English; Nłe7kepmxcín, & Halq’emeylem (Stand Like a Cedar); Ojibwe (It’s a Mitig!); Inuktitut (Grandfather Bowhead, How I Survived & I Am Loved); Rocky Cree (Pīsim)
4 years & up
Coastal & Interior Salish Identity
Indigenous Culture & Identity
Nature & Animals
SEL & Mindfulness
Family, Foster Care
Various, see each title.
Sometimes it seems like there are so many amazing books, I’ll never get a chance to share them all! Not the worst problem to have, honestly. Today, I wanted to share some of my recent favorite Own Voices books from Indigenous and First Nations publishers.
Stand Like A Cedar
By Nicola I. Campbell & Carrielynn Victor, Highwater Press
This is a beautiful book that celebrates language, mindfulness, and the natural world. The text is lyrical and celebrates heritage and gratitude. The illustrations capture sweet moments between family members, like taking walks and eating foraged berries.
The story itself focuses on sustainability and listening to the natural world and what it has to teach us. Poetic phrases draw the reader in, I could practically feel the foggy woods and the appreciative words of finding traditionally foraged foods to sustain the group walking through the trees.
Something I love about the illustrations is the combination of traditional depictions of some animals, like the grizzly bear, and more typically seen drawings in a non-fiction book. It reminds me of the board book series by Roy Henry Vickers!
Stand Like a Cedar embodies the Indigenous cultural experience of learning about the land, and learning gratitude for all it provides. There is a lengthy glossary an translation guide in the back, as well as a QR code to learn more online!
Pīsim Finds Her Miskanaw
By William Dumas & Leonard Paul, Highwater Press
This is a really fascinating book written for older elementary and MG readers, and the first book in a series of books about Rocky Cree life during the mid-1600’s, also known as the protocontact period. It takes real skeletal remains found and builds on historical information about the First Nations folks that lived in the area. This book embodies a unique story that gives in-depth anthropological information about Indigenous life and the Rocky Cree Language.
There are large illustrations and informational boxes that give additional knowledge about Rocky Cree traditions, archeological finds, and cultural knowledge. It’s extremely unique historical fiction, and the use of maps within the book helps to situate different parts of Pīsim’s story. There is an extensive Cree glossary in the back of the book, and I would definitely recommend that any reader interested in historical fiction surrounding First Nations life to check out this entire series!
We Dream Medicine Dreams
By Lisa Boivan, Highwater Press
It seems like fate that I received this book in the mail when I was working on this roundup, so I had to add it in as well!
Not only is this book filled with gorgeous artwork, the text is incredibly powerful. The narrator is remembering different medicine dreams and memories of their Grampa, as well as different animal lessons that we can learn from them.
With these lessons we can learn from animals comes more wisdom from Grampa. Make sure to make your world a place where people always want to return-both emotionally and sustainably.
This book is longer than a typical picture book, and filled with emotion when the reader learns that Grampa is in a coma on a ventilator. The deep grief that we feel when losing an important family figure is confusing and sometimes seems like a bottomless well. Compelled to remember both Grampa and the importance of the lessons in medicine dreams, the narrator aims to embody all of the traits that the animals portray. This book is beautiful, emotional, and resonates with all of us who have lost a family member.
It’s a Mitig!
I have been SO excited for this book to be released, especially after it being pushed back a few months due to the pandemic. It’s a Mitig! is the debut book by author/illustrator Bridget George, who wrote the book to teach her son Ojibwe.
Something I like about the text of this book is the rhyming flow that helps with pronunciation. The story covers the Ojibwe names of a bunch of animals and natural resources, and the text helps the reader guess what is being described as well as the correct way to say it. This makes for a fun and clever way to read aloud and learn language at the same time. The illustrations are adorable, and I love how joyful the entire book feels. In the back is also more pronunciation tips, Ojibwe names of different animals, and a note about listening to a read aloud of the book on Bridget’s website!
How I Survived Four Nights on the Ice
By Serapio Ittusardjuat & Matthew K. Hoddy, Published by Inhabit Media, sent by Publisher Spotlight
This graphic novel is gripping, and I was drawn in almost immediately. This could be because of my penchant for reality shows about surviving in the Alaskan bush, or my love of graphic novels. Either way, this first-person account is definitely worth reading.
Serapio is confident in his ability to survive in all seasons, and feels prepared by the traditional knowledge that his family has taught him. All of this came in handy when he was traveling via snowmobile and lost the trail due to no lights on his vehicle; it then breaks down. Serapio uses the knowledge his family passes down to spend four nights on the ice before being found by a search party. This book speaks to not only the importance of self-sufficiency, but also traditional lifestyle knowledge; something that was often stamped out by colonizers with residential schooling and legislation pointedly destroying cultural knowledge.
Grandfather Bowhead, Tell Me a Story
By Aviaq Johnston & Tamara Campeau, Published and sent by Inhabit Media, sent by Publisher Spotlight
I love bowhead whales and their big chins. Do whales have chins? I guess they do. Anyway, this book is really adorable and the narrator is-you guessed it-a grandfather bowhead whale. Bowhead whales are thought to be the oldest living animals on the planet, which means they’re the perfect grandparents to tell lots of interesting stories to their younger generations.
Grandfather Bowhead tells Little Arvaaq all of the wondrous things he’s seen throughout his life, but none of them compare to what he has witnessed Little Arvaaq do. Dancing seals are entertaining, the Northern Lights are beautiful, but nothing is as wonderful as Little Arvaaq swimming in the waves or the feeling of home when Grandfather Bowhead is there. I love the dialogue between the whales in this story. The way it combines familial and intergenerational love with the cultural significance of listening to both elders and animals is poignant.
I Am Loved
By Mary & Kevin Qamaniq-Mason & Hwei Lim, Published by Inhabit Media, sent by Publisher Spotlight
When’s the last time you read a book about foster care? What about an Indigenous child in foster care? I Am Loved fills a huuuuuuuge gap in several areas of the children’s lit world, and it does so beautifully and tenderly. Inuktitut words are threaded throughout the story, which follows a young child named Pakak getting used to living with a new foster family. The narrator has a good day, but he becomes sad at night. He knows his mother loves him, but she can’t take care of him right now, so he lives with another family for awhile.
Pakak knows he is loved by all of his family, especially his ancestors. But this story lovingly weaves in cultural knowledge and handles the confusing mix of emotions that children in a foster system have to navigate. The authors are Indigenous foster parents themselves, and wrote the book for all Inuit that go through the system. This book is reflective of many identities, and it absolutely needs be on every single shelf!