Here are ten new books by Indigenous creators featuring traditions and experiences from various nations and Indigenous people. Books are a great way for families to learn together and start the conversations necessary for our country to move forward from the past towards reconciliation.
I Sang You Down From the Stars (OwlKids) is a great gift for new parents and celebrates the arrival of a new baby by both the mother and the community. In many Indigenous nations, there is a traditional belief that babies choose their parents. In this dreamy, cozy story we follow a mother as she prepares for the baby’s arrival, collecting items for her baby’s sacred medicine bundle, an object intended to foster connection between a child and their community.
We All Play (Greystone Kids) by Cree-Metis author-illustrator Julie Flett is a celebration of play using very simple language and images of both baby animals and baby children playing. Both English and Cree words are included and you can hear an audio pronunciation of the Cree words online here. The second Julie Flett book, On the Trapline (TundraBooks) reunites her with When We Were Alone collaborator, author David A. Robertson. In their second book, a young boy joins his grandfather on a trip north to visit the trapline where he grew up. He learns about his grandfather’s childhood and the Cree names for things they see and do together.
In We Dream Medicine Dreams (Highwater Press), a child is introduced to the concept of medicine dreams, in which people are visited by animals in their dreams who impart knowledge. Grandfather explains the medicine and lessons of each animal, which the narrator comes to rely on when her grandfather falls ill and must go into the hospital. This book is written and illustrated by Dene artist Lisa Boivin who uses creates intricate collage art to accompany her moving text.
Treaty Words (Annick) is an illustrated book for all ages that explains how natural law provides a foundation for all treaties. When many people hear the word ‘treaty,’ they think of the treaties between Indigenous nations and The Crown, but this book explains that the original treaties were between people and the land, and that the values of respect, responsibility and renewal should be at the heart of all relationships and treaties. This is a wonderful introduction to an important Indigenous concept and provides a way forward for those of living in the place we now call Canada.
The Shaman’s Apprentice (Inhabit Media) is a spine-tingling fable inspired by a short film of the same name by renowned Inuk director Zacharias Kunuk, in which a young apprentice must travel underground to visit Kannaaluk in order to heal a sick man.
Elvis, Me, and the Lemonade Stand Summer (DCB) is a stand-out debut novel from singer-songwriter Leslie Gentile about a girl who opens a lemonade stand on her West Coast reserve. Truly’s voice and character are vivid and leap right off the page. This is a tender, warm story about finding your family and belonging to a community.
The Case of the Burgled Bundle (Second Story Press) the latest in a mystery series starring the Mighty Muskrats, four cousins growing up on Windy Like First Nation reserve. These books have a retro, Hardy Boys vibe, and this one in particular centres on a stolen treaty bundle.
YA, Ages 12+
The Power of Style (Annick) is a nonfiction title about how fashion and beauty are being used to reclaim cultural identity. Obijwe fashion writer Christian Allaire covers many topics drawing from various cultures, including ribbon work, make-up, hair, cosplay and more. Teens will love this ode to self-expression and cultural identity, full of photographs, history tidbits, and DIY projects.
The Firekeeper’s Daughter (Holt) is a gripping mystery and coming-of-age story about a girl who feels caught between two cultures. Tragedy strikes right before Daunis is set to go to college, and she finds herself sticking around her hometown and going undercover in a murder investigation. This is a great book for older teens and adults, and does an excellent job addressing the issues contemporary Indigenous teens face today.