Native American Children’s and Young Adult Authors: Novels

This bibliography is drawn from books published between 1995 and 2020. While some award-winners and bestsellers are included, part of the goal is to feature underappreciated gems. SEE ALSO Ongoing Coverage of Native Books at CynsationsHome and Classroom Teaching: Native American Children’s Teens’ Books & Resources, and Native American Children’s and Young Adult Book Bibliographies and Educator Resources.

APPLE IN THE MIDDLE by Dawn Quigley (Turtle Mountain Chippewa)(North Dakota University Press, 2018) Fifteen-year-old Apple Starkington struggles to find how she belongs at school and at home. It isn’t until Apple spends the summer with her grandparents on the Turtle Mountain Reservation that she starts to connect to her family and her culture. By doing so, she finds acceptance and healing. Ages 10-up. Recommendation by Stephani Eaton. More on this title from Cynsations.

THE BIRCHBARK HOUSE by Louise Erdrich (Turtle Mountain Chippewa)(Hyperion, 1999). Readers will be engaged by appealing protagonist, Omakayas, educated by this glimpse at Ojibwe daily life, and perhaps inspired to look at history with an eye to different points of view. Ages 8-up. Look for more books in the series, THE GAME OF SILENCE (2005), THE PORCUPINE YEAR (2008), CHICKADEE (2012) and MAKOONS (2016), all published by HarperChildren’s.

CHULA THE FOX by Anthony Perry (Chickasaw)(White Dog/Chickasaw Press, 2018). Chula, an eighteenth century Chickasaw boy, feels compelled to avenge the death of his father after a traumatic ambush and, with this uncle’s help, trains to fight. Meanwhile, he’s plagued by questions and self-doubt. Is he truly meant to go to war? Ages 8-up. More on this title from Cynsations.

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

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

ELATSOE by Darcie Little Badger (Lipan Apache)(Levine Querido, 2020). Set in an alternate U.S. with magic and monsters, fueled by stories of Indigenous and other peoples, Ellie can raise the spirits of dead animals. After the death of her beloved cousin, she must draw on this talent to protect her family. Ages 12-up.

FIREKEEPER’S DAUGHTER by Angeline Boulley (Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians)(Henry Holt, 2021). After witnessing a shocking murder, Daunis Fontaine agrees to go undercover for the FBI to root out the corruption in her community. The search for truth is more complicated than she imagined, exposing secrets and old scars. Ages 14-up.

HEALER OF THE WATER MONSTER by Brian Young (Navajo), cover by Shonto Begay (Navajo)(Heartdrum, 2021). Brian Young’s debut novel, inspired by Navajo beliefs, features a seemingly ordinary Navajo boy who must save the life of a Water Monster—and help is uncle suffering from addiction—by discovering his own bravery and boundless joy. Ages 8-up.

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

HEARTS UNBROKEN by Cynthia Leitich Smith (Muscogee)(Candlewick, 2018). The story of two teen journalists, covering the controversy around the diverse casting of their high school musical. It’s also a romance between those two teens, a Native girl and Arab-American boy, trying to figure out themselves, each other and a world that often doesn’t make sense. Ages 14-up.

HOW I BECAME A GHOST by Tim Tingle (Choctaw)(RoadRunner, 2013). A Choctaw boy tells the story of his Nation’s removal from its Mississippi homeland, and how its exodus to Indian Territory led him to become a ghost –one able to help those left behind. Ages 8-up. Compiled from promotional materials. Look for the companion book, WHEN A GHOST TALKS, LISTEN: A CHOCTAW TRAIL OF TEARS STORY by Tim Tingle (Choctaw)(Roadrunner, 2018).

I CAN MAKE THIS PROMISE by Christine Day (Upper Skagit), cover art by Michaela Goade (Tlingit, Kiks.ádi clan, Steel House)(HarperCollins, 2018)(Heartdrum, 2020). Young Edie, who’s mother was adopted by a white couple, learns more about her family history and connects with her Native heritage. Ages 8-up. More on this title from Cynsations. Look for Christine Day’s sophomore novel, THE SEA IN WINTER (Heartdrum, 2021). More on this title from Cynsations.

IF I EVER GET OUT OF HERE by Eric Gansworth (Onondaga)(Arthur A. Levine, 2013). Lewis “Shoe” Blake is used to the joys and difficulties of life on the Tuscarora Indian reservation in 1975: the joking, the Fireball games, the snow blowing through his roof. What he’s not used to is white people being nice to him — people like George Haddonfield, whose family recently moved to town with the Air Force. As the boys connect through their mutual passion for music, especially the Beatles, Lewis has to lie more and more to hide the reality of his family’s poverty from George. He also has to deal with the vicious Evan Reininger, who makes Lewis the special target of his wrath. But when everyone else is on Evan’s side, how can he be defeated? And if George finds out the truth about Lewis’s home — will he still be his friend? A wry and powerful novel about friendship, memory, and the joy of rock ‘n’ roll. Ages 12-up. Compiled from promotional materials. Look for the companion book, GIVE ME SOME TRUTH by Eric Gansworth (Onondaga)(Arthur A. Levine, 2018). Learn about GIVE ME SOME TRUTH from Cynsations.

IN THE FOOTSTEPS OF CRAZY HORSE by Joseph Marshall III (Lakota), illustrated by Jim Yellowhawk (Lakota)(Abrams, 2015). Jimmy McClean, a Lakota boy, takes a journey with his grandfather in which he learns ore about their heritage, especially the story of Tasunke Witko (Crazy Horse). Ages 8-up.

INDIAN NO MORE by Charlene Willing McManis (Umpqua/Confederated Tribes of Grande Ronde) with Traci Sorell (Cherokee) cover art by Marlena Myles (Spirit Lake Dakota, Mohegan, Muscogee)(Tu Books, 2019). Regina Petit and her family are Umpqua and live on the Grand Ronde Tribe’s reservation. When the U.S.  government enacts a law derecognizing the Tribe, they officially become “Indian no more,” even though they live together and honor their traditional culture. So, her father signs up the family for the Indian Relocation Program, which takes them to Los Angeles, where prejudice and misconceptions about Indians are prevalent. Ages 8-up. More on this title from Cynsations.

JO JO MAKOONS: THE USED-TO-BE BEST FRIEND by Dawn Quigley (Ojibwe), illustrated by Tara Audibert (Wolastoqiyik)(Heartdrum, 2021). The first chapter book series about a spunky Ojibwe girl who loves who she is, written by American Indian Youth Literature Honor-winning author Dawn Quigley. Ages 6-up.

KILLER OF ENEMIES by Joseph Bruchac (Abenaki)(Tu Books, 2013). In a new steam age, Lorenz is an Apache girl who hunts monsters for The Ones. But is she merely a hired gun, or does she have the potential to become a hero? Ages 12-up. Look for more books in the series.

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

THE MARROW THIEVES by Cherie Dimaline (Métis)(DCB, 2017). In a post-apocalyptic word in ruins from global warming, Native people hunted for their bone marrow, which possesses what other people have lost, the power to dream. Frenchie and his companions are fighting to stay alive. Does one of them possess the secret to defeating their enemies? Ages 12-up.

MARY AND THE TRAIL OF TEARS: A CHEROKEE REMOVAL SURVIVAL STORY by Andrea L. Rogers (Cherokee), illustrated by John Forsyth (Capstone, 2020). A heartfelt, page-turning, well-research story of one young girl’s journey during the forced removal of her people from their ancestral homeland. Ages 7-up. More on this title from Cynsations.

MORNING GIRL by Michael Dorris (Modoc)(Hyperion, 1992). It’s 1492, and Morning Girl and her brother Star Boy are two very different children who are about to encounter whites for the first time. Ages 7-up.

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

RAIN IS NOT MY INDIAN NAME by Cynthia Leitich Smith (Muscogee), cover by Natasha Donovan (Métis)(HarperCollins, 2001)(Heartdrum, 2021). Cassidy Rain Berghoff didn’t know that the very night she decided to get a life would be the night that Galen would lose his. It’s been six months since her best friend died, and up until now, Rain has succeeded in shutting herself off from the world. But when controversy arises around her aunt Georgia’s Indian Camp in their mostly white Kansas community, Rain decides to face the world again—at least through the lens of a camera. Ages 10-up. Look for Cynthia Leitich Smith’s middle grade novel, SISTERS OF THE NEVERSEA, cover art by Floyd Cooper (Heartdrum, 2021).

THE SEA IN WINTER by Christine Day (Upper Skagit)(Heartdrum, 2021). Ballerina Maisie Cannon works to rebuild her strength after a knee injury as she struggles to find her joy and where she fits in her blended family. Ages 8-up.

SEES BEHIND TREES by Michael Dorris (Modoc)(Hyperion, 1996). Set in the sixteenth century, Walnut grows into his adult name and learns to cope with his limited vision. Ages 8-up.

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

SKELETON MAN by Joseph Bruchac (Abenaki)(HarperCollins, 2001). Molly’s parents are gone, vanished. She needs to find answers and a way to go on. But Molly has been taught well of her Mohawk traditions. She understands the importance of dreams. She knows to take them seriously. Ages 10-up. Look for the companion book RETURN OF THE SKELETON MAN by Joseph Bruchac (Abenaki)(HarperCollins, 2006).

A SNAKE FALLS TO EARTH by Darcie Little Badger (Lipan Apache)(Levine Querido, 2021). A breathtaking work of Indigenous futurism. Darcie Little Badger draws on traditional Lipan Apache storytelling structure to weave another unforgettable tale of monsters, magic, and family. It is not to be missed.

Walking the Choctaw Road (book jacket)WALKING THE CHOCTAW ROAD by Tim Tingle (Choctaw)(Cinto Puntos, 2003).A collection of Choctaw stories (contemporary, historical, and traditional). Features black and white, archival photographs. Ages 12-up.

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

Featured Authors

New Voice: Kate Hart (Chickasaw) on AFTER THE FALL (FSG, 2017) by Traci Sorell from Cynsations. PEEK: “For now, I plan to stick with the major YA publishers, but I’d love to take part in some kind of anthology or project through the Chickasaw Nation.”

Look for FIREKEEPER’S DAUGHTER by Angeline Boulley (Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians)(Henry Holt, 2021). From the promotional copy: “…a groundbreaking YA thriller about a Native teen who must root out the corruption in her community, for readers of Angie Thomas and Tommy Orange.” Ages 14-up.