Contemporary Native American Children’s Books: Chapter Books & Short Stories

This bibliography is drawn from books published between 1995 and 2021. 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.

Art by Nicole Neidhardt; design by Molly Fehr

ANCESTOR APPROVED: INTERTRIBAL STORIES FOR KIDS, edited by Cynthia Leitich Smith (Muscogee)(Heartdrum, 2021). Ages 8-up. From the promotional copy: “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.”

CLOUDWALKER: CONTEMPORARY NATIVE AMERICAN STORIES by Joel Monture (Mohawk), illustrated by Carsen Waterman (Seneca)(Fulcrum, 1996). Features characters from a variety of Native nations. Ages 9-up.

GROWING UP NATIVE AMERICAN: STORIES OF OPPRESSION AND SURVIVAL, OF HERITAGE DENIED AND RECLAIMED ‘ 22 AMERICAN WRITERS RECALL CHILDHOOD IN THEIR NATIVE LAND edited and with an introduction by Patricia Riley (Cherokee), foreword by Ines Hernandez (Nimipu/Mexican Indian)(Avon, 1993). An amazing array of stories by some of the most talented voices in Native American literature, including Louise Erdrich (Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa), N. Scott Momaday (Kiowa), and Linda Hogan (Chickasaw). Ages 12-up.

INDIAN SHOES by Cynthia Leitich Smith (Muscogee), illustrated by Jim Madsen (HarperCollins, 2002), cover by Sharon Irla (Cherokee), interior illustrations by MaryBeth Timothy (Cherokee)(Heartdrum, 2021). Ray and Grampa Halfmoon are Cherokee-Seminoles who face the challenges of daily life with love and humor in this collection of short stories set in Chicago and rural Oklahoma. Together, they encounter homesickness, bad hair cuts, mystery, artistic competition, and a wedding without proper pants for the ring bearer. Ages 7-up.

JO JO MAKOONS: THE USED-TO-BE BEST FRIEND by Dawn Quigley (Ojibwe), illustrated by Tara Audibert (Wolastoqey)(Heartdrum, 2021). From the promotional copy: “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…” Ages 6-up. More on this title from Cynsations.

MOCCASIN THUNDER: AMERICAN INDIAN STORIES FOR TODAY, edited by Lori Marie Carlson (HarperCollins, 2005). An anthology collection of short stories about contemporary Native American teenagers. Ages 12-up. More on this title from Cynsations. Read The Story Behind The Story from Lori Marie Carlson.

THE POWWOW MYSTERY SERIES 1: THE POWWOW THIEF by Joseph Bruchac (Abenaki), illustrated by Dale DeForest (Navajo)(Reycraft, 2019). From the promotional copy: “Twins Jamie and Marie Longbow are excited about summer with their grandparents, traveling from powwow to powwow selling goods they helped to make. When their grandmother’s most beautiful necklace goes missing, it’s up to the twins to solve the mystery.” Ages 7-up. Look for more books in the series.

RISING VOICES: WRITINGS OF YOUNG NATIVE AMERICANS selected by Arlene Hirschfelder and Beverly R. Singer (Santa Clara Pueblo)(Ivy, 1993). Real words from real kids. Ages 8-up.