Heartdrum, A Native-Focused Imprint of HarperCollins

Cynthia Leitich Smith (Muscogee) is honored to be the author-curator of the Heartdrum imprint at HarperCollins Children’s Books (and includes YA titles). The in-house editor is Rosemary Brosnan. Published in partnership with We Need Diverse Books. Also published by HarperCollins Canada.

Learn more from HarperCollins Media Release, We Need Diverse Books.

Review brochure of winter-spring 2021 Heartdrum releases.

Read submissions information for Indigenous writers and illustrators.

Read Teacher and Librarian Resources for Native Children’s and YA Books.

Check out the Heartdrum Guide for Educators by Andrea Page (Lakota) from HarperCollins.

Be sure to also review the list below for links to teacher guides for our paperback releases.

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 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?

A warm family story, beautifully evoked in Cornelius Van Wright and Ying-Hwa Hu’s watercolor art.

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)

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.”

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?

Ray Halfmoon prefers hightops, but he gladly trades them for a nice pair of moccasins for his Grampa. After all, it’s Grampa Halfmoon who’s always there to help Ray get in and out of scrapes — like the time they teamed up to pet sit for the whole block during a holiday blizzard!

This collection of interrelated stories is heartwarming and laugh-out-loud funny. Cynthia Leitich Smith writes with wit and candor about what it’s like to grow up as a Seminole-Cherokee boy who is just as happy pounding the pavement in windy Chicago as rowing on a lake in rural Oklahoma.

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”

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.”

Teacher Guide

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

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.

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 (under the cover art).

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


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.”

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 (under the cover art).

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.

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.

When Nathan goes to visit his grandma, Nali, at her mobile summer home on the Navajo reservation, he knows he’s in for a pretty uneventful summer, with no electricity or cell service. Still, he loves spending time with Nali and with his uncle Jet, though it’s clear when Jet arrives that he brings his problems with him.

One night, while lost in the nearby desert, Nathan finds someone extraordinary: a Holy Being from the Navajo Creation Story—a Water Monster—in need of help.

Now Nathan must summon all his courage to save his new friend. With the help of other Navajo Holy Beings, Nathan is determined to save the Water Monster, and to support Uncle Jet in healing from his own pain.

Read an excerpt. Listen to an audio sample (under the cover art).

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.”

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.

All her life, Edie has known that her mom was adopted by a white couple. So, no matter how curious she might be about her Native American heritage, Edie is sure her family doesn’t have any answers.

Until the day when she and her friends discover a box hidden in the attic—a box full of letters signed “Love, Edith,” and photos of a woman who looks just like her.

Suddenly, Edie has a flurry of new questions about this woman who shares her name. Could she belong to the Native family that Edie never knew about? But if her mom and dad have kept this secret from her all her life, how can she trust them to tell her the truth now?

Read an excerpt. Listen to an audio sample (under the cover art).

Awards & Honors
  • American Indian Youth Literature Award Honor Book
  • Charlotte Huck Award for Outstanding Fiction for Children Honor Book
  • 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.”

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.

It’s been a hard year for Maisie Cannon, ever since she hurt her leg and could not keep up with her ballet training and auditions.

Her blended family is loving and supportive, but Maisie knows that they just can’t understand how hopeless she feels. With everything she’s dealing with, Maisie is not excited for their family midwinter road trip along the coast, near the Makah community where her mother grew up.

But soon, Maisie’s anxieties and dark moods start to hurt as much as the pain in her knee. How can she keep pretending to be strong when on the inside she feels as roiling and cold as the ocean?

Read an excerpt. Listen to an audio sample (under the cover art).

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.”

Teacher Guide

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

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

Lily and Wendy have been best friends since they became stepsisters. But with their feuding parents planning to spend the summer apart, what will become of their family—and their friendship?

Little do they know that a mysterious boy has been watching them from the oak tree outside their window. A boy who intends to take them away from home for good, to an island of wild animals, Merfolk, Fairies, and kidnapped children.

A boy who calls himself Peter Pan.

Read an excerpt. Listen to an audio sample.


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.

Cassidy Rain Berghoff didn’t know that the night she decided to get a life would be the same night that her best friend would lose his.

It’s been six months since Galen died, and up until now Rain has succeeded in shutting herself off from the world. But when controversy arises around Aunt Georgia’s Indian Camp in their mostly white midwestern community, Rain decides to face the outside world again—at least through the lens of her camera.

As the new photographer for her town’s newspaper, Rain soon has to decide how involved she wants to become in Indian Camp. Does she want to keep a professional distance from her intertidal community? And, though she mourns, will she be able to embrace new friends and new beginnings?

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
  • 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

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.”

THE SUMMER OF BITTER AND SWEET by Jen Ferguson (Métis and white), cover art by Reya Hernandez (Iháŋktuŋwaŋ Dakota (Yankton Sioux)), beading by Kim Stewart (Métis)(Heartdrum, May 2022). Now available for pre-order.

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.

Lou has enough confusion in front of her this summer. She’ll be working in her family’s ice cream shack with her newly ex-boyfriend—whose kisses never made her feel desire, only discomfort—and her former best friend, King, who is back in their Canadian prairie town after disappearing three years ago without a word.

But when she gets a letter from her biological father—a man she hoped would stay behind bars for the rest of his life—Lou immediately knows that she cannot meet him, no matter how much he insists.

While King’s friendship makes Lou feel safer and warmer than she would have thought possible, when her family’s business comes under threat, she soon realizes that she can’t ignore her father forever.