Picture Books About Present Day Indigenous Families

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Children often learn about indigenous cultures from history but it’s just as important to know that indigenous cultures are still alive and strong in the modern day, too. Picture books like these show Native American and Native Canadian cultures incorporating tradition, culture, and language in the present day.

As I find more books, I’ll add to this list. Please comment if you have recommendations!

Present Day Picture Books About Indigenous Families

Present Day Picture Books About Indigenous Families and Traditions
When We Were Alone
by David A. Robertson, illustrated by Julie Flett
CREE
Narrated in a gentle way that children can understand, you’ll read about when the girl’s grandma (Nókom) had to live at a boarding school where her culture wasn’t permitted Which is why, she tells her granddaughter, the grandmother chooses to wear so many colors, have long hair, speak Cree, and spend so much time with her family. Beautifully illustrated, this story shares information in a way that is truthful about the past yet focused on the present. It’s also a celebration of curiosity and a grandparent-grandchild relationship.


Fry Bread: A Native American Family Story by Kevin Noble Maillard, illustrated by Juana Martinez-Neal
This beautifully written gem celebrates Native American culture through the lens of the food Fry Bread. The repetitive text starts each two-page spread, “Fry bread is…” then descriptive, lyrical verse follows each statement, elaborating on the meaning. “Fry bread is sound / The skillet clangs on the stove / The fire blazes from below / Drop the dough in the skillet / The bubbles sizzle and pop.” This rich text paired with evocative illustrations culminates in a wonderful book that will show children Native American traditions of family, food, and love.

Present Day Picture Books About Indigenous Families and Traditions
Bowwow Powwow
by Brenda J. Child, illustrated by Jonathan Thunder, translated by Gordon Jourdain
ANISHINAABE
Windy Girl and Itchy Boy’s uncle shares stories with them as they all drive to the powwow where it’s a time for gratitude and family, singing and dancing. Windy falls asleep and dreams about powwows from the past — with dogs representing people. When she wakes, she notices the influences of history on the powwows of today. It’s a dual language story is also written in the Ojibwe language. I love the illustrations!

Present Day Picture Books About Indigenous Families and Traditions
Wild Berries
by Julie Flett
CREE
Grandma and Clarence have a tradition of picking berries together.Grandma likes sweet / blueberries / ininimina, / soft blueberries, juicy blueberries. Clarence likes big blueberries, sour blueberries, blueberries that go POP in his mouth.” In nature, the two notice many things — an ant that tickles up Clarence’s leg, a fox, a spider, and birds. Many Cree words, part of the Algonquiana language family, are included throughout this sweet slice-of-life story about a grandma and boy. I love the simplicity of the text as well as the many sound words that give this book a sensory atmosphere.

Thunder Boy Jr
Thunder Boy
by Sherman Alexie, illustrated by Yuyi Morales
Thunder Boy wants a name all his own, not just a littler version of his dad’s name. So he begins brainstorming the best name, all the while figuring out who he is. The story is humorous and playful while placing importance on knowing yourself.

Present Day Picture Books About Indigenous Families and Traditions
We Are Grateful Otsaliheliga
 by Traci Sorell, illustrated by Frane Lessac
CHEROKEE
Cherokee people say otsaliheliga to express gratitude,” begins this celebration of the seasons, traditions, and family. As the families spend time outdoors and indoors, you’ll notice how gratitude encompasses all aspects of life from enjoying a feast for the Cherokee New Year to elder’s sharing stories to kids making corn-husk dolls to even saying goodbye to soldiers serving our country. Each season is written in English and in Cherokee. The pictures are vibrant and colorful. It’s a lovely book honoring Cherokee culture.

Present Day Picture Books About Indigenous Families and Traditions
Jingle Dancer
by Cynthia Leitich Smith, illustrated by Cornelius Van Wright and Ying-Hwa Hu
MUSCOGEE (CREEK) / OJIBWAY (CHIPPEWA / ANISHINABE)
I like this modern-day story about a girl named Jenna wants to have a jingle dress and dance in the powwow just like her Grandma Wolfe. Jenna borrows rows of jingles for her Grandma and three other women dancers which, when she dances, makes her proud to continue their legacy. Readers will notice the traditional powwow dance sharing space with a modern life.

Present Day Picture Books About Indigenous Families and Traditions
Grandmother’s Dreamcatcher
by Becky Ray McCain, illustrated by Stacey Schuett
CHIPPEWA
Kimmy’s dad and mom are in Chicago while Kimmy stays with her grandmother. Her grandmother teaches Kimmy about dreamcatchers to help her keep away bad dreams. Relatable and comforting, this story shows one way to help with separation anxiety.

Picture Books About Present Day Indigenous Families

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  • WELCOME

    Hi! I’m Melissa Taylor, mom, writer, & former elementary teacher & literacy trainer. I love sharing good books & fun learning resources.

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