The Center for Children's Books

Graduate School of Library and Information Science
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Native American Fiction and Nonfiction- November 2008

Selected and annotated by Joanne Mierek

Alexie, Sherman. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian; illus. by Ellen Forney. Little, 2007 [256p]
ISBN 978-0-316-01368-0 $16.99 Gr. 7-10
Junior feels he has to leave the “rez” and attend a white high school in order to realize his dreams. Helped by his sense of humor and cartooning, he navigates his two worlds, with their bittersweet triumphs and ever-present grief. Slowly, Junior comes to realize what he must keep and what he should leave behind.

Bruchac, Joseph Whisper in the Dark; illus. by Sally Wern Comport. Harper Collins, 2005 [174p] ISBN 0-06-058087-9 $15.99 Gr. 5-8
When she starts receiving threatening calls from a whispering voice, Maddie knows that it’s the Whisperer in the Dark, a monster who stalks his victims with a five-bladed knife. Centuries ago, a warrior ancestor ordered the Whisperer walled up, making her the natural target for revenge. But Maddie has learned to face her fears and moves straight toward the encounter.

Bruchac, Joseph Jim Thorpe: Original All-American; Dial/Walden Media, 2006 [277p] illus. with photographs ISBN 0-8037-3118-3 $16.99 Gr. 6-10
Sports legend Jim Thorpe, born on the Sac and Fox reservation, played professional football, major-league baseball, and won Olympic medals in track and field. This biography is written as an autobiography, allowing the reader to understand Thorpe’s engaging personality and his reactions to Carlisle Indian schooling, the media's promotion of him as a savage, and the revocation of his Olympic medals.

Carvell, Marlene Sweetgrass Basket. Dutton, 2005 [256p] ISBN 0-525-47547-8 $15.99 Gr. 5-8
Mohawk sisters Mattie and Sarah arrive at Carlisle Indian Industrial School after the death of their mother. They both have trouble adjusting, and endure punishment and grief before Mattie, suffering an illness no one seems to notice, dies. This is a tragic story told in moving prose/poetry, nuanced and honest.

Erdrich, Lise Sacagawea; Julie Buffalohead. Carolrhoda, 2003 [40p] ISBN 0-87614-646-9 $16.95 Gr. 3-6
Lise Erdrich clearly delineates historical knowledge and legend in this retelling of the story of Sacagawea, a young Shoshone woman (and new mother) best known as a guide and interpreter for Lewis and Clark’s 1804 Corps of Discovery expedition. Julie Buffalohead’s richly colored illustrations add telling detail to this story of a remarkable young woman.

Kimmel, Eric A. Frog Princess: A Tlingit Legend from Alaska: illus. by Roseanne Litzinger. Holiday House, 2006 ISBN 0-8234-1618-6 $16.95 6-9 yrs
A beautiful Tlingit girl marries a frog. After her father threatens war with the frogs, she comes back to the human world, but finds that she misses her frog family so much she decides to join them in a hidden lake, becoming a frog herself. Full page watercolors evoke the melancholy of this mysterious story.

Lauber, Patricia Who Came First?: New Clues to Prehistoric Americans. National Geographic, 2003. illus. with photographs ISBN 0-7922-8228-0 $18.95 Gr. 4-8
Award-winning author Lauber uses kid-friendly text, charts, and illustrations to examine recent evidence of early human migration and settlement patterns in the North and South American continents. She shows how scientists work, how new discoveries are integrated into a discipline’s theoretical framework, and how those discoveries can impact modern people.

Marsden, Carolyn Bird Springs. Viking, 2007 ISBN 978-0-670-06193-8 $14.99 Gr. 4-6
Gregory, a Navaho fifth grader, moves with his mother and baby sister to Tucson after his dad leaves them. In trying to adjust to his new surroundings, Gregory befriends Matt, who may or may not be trustworthy, and faces his conflicting feelings about his abusive father. The theme of an imaginary friend, unusual for this age group, is effective and powerful.

Medicine Crow, Joseph Counting Coup: Becoming a Crow Chief on the Reservation and Beyond; with Herman J. Viola. National Geographic, 2006 illus. with photographs Trade ed. ISBN 0-7922-5391-4 $15.99 Gr. 5-8
This is the autobiography of the man who was to become the last traditional chief of the Crow. Joseph Medicine Crow was born in 1913 and spent his harsh, exuberant, and adventurous boyhood on the Montana Crow Reservation. During his service in World War II, Medicine Crow accomplishes the four dangerous feats known as counting coup, which is something all warriors wishing to become chief must complete.

Porter, Pamela Sky; illus. by Mary Jane Gerber. Groundwood, 2004 ISBN 0-88899-563-6 $15.95 Gr. 3-6
Georgia lives at the edge of the Blackfeet reservation with her grandmother in 1964. After a terrible flood, she finds a filly, orphaned like Georgia herself, and discovers a new focus for her life in the gentle training of Sky. She also discovers that not all people are treated justly as she observes the racism and cruelty to which the Blackfeet people are subjected.

Reich, Susanna Painting the Wild Frontier: The Art and Adventures of George Catlin. Clarion, 2008 illus. with photographs ISBN 978-0-618-71470-4 $21.00 Gr. 5-9
This book combines art interpretation, biography, and adventure tale in the life and work of painter George Catlin, who chronicled vanishing traditional Native American lifeways in the 19 th Century. Susanna Reich portrays Catlin’s complexity; he felt respect and esteem for the richness and dignity of the people he painted, while at the same time he was not above bullying them and encouraging buffoonery to get what he wanted. Includes paintings, timeline, bibliography, and index.

Rivera, Raquel Tuk and the Whale illus. by Mary Jane Gerber. Groundwood/House of Anansi, 2008 ISBN 978-0-88899-689-3 $15.95 Gr. 6-10
Tuk is a young Inuit boy in the 17 th Century who, along with his family and friends, meets white people for the first time. Tuk has ambiguous feelings of fear and intrigue that resolve into relief when this first encounter ends happily for everyone. An exciting whale hunt highlights this otherwise low-key historical novel.

Rumford, James. Sequoyah: The Cherokee Man Who Gave His People Writing. Illus. by James Rumford; tr. into Cherokee by Anna Sixkiller Huckaby Houghton, 2004 ISBN 0-618-36947-3 $16.00 Gr. 2-4
Like the magnificent redwood trees named for him, Sequoyah is a giant among the Cherokee. In 1821, seeing his people scattered and in danger of losing their culture, he created a syllabary, a writing code that consists of a character for every spoken syllable. His syllabary is still in use today. Rumford’s woodcut inspired illustrations and Huckaby’s Cherokee translation are beautiful.

Savard, Rémi, ad. First Spring: An Innu Tale of North America; with Catherine Germain; tr. by Donald Kellough; illus. by Geneviè Côté. Simply Read, 2006 ISBN 1-894965-34-5 $16.95 Gr. 3-7
In a dark, cold mythic time, a young child is so saddened by the departure of his rescuer, his family of people and animals decide to cheer him up by going south to the land of summer. Savard has written a long, winding narrative humorously depicted throughout in Catherine Germain’s quietly charming illustrations.

Tingle, Tim. Crossing Bok Chitto: A Choctaw Tale of Friendship and Freedom. Illus. by Jeanne Rorex Bridges. Cinco Puntos, 2006 ISBN 0-938317-77-6 $17.95
n this story of the friendship between a Choctaw girl, Martha Tom, and a young slave, Little Mo, the time comes for Little Mo’s family to run to freedom. Martha Tom and her people are there, guiding them past the slavers. As Little Mo, now Moses, and his family cross the river to freedom on a secret path just under the water, they appear to have become spirits.

Weber, EdNah New Rider. Rattlesnake Mesa: Stories from a Native American Childhood; illus. with photographs by Richela Renkun. Lee & Low, 2004 ISBN 1-58430-231-3 $18.95 Gr. 5-8
This is the vibrant biography of a young Navaho girl, sent to the military-style Phoenix Indian School. She and her friends challenged themselves to become “little survivors”; despite the harsh discipline, they refused to have the Indian schooled out of them. Renkun’s photos appear posed to echo Weber’s memories, alternating between wide-open landscapes and tightly focused children’s faces or elderly hands busy with beadwork.

Yeahpau, Thomas M. X-Indian Chronicles: The Book of Mausape. Candlewick, 2006 ISBN 0-7636-2706-2 $16.99 Gr. 10 up
Yeapau has written a candid and graceful collection of interconnected short stories tracing the growth of Mausape and his friends, all modern Kiowa boys. Street slang and the spirit world co-exist for a “culture and a generation that was losing its mind.” X-Indian Chronicles is tough, provocative, and wickedly funny.