Jingle Dancer

Cover art by Cornelius Van Wright & Ying-Hwa Hu; cover design by Rachel Zegar

JINGLE DANCER by Cynthia Leitich Smith, illustrated by Cornelius Van Wright and Ying-Hwa Hu (HarperCollins, 2000)(Heartdrum, 2021). Ages 4-up. Also published by HarperCollins Canada.

Jenna, a contemporary Muscogee (Creek) 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. Published in partnership with We Need Diverse Books.

Order JINGLE DANCER by Cynthia Leitich Smith.

Depending on the title, Cynthia’s books may be found from Native bookstores like Birchbark Books and Native Arts and Red Planet Books and Comics, her local independent BookPeople in Austin, other terrific Texas bookstores like Blue Willow Bookshop and Brazos Bookstore, retail sites supporting indie bookstores like BookShop (Affiliate), IndieBound and (audio books), brick-and-mortar chains like Barnes & Noble and Books-A-Million, and online retailer (Author Central).

A portion of the royalties from the sale of this book supports the Native Creatives Fund at the Highlights Foundation.

Awards and 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
  • A Mighty’s Girl’s Summer 2021 Reading List
  • 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)
  • “Best Multicultural Children’s Books for Early Childhood Educators” (Montessori Life)
  • Suggested Title, Recommended Native Literature for Youth Reading Circles from American Experience: “We Shall Remain,” PBS, April 2009
  • Recommended Title, GREAT BOOKS FOR GIRLS by Kathleen Odean (Ballantine, 2002)
  • 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)
Jingle Dancer by Cynthia Leitich Smith
Hardback cover by Cornelius Van Wright & Ying-Hwa Hu (HarperCollins, 2001)

“…a boon for teachers frustrated by the dearth of Native studies materials.” — Indian Country Today

“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.” — Booklist

“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.”  — School Library Journal

“…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.” American Indians in Children’s Literature

“The illustrations gracefully complement Smith’s heartening portrait of a harmonious meshing of old and new.” — The Reading Teacher

“Engaging colors and flowing words make this book a joy to read over and over.” — ALA/OLOS Subcommittee for Library Services to American Indian People/American Indian Library Association (2007)

“The story, set in the present day, dispels the idea that Native people no longer exist. It also demonstrates that Native ways of being are part of the lives of Native children, families, and their nations, today.”  First Nations Development Institute (2016)

Author Interview

Educational Resources

From Cynthia Leitich Smith:

Indian Education for All: Your Guide to Understanding and Enjoying Powwows by Dr. Murton McCluskey from Montana Office of Public Instruction. PEEK: “A powwow is a gathering where Native American dancing, singing and celebration take place. There are several different powwows that take place throughout the country; however, this booklet will talk about powwows in general and, more specifically, about powwows along the northern tier of the United States.”

The Origin of the Jingle Dance by Lauren Peck from Minnesota Good Age. PEEK: “…examining the origins, history and importance of the jingle dress (known as ziibaaska’ iganagooday in Ojibwe) as it marks its 100th anniversary.”

Compare and Contrast Jingle Dancer and The Cloud Artist by Sherri Maret, illustrated by Merisha Sequoia Clark, a bilingual Choctaw-English fiction picture book (RoadRunner Press, 2017).

Diversifying Your Classroom Books Collection? Avoid These 7 Pitfalls from Kara Newhouse from KQED. PEEK: “…seven pitfalls to avoid when deciding what to leave in and out, accompanied by more than 50 title recommendations based on conversations in this piece to help kickstart the journey.

April 2000 | 9780688162412; 068816241X| HarperCollins | Hardcover | PB | 32 Pages | Ages 4-up

February 2021 | 9780063018112 | Heartdrum | Paperback