June 01, 2014

Aboriginal Perspectives in youngCanLit Picture Books



With June designated in Canada as National Aboriginal History Month, I thought it incumbent upon me to create a list of picture books, both fiction and non-fiction, that honour the heritage, achievements and cultures of the Aboriginal Peoples of Canada.  Although I know that I have not included all that I could, please accept this list of 65 titles as my small contribution to promoting this rich history.


Aboriginal Alphabet for Children 
by Evelyn Ballantyne
Illustrated by J. Marilyn Ross and  Noah Head  
Pemmican  
32 pp.  
Ages 3-6 
2002  
Each letter reflects cultural artifacts from First Nations, Metis, and Inuit.

An Aboriginal Carol
by David Bouchard
Illustrated by Moses Beaver
Performed by Susan Aglukark  
Red Deer Press 
32 pp.  
Ages 4 +  
2008 
The Huron Carol reworked with an Aboriginal world . Written in English and Inuktituk.  Also available in French.

Ancient Thunder  
by Leo Yerxa  
Groundwood Books 
32 pp.  
Ages 7-10 
2006 
Lyrical story of horses and native dress.

At the Heart of It
by Mindy Willet and Raymond Taniton
Photographs by Tessa MacIntosh
Fifth House Publishers
32 pp.
Ages 7-11 
2011 
(The Land is Our Storybook series) Ramond Taniton is Sahtugot'ine of Deline, NWT and he shares their rich history.

Beyond the Northern Lights 
by Lynn Blaikie 
Fitzhenry & Whiteside  
24 pp.  
Ages 4-8 
2006  
Folkloric tale of Raven in a First Nations community.

The Caribou Feed Our Soul
by Pete Enzoe and Mindy Willet
Photographs by Tessa MacIntosh
Fifth House Publishers
32 pp.
Ages 7-11
2010
(The Land is Our Storybook series) Pete Enzoe is Chipewyan Dene from Lutsel K’e, Northwest Territories who shares stories and the history of his people and their relationship with the caribou, including going on a respectful caribou hunt.

Caribou Song
by Thomson Highway
Illustrated by John Rombough  
Fifth House Publishers  
32 pp.  
Ages 4+ 
2013 
Two boys are traveling across the tundra by dogsled with their parents when they find themselves in the midst of  running caribou herds.

Come and Learn With Me
by Sheyenne Jumbo and Mindy Willet
Photographs by Tessa MacIntosh
Fifth House Publishers
32 pp.
Ages 7-11
2009
(The Land is Our Storybook series) Nine-year-old Sheyenne shares the daily life of the Dene Yatie on Trout Lake in NWT during the fall moose season.

The Coyote Columbus Story
by Thomas King
Illustrated by Kent Monkman
Groundwood Books
32 pp.
Ages 7-11
2007
Humourous tale based on the arrival of Europeans and their interactions with a female Coyote and the Aboriginal Peoples.

A Coyote Solstice Tale
by Thomas King
Illustrated by Gary Clement
Groundwood Books
64 pp.
Ages 7-11
2009
Coyote's plans for a festive solstice with his friends go awry when they meet a girl who introduces the mayhem of Christmas shopping to them.

The Delta Is My Home: Ehdutat shanankat t'agoonch'uu 
by Tom McLeod and Mindy Willet
Photographs by Tessa McIntosh
Fitzhenry & Whiteside
26 pp.
Ages 7-11
2008
Eleven-year-old Tom McLeod, of Gwich'in and Inuvialuit heritage, shares his life at the Mackenzie Delta.

The Diamond Willow Walking Stick
by Leah Marie Dorion
Michif translation by Norman Fleury 
Gabriel Dumont Institute  
48 pp.   
Ages 8-12 
2012 
Subtitled: A Traditional Métis Story about Generosity.  Michif translation included.

The Drum Calls Softly
by David Bouchard and Shelley Willier
Illustrated by Jim Poitras 
Red Deer Press  
32 pp.  
Ages 8-12 
2008  
(with CD of singing and drumming by Northern Cree Singers) Spiritual journey of character as part of a traditional Cree drum dance.

Eneèko Nàmbe Ik’oò K’eèzho = The Old Man with the Otter Medicine  
Told by John Blondin as told by George Blondin
Illustrated by Archie Beaverho
Translated by Mary Rose Sundberg  
Theytus Books  
40 pp.  
Ages 5-10 
2007 
(Includes CD) Story about the medicine power of an elder who helps a small group of people to overcome the threat of starvation during a hard winter.  In Dogrib and English.

The Gathering Tree
by Larry Loyie with Constance Brissenden
Illustrated by Heather D. Holmlund  
Theytus Books  
48 pp.  
Ages 9-13 
2005  
Set in a Pacific Northwest coast First Nations community, a young man returns home dealing with HIV.

The Ghost and the Lone Warrior
by C. J. Taylor
Tundra
24 pp.
Ages 8-13
1991
Lone Warrior is tested for his courage and determination by the ghost of his ancestor.
The Gift of the Inuksuk
by Mike Ulmer
Illustrated by Melanie Rose  
Sleeping Bear Press 
32 pp.  
Ages 5-12 
2004  
Though not a true Inuit story, it tells how the Inuksuit (plural) came to be.

Grandmother Ptarmigan
by Qaunaq Mikkigak and Joanne Schwartz
Illustrated by Qin Leng  
Inhabit Media  
24 pp.   
Ages 0-4 
2013  
Inuit origin story of why ptarmigans cry, "Nauk, Nauk" and why baby ptarmigans fly so young.

Gray Wolf's Search
by Bruce Swanson
Illustrated by Gary Peterson
Second Story Press
24 pp.
Ages 6-8
2007
Young Gray Wolf must find an important person in order for his future to be successful.

Hidden Buffalo
by Rudy Wiebe
Illustrated by Michael Lonechild  
Red Deer Press  
32 pp.  
Ages 7-10 
2003
(Northern Lights Books for Children) Retelling of an ancient Cree legend of a vision where the buffalo are.

Kamik an Inuit Puppy Story  
by Donald Uluadluak
Illustrated by Qin Leng
Inhabit Media  
32 pp.  
Ages 4-9  
2012  
Story of an Inuit boy and his expectations for his new pup and the wisdom his grandfather shares with him.  

The Legend of Lightning and Thunder
by Paula Ikuutaq Rumbolt
Illustrated by Jo Rioux 
Inhabit Media  
40 pp.  
Ages 5-8 
2013  
Retelling of the Inuit myth of the creation of lightning and thunder, and the importance of caring for everyone.
The Legend of the Caribou Boy
Told by John Blondin as told by George Blondin
Illustrated by Ray McSwain
Translated by Mary Rose Sundberg  
Theytus Books  
40 pp.  
Ages 5-10 
2007  
Retelling of a traditional First Nation Dogrib tale about a young boy who leaves his family to follow a herd of Caribou. In Dogrib and English. (CD included)

The Legend of the Fog 
by Qaunaq Mikkigak & Joanne Schwartz
Illustrated by Danny Christopher 
Inhabit Media  
40 pp.  
Ages 7-10 
2010
From the Kiviuq legends of a man named Quannguaviniq who sees an evil spirit called tuurngaq while out on the tundra and how he attempts to escape it.

Living Stories: Godi Weghaa Ets'eeda
by Therese Zoe, Philip Zoe and Mindy Willet
Photographs by Tess MacIntosh
Fitzhenry & Whiteside
32 pp.
Ages 7-11
2009
Therese Zoe, a Tlicho woman from NWT, shares the sacred stories and traditional wisdom of the community's elders.

Long Powwow Nights
by David Bouchard, Pam Aleekuk and Patsy Paul-Martin
Illustrated by Leonard Paul 
Red Deer Press  
32 pp.  
Ages 8-14 
2009  
(Includes CD) Written in English and Mi’kmaq, the story tells of powwows and their traditions.

A Man Called Raven
by Richard Van Camp
Illustrated by George Littlechild
Children’s Book Press  
32 pp. 
Ages 7+ 
1997  
Set in the NWT, two boys who have been tormenting a raven are taught to respect nature by a mysterious raven man.

The Métis Alphabet Book
by Joseph Jean Fauchon
Illustrated by Sheldon Mauvieux 
The Gabriel Dumont Institute  
55 pp.  
Ages 4-8 
2005  
Picture history of the Métis people.

Missuk’s Snow Geese   
by Anne Renaud
Illustrated by Geneviève Côté  
Simply Read Books  
36 pp.  
Ages 4-8  
2008  
Missuk, a little girl in the north, dreams of carving snow geese out of soapstone.

The Moccasins
by Earl Einarson
Illustrated by Julie Flett 
Theytus Books  
16 pp.  
Ages 3-8 
2004 
The story of a young Aboriginal foster child who is given a special gift.

Nanabosho and the Butterflies 
by Joe McLellan and Matrine McLellan
Illustrated by Jackie Traverse 
Pemmican   
43 pp.  
Ages 6-11 
2010 
Ojibway tale of how butterflies came to make children laugh.

The Night Walker
by Richard Thompson
Illustrated by Martin Springett  
Fitzhenry & Whiteside 
32 pp.  
Ages 5-8  
2002  
Story of a young boy who goes out to walk in the forest, streams, etc. and loses track of time until he starts to hear things.  First Nations folklore.

Niwechihaw = I Help
by Caitlin Dale Nicholson with Leona Morin-Neilson
Illustrated by Caitlin Dale Nicholson 
Groundwood Books 
24 pp.  
Ages 4-6
2008  
Recounts the activities of a young Cree boy with his grandmother.  Written in both Cree and English.

No Borders: Kigliqangittuq
by Darla Evyagotailak and Mindy Willet
Photographs by Tessa MacIntosh
Fifth House Publishers
40 pp.
Ages 7-12
2013
(The Land is our Storybook series) Teen Darla Evyagotailak, an Inuk girl, shows how communities across the border between Nunavut and the Northwest Territories are still connected, sharing a common ancestry and language. 

Nokum is My Teacher   
by David Bouchard
Illustrated by Allen Sapp
Red Deer Press  
32 pp.  
Ages 8-11 
2007 
(Includes CD with singing and drumming by Northern Cree.) With the help of his grandmother, Nokum, a young Cree boy learns that his schooling does not have to conflict with his Cree heritage.

Northern Lights: The Soccer Trails
by Michael Arvaarluk Kusugak
Illustrated by Vladyana Krykorka
Annick Press
24 pp.
Ages 4-7
1993
The mysteries of the northern lights are explained in terms of the Inuit culture.

Not My Girl
by Christy Jordan-Fenton and Margaret Pokiak-Fenton
Illustrated by Gabrielle Grimard
Annick Press
36 pp.
Ages 6-9
2014
Story of Margaret Pokiak's return to Banks Island and her family after living in a residential school.

Orphans in the Sky
by Jeanne Bushey
Illustrated by Vladyana Krykorka  
Red Deer Press  
32 pp.  
Ages 4-8 
2004  
(Northern Lights Book for Children) The origin of thunder and lightning are explained in this Inuit origin tale.

Owls See Clearly at Night: A Michif Alphabet 
by Julie Flett 
Simply Read Books  
56 pp.  
Ages 3-6 
2010  
Picture book celebrates the Métis people and their heritage.

Peace Walker: The Legend of Hiawatha and Tekanawita  
by C. J. Taylor
Tundra Books  
48 pp.  
Ages 10+ 
2004  
An Iroquois legend of how Hiawatha and Tekanawita helped the Five Nations of the Iroquois Confederacy come together to fight evil.

Proud to be Inuvialuit: Quviahuktunga Inuvialuugama
by James Pokiak and Mindy Willet
Photographs by Tessa MacIntosh
Fitzhenry & Whiteside
32 pp.
Ages
2010
This easy-read non-fiction book tells of the traditional Beluga whale hunting of the Inuvialuit in Tuktoyaktuk, Northwest Territories.

The Qalupalik
by Elisha Kilabuk
Illustrated by Joy Ang  
Inhabit Media 
32 pp.  
Ages 6-8 
2011 
(The Unikkaakuluit Series). How a little orphan boy is nearly captured by a qalupalik, a monster of Inuit mythology.

Qu'Appelle
by David Bouchard
Illustrated by  Michael Lonechild
Raincoast Books
32 pp.
Ages 6-10
2002
Love story legend in which a Cree warrior leaves his betrothed who is devastated by his absence, and falls ill and dies, calling out his name over and over again.

Rainbow Crow
by David Bouchard
Illustrated by David Jean
Translated by David Hones
Red Deer Press
32 pp.
Ages 7-9
2012
(Includes audio CD in English, French and Ojibwe.) Retelling of the legend of Crow bringing fire to earth.

The Raven and the Loon
by Rachel and Sean Qitsualik-Tinsley
Illustrated by Kim Smith
Inhabit Media
32 pp.
Ages 3-6
2013
An Inuit tale of how the raven and the loon came to look the way they do.

The Red Sash
by Jean E. Pendziwol
Illustrated by Nicolas Debon 
Groundwood Books  
32 pp.  
Ages 7-12 
2005  
A young Métis boy wants to follow in his father's footsteps and become a voyageur. Set on the western shore of Lake Superior in the early 1800s. 

A Salmon for Simon
by Betty Waterton
Illustrated by Ann Blades
Groundwood
32 pp.
Ages  3-7
1978/2013
Story of a Pacific Northwest boy who wants to catch a salmon but when an eagle drops one in a tidal pool, Simon must decide what he will do.

Scared Sarah (New Beginnings)   
by Mary Alice Downie
Illustrated by Muriel Wood 
Fitzhenry & Whiteside  
57 pp. 
Ages 9-11  
2002   
Sarah and her family live in Upper Canada in 1836 where their isolation leaves most of their interactions with the Ojibway. 

Secret of the Dance 
by Andrea Spalding and Alfred Scow
Illustrated by Darlene Gait  
Orca Book Publishers
32 pp.  
Ages 9-12 
2006  
A young boy, Watl’kitna, remembers how the elders of his First Nations community defied the government’s rule and secretly conducted a potlach.

The Secret of Your Name: Proud to be Métis (Kiimooch ka shinikashooyen: aen kishchitaymook aen li michif iwik)
by David Bouchard
Illustrated by Dennis Weber 
Red Deer Press  
32 pp.  
Ages 10-13 
2009  
While sharing his pride in his Métis heritage, the author also apologizes to his ancestor for not embracing that heritage sooner.

The Shaman’s Nephew: A Life in the Far North
by Simon Tookoome with Sheldon Oberman
Stoddart Publishing  
55 pp.  
Ages 9+ 
2000  
Tells of the nomadic lifestyle of the Inuit in the Far North, as lived by Simon Tookoome, including traditional stories translated from Inuktitut. 

Shi-shi-etko
by Nicola I. Campbell
Illustrated by Kim LaFave 
Groundwood Books
32 pp.  
Ages 5+ 
2005  
Shi-shi-etko’s family is forced to send the young girl to residential school and she does all she can to remember the wonders of her home. 

Shin-chi’s Canoe
by Nicola I. Campbell
Illustrated by Kim LaFave
Groundwood Books  
40 pp.  
Ages 5+ 
2008 
Shin-chi is sent off to residential school, with a canoe carved by his father. 

Skysisters   
by Jan Bourdeau Waboose
Illustrated by Brian Deines  
Kids Can Press 
32 pp. 
Ages 6-9 
2000  
Two Ojibway sisters go out into the cold Northern Ontario night to catch sight of the Skysisters.

A Sled Dog for Moshi
by Jeanne Bushey
Illustrated by Germaine Arnatauyok
Hyperion
40 pp.
Ages 4-7
1994
Moshi, an Inuk girl on Baffin Island, wishes for a pup of her own.

The Song Within My Heart
by David Bouchard
Illustrated by Allen Sapp 
Raincoast Books  
32 pp.  
Ages 6-10 
2002 
Based on Cree painter Allen Sapp’s childhood memories of life on a reserve in Saskatchewan and getting ready to go to a powwow. 

Tiktala
by Margaret Shaw-MacKinnon
Illustrated by László Gal  
Fitzhenry & Whiteside  
32 pp.  
Ages 5-10 
2005  
An Inuit girl wants to be a soapstone carver and is temporarily transformed into a harp seal to gain the right perspective for the art and nature. 

A Walk in the Tundra
by Anna Ziegler & Rebecca Hainnu
Illustrated by Qin Leng 
Inhabit Media 
40 pp. 
Ages 5-8 
2011 
An Inuit girl bored with waiting for her friends goes on a walk with her grandmother to pick plants for medicine and tea.

We Feel Good Out Here = Zhik Gwaa'an, Nakhwatthaiitat Gwiinzii
by Julie-Ann Andre and Mindy Willet
Photographs by Tessa MacIntosh
Fifth House
26 pp.
Ages 7-11
2008
(The Land is Our Storybook series) Julie-Ann Andre is Gwichya Gwich'in from Tsiigehtchic, NWT, and she shares the story of her family and her land.

When I Was Eight
by Christy Jordan-Fenton and Margaret Pokiak-Fenton
Illustrated by Gabrielle Grimard 
Annick Press
32 pp.   
Ages 6-9 
2013 
True story of author’s experience in residential school.

Which Way Should I Go?
by Sylvia Olsen with Ron Martin
Illustrated by Kasia Charko 
Sono Nis Press  
40 pp.  
Ages 6-8 
2007  
When Joey’s Nootka grandmother, the most important person in his life, dies, he must find a way to deal with his grief. 

Wild Berries/Pakwa Che Menistru
by Julie Flett
Translated by Earl N. Cook
Simply Read Books
32 pp.
Ages 3-6
2013
Told in English and Swampy Cree, this is the story of a boy picking blueberries with his grandmother.


Yamoòzha Eyits’o Wets’èkeè Tsà = Yamozha and His Beaver Wife
As told by Vital Thomas
Illustrated by Archie Beaulieu
Translated by Mary Siemens
Theytus Books  
48 pp.  
Ages 5-10 
2007  
(Includes CD) A tale used to help explain the naming of the landscape of the land of the Dene. In Dogrib and English. 

Yetsa’s Sweater
by Sylvia Olsen
Illustrated by Joan Larson 
Sono Nis Press
40 pp.  
Ages 8-10 
2006  
Yetsa helps her grandmother with all the tasks needed to knit a Cowichan sweater of the Coast Salish people of BC.

Zoe and the Fawn  
by Catherine Jameson
Illustrated by Julie Flett
Theytus Books  
32 pp.  
Ages 5-8 
2006 
Zoe and her father follow a fawn to learn more about it as she learns to respect nature.  Includes the Okanagan (Syilx) language terms for the animals encountered.

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