Tag Archives: cultural identity

I Am Native

Written & Illustrated by: Violet Duncan

For ages: 3 years and up

Language: English

Topics Covered: Indigenous Voices, Own Voices, Lived Experience, Growing Up, Culture & Identity, Hoop Dancing, Sports, Family, Love, Native Experience. 


This lovely book is all about the lived experiences of an Indigenous family, comparing their traditional Native activities with other things the family does such as dancing, taking both ballet classes and practicing hoop dancing weekly.  I absolutely love the pairing of hobbies and activities like cooking, riding bikes or horses, and camping.

The beauty of this book is both the positive messaging associated with Native culture and the pairing of what some might call “contemporary” activities like camping in a nylon tent rather than a tipi.  Because schools so often teach Indigenous history as if it’s just that-in the past, this is a refreshing story that shows readers who may be unfamiliar with present day Indigenous practices the way that cultures meld together to create strong and resilient humans today.  Classrooms and schools need these contemporary depictions of Indigenous families living their lives just as much as they need the books that focus on Native history and the history of colonialism in the States and globally.

This book is joyful, colorful, and a wonderful addition to any bookshelf!  I particularly like that real photos are the basis for the illustrations.  There are stunning and brilliant Indigenous and First Nations books with beautiful illustrations, but less often I have seen books that use photographs.  This is true representation showing a real family, authentically living their lives together.  Own Voices to the max!

The author, Violet, was kind enough to send us this book for review, but all opinions are our own!

About the Author & Illustrator:

Violet-DuncanViolet Duncan is an author, storyteller, educator & performer, (Native American Hoop & Powwow dancer). She’s a proud member of the Plains Cree of Kehewin Cree Nation & Taino.

Violet facilitates workshops to promote spiritual wellness & cultural education across the United States, Canada & Europe.

After becoming a mother of 4, she saw a need for Native American representation in literature.  Violet took it upon herself to author two children’s books; “When We Dance” & “Let’s Hoop Dance!” She is now a featured storyteller at many Festivals Nationally & Internationally.

Some of Violet’s accomplishments include holding the “Miss Indian World 2006” title & representing all Indigenous people of North America. You can also see Violet in the 2013 music video “Big Hoops” by Nelly Furtado as the Native American Fancy Dancer.

Around the Table that Grandad Built

Written by: Melanie Heuiser Hill

Illustrated by: Jaime Kim

For ages: 3-8 years

Language: English

Topics Covered: Family, Cooking, Cultural Identity, Traditions.

Summary: This is a very sweet book about the preparations of a large family dinner.  Each piece of the meal, starting with the table that grandad built, tells a story of significance and family meaning.  The kids busily set out plates from a wedding, handmade cloth napkins, and carry foods that are traditionally made every year like samosas, tamales, and vegetables.  The illustrations are adorable and diverse, showing a blended family excited to spend time together.

We see this book a lot around the big holidays in the fall and winter, but the book itself doesn’t have strong holiday themes.  It would be great to use all year round because of the focus on family traditions and spending time together.  We like these books that can be applied to a wide range of events, because not everyone celebrates specific holidays.  Perhaps the characters in the story have this meal together weekly, or monthly!  The story itself builds on past pages, when each new item added to the table, it is reiterated with past items ending with the table that grandad built.  It’s very cute, and we love the art style!

About the Author & the Illustrator:

ph_hill_melanie_240px_72dpi_rgbMelanie Heuiser Hill is a graduate of Hamline University’s MFA program in writing for children and young adults. She lives in the Twin Cities with her husband and children. Giant Pumpkin Suite was her debut novel. Her first picture book, Around the Table That Grandad Built, was published in Fall 2019.




JKIM_headshotJaime Kim was “born and raised in South Korea before moving to the USA when she was 18.

Although she was a timid child who was afraid of just about everything, she discovered a sense of serenity in drawing. As a grown-up, Jaime finally stopped being afraid of everything, but kept on drawing and painting. She works with gouache, watercolors and acrylics to create nostalgic and dreamlike illustrations, inspired by childhood memories of her family, as well as movies, art, and the outside world. Her favorite things are the sun, the moon, the sky and stars – which is why they always creep into her artwork. Her debut illustrated picture book, Take Heart, My Child, was a #1 New York Times-bestseller.”