermont Green Mountain Book Award Nominees List
  • Massachusetts Teen Choice Book Award Nominees List
  • Pennsylvania Young Reader’s Choice Award Nominees List
  • Oklahoma Library Association’s 2025 High School Sequoyah Masterlist
  • Texas Library Association Tayshas List
  • CCBC Choices
  • CYBILS finalist
  • Junior Library Guild Gold Standard Selection
  • New York Public Library Best Books for Teens 2023
  • Book Riot Best Book for Teens 2023
  • 2023 Nerdies: Young Adult Fiction
  • Holiday Recommendation from the Minneapolis Star-Tribune
  • American Indians in Children’s Literature (AICL) Best Books of 2023

School Library Journal, starred (audio): “Newbie Nobess, one of the National Screen Institute’s 2022 CBC New Indigenous Voices, a program for emerging creators, is a nuanced narrator, effectively ciphering multiple generations with and without the lyrical rez accent. (He proves especially facile with injecting thrilling anticipation into the many games that jump off Graves’s pages. VERDICT Once started, even the most reluctant readers will be hard-pressed to hit the pause button.”­

American Indians in Children’s Literature (highly recommended): “Life of Native kids on reservations—Byron Graves gives it to us straight. The joys and the tears… it is all here.”

Kirkus Reviews: “…sports-underdog story, giving readers tense, fast-paced descriptions of high-stakes basketball games interspersed with textured descriptions of life on the reservation. This one shoots and scores.”

Rich in Color: “Though Byron Graves was definitely writing to and for Native readers, this story can also speak to others because there are universal themes of pain, loss, community, love, survival, and people striving to thrive.”

Booklist: “Well-paced and exciting—the action of the basketball games is exceptionally well written—this is a solid piece of sports fiction.”

BCCB: “That realism is nicely balanced…by a story that dutifully follows the beats of great sports movies with motivational speeches, unbelievable comebacks, raucous crowds, heartbreaking losses, and a lot of heart up to the final buzzer.”

6 Must-Read YA Novels by Indigenous Authors by Laura Simeon from Kirkus Reviews. PEEK: “Ojibwe author Byron Graves’ debut, REZ BALL, contains all the elements that make sports novels perennial favorites—from breathtaking game play to team camaraderie—anchored by a thoughtful account of a teen boy’s inner emotional landscape as he reckons with grief, a new crush, and hoop dreams.”

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, 2022). Ages 13-up.


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.

Awards & Honors
  • Toronto Public Library 2023: Read Indigenous: Books for Teens
  • Boston Public Library Best Books of the Year
  • Audies (YA) Award Finalist
  • Lamba Literary (YA) Award Finalist
  • ALA Stonewall Honor Award
  • YALSA Morris Award Finalist
  • YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults, Top 10 Designation
  • Top Ten for Teen Readers, 2023 Rainbow Book List
  • Governor General’s Literary Award for Young People’s Literature
  • CCBC Choices Citation List
  • Rise: A Feminist Book Project (ALA)
  • 2022 Cybils Winner, Young Adult Fiction
  • 2021 Nerdies: Young Adult Books
  • CBC Books Best Canadian Children’s & YA Books of 2022
  • Kirkus Reviews Best Teen & YA Coming of Age Novels of 2022
  • Horn Book Fanfare 2022 Book List
  • Chicago Public Library Best Books of 2022
  • NPR “Books We Love”
  • SLJ Best Books of 2022
  • Massachusetts Teen Choice Book Award Nominee
  • New Jersey Garden State Teen Book Award Nominee
  • YA Finalist, CALIBA’s 2022 Golden Poppy Book Awards
  • Nominee, 2023 Garden State Teen Book Award (Fiction Grades 9-12)
  • Finalist, Forest of Reading White Pine Award
  • First Nations Community Reads Award longlist
  • Shortlist, Senior List of Debut Authors, Great Reads Award, The School Libraries Group of the Library Association of Ireland
  • NPR’s Best Books of 2022 (YA)
  • Common Sense Selection (Teens)
  • Indigo’s Pick of the Month (Teens & Young Adult), May
  • FOLD Kids: 2022 Summer Reading List
  • Kirkus Reviews 10 Anticipated YA Books to Look for in 2022

 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.”

The 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 for the print edition): “The honesty and complexity of this book make it a gripping read; a great first purchase for libraries serving teens.”

School Library Journal (starred for the audio edition): “A sharp, eloquent, heartrending accomplishment that demands ­access in all media.”

“Ferguson crafts a story rich in the bitter and sweet of healing trauma.” —Angeline Boulley, Publishers Weekly (10 Essential Books for Teens by Indigenous Authors)

THOSE PINK MOUNTAIN NIGHTS by Jen Ferguson (Métis and white), cover art by Bailey Macabre (Plains Cree; Michif/Ukrainian)(Heartdrum, 2023). Ages 13-up.


In her remarkable second novel following her acclaimed debut, Jen Ferguson writes about the hurt of a life stuck in past tense, the hum of connections that cannot be severed, and one week in a small snowy town that changes everything.


Read an excerpt. Listen to an audio sample. Narrators: Julie Lumsden, Aaliya Warbus, Kimberly Woods, Shaun Taylor-Corbett.

Awards & Honors
  • Junior Library Guild Gold Standard Selection
  • CBC Best Canadian Books of 2023
  • ALA Best Fiction for Young Adults
  • Rise: A Feminist Book Project (ALA)
  • 2024 Capitol Choices Noteworthy Books for Children and Teens
  • Nominee, Forest of Reading White Pine Award
  • Kirkus Reviews Notable Fall Releases
  • Kirkus Reviews Best Young Adult Books of 2023

★ Kirkus Reviews (starred): “…lyrical prose that softens the emotionally fraught narrative without sacrificing suspense, resulting in a mystery that subtly builds to a shocking reveal. Intimate and impactful.”

The Horn Book (starred): “Through a well-characterized ensemble cast, Ferguson…address the myriad of difficult topics facing her characters with sensitivity and care.”

School Library Journal (starred): “…alternating viewpoints provide insight into the challenges each character faces in their lives, moving them beyond caricatures and into fully developed, complex characters who are leaning into adulthood and making mistakes.”

★ Shelf Awareness (starred): “Achingly stunning prose, ‘absolute mischief,’ and exhilarating kisses compel a fast read.”

Quill and Quire: “Through the novel, readers – Indigenous Peoples and settlers alike – learn to care just a little bit more about the people they live next to, and listen to the hum of the universe that makes them whole.”

6 Must-Read YA Novels by Indigenous Authors by Laura Simeon from Kirkus Reviews. PEEK: “THOSE PINK MOUNTAIN NIGHTS by Jen Ferguson, who is Michif/Métis and white, explores with nuance and strong characterization the lives of a multiracial group of teens working at a Black-owned pizza parlor in Alberta that’s threatened by a corporate takeover. Meanwhile, they’re trying to find missing local teen Kiki, who’s Black and Cree.”

THE UNFINISHED by Cheryl Isaacs (Mohawk), cover art by Britt Newton (Muscogee)(Heartdrum, 2024). Ages 13-up.


In her stunning debut, Cheryl Isaacs (Mohawk) pulls the reader into an unsettling tale of monsters, mystery, and secrets that refuse to stay submerged.

When small-town athlete Avery’s morning run leads her to a strange pond in the middle of the forest, she awakens a horror the townspeople of Crook’s Falls have long forgotten.

The black water has been waiting. Watching. Hungry for the souls it needs to survive.

Avery can smell the water, see it flooding everywhere; she thinks she’s losing her mind. And as the black water haunts Avery—taking a new form each time—people in town begin to go missing.

Though Avery had heard whispers of monsters from her Kanien’kéha:ka (Mohawk) relatives, she has never really connected to her Indigenous culture or understood the stories. But the Elders she has distanced herself from now may have the answers she needs.

When Key, her best friend and longtime crush, is the next to disappear, Avery is faced with a choice: listen to the Kanien’kéha:ka and save the town but lose her friend forever…or listen to her heart and risk everything to get Key back.