7 Indigenous Canadian Children’s Books
In honour of National Indigenous History Month, we’ve gathered 7 amazing children’s books by Indigenous creators to highlight Indigenous perspectives, culture, and experiences. Reading these books are a great way to introduce and celebrate the diverse and vibrant Indigenous cultures across Canada. Or with the discovery of unmarked graves at residential schools in recent years, help start a conversation about this part of Canada’s history.
Like usual we’ve included a short description of the book, an audio/visual version or read aloud video from you tube and a link to borrow the book from Calgary library. This time we’ve also added a short description about the author and where you can find more information about who they are and their stories.
1. Sometimes I Feel Like a River
Written by Danielle Daniel and illustrated by Josée Bisaillon
This book is a lyrical celebration of our relationship to the natural world.
In each of twelve short poems, a child tells us how or why they feel like the sun, a river, a mountain, a cloud, the rain, a forest and more. Their deeply felt connections and identification with these wonders point to how much we are all part of the natural world. Each poem comes to life through vivid, playful illustrations that show the children immersed in their surroundings. The book serves as a gentle call to action — to notice, appreciate, preserve and protect our environment, while delighting in all its beauty.
A mindfulness activity — A Mindful Walk or Roll — invites young readers to use their senses to experience their surroundings to the fullest. Includes a brief author’s note that highlights our connections to the natural world. – Google Books
Danielle Daniel is a writer and artist who born and raised in Sudbury, Ontario, the traditional territory of the Atikameksheng Anishnawbek and the Wahnapitae First Nations. This beautifully rugged and resilient landscape has greatly shaped and inspired her work. You can read more about her books and illustrations here: danielledaniel.com
By Julie Flett
When Katherena and her mother move to a small town, Katherena feels lonely and out of place. But when she meets an elderly woman artist who lives next door, named Agnes––her world starts to change. Katherena and Agnes share the same passions for arts and crafts, birds, and nature. But as the seasons change, can Katherna navigate the failing health of her new friend? Award-winning author and artist Julie Flett’s textured images of birds, flowers, art, and landscapes bring vibrancy and warmth to this powerful story, which highlights the fulfillment of intergenerational relationships, shared passions, and spending time outdoors with the ones we love. Includes a glossary and pronunciation guide to Cree words that appear in the text. – Good reads
Julie Flett is a Cree–Métis author, illustrator, and artist who has received numerous awards for her books, including two Governor General’s Awards, the American Indian Library Association Award, and the TD Canadian Children’s Literature Award. You can read more about Julie and her work here: www.julieflett.com
3. We Sang You Home
Written by Richard Van Camp and illustrated by Julie Flett
In this sweet and lyrical board book from the creators of the bestselling Little You, gentle rhythmic text captures the wonder new parents feel as they welcome baby into the world. A celebration of the bond between parent and child, this is the perfect song to share with your little ones.
Internationally renowned storyteller and bestselling author Richard Van Camp teams up with award-winning illustrator Julie Flett for a second time to create a stunning board book for babies and toddlers. – From Orca Books
Richard Van Camp is a proud Tłı̨chǫ Dene from Fort Smith, NWT. He is the author of 27 books in 27 years. You can read more about Richard and his work here: richardvancamp.com
4. Amik Loves School
Written by Katherna Vermette and illustrated by Irene Kuziw
Amik loves going to school, but when he shares this with his grandfather, he finds out Moshoom attended residential school. At Moshoom's school, students were forbidden from speaking their language. It sounds very different from Amik's school, so Amik has an idea...
In this heartwarming story, an Anishinaabe child shows his grandfather how his school celebrates the culture that residential schools tried to erase. A pronunciation guide for the Anishnaabemowin words can be found at the back of the book.
Amik Loves School is one book in The Seven Teachings Stories series. The Seven Teachings of the Anishinaabe--love, wisdom, humility, courage, respect, honesty, and truth. Set in an urban landscape with Indigenous children as the central characters, these stories about home and family will look familiar to all young readers. Contemporary Indigenous children explore the Seven Teachings through stories of home and family that will look familiar to all young readers in these books for ages 3-5. - Google books
Katherena Vermette (she/her/hers) is a Red River Métis (Michif) writer from Treaty 1 territory, the heart of the Métis Nation, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. Born in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, her Michif roots on her paternal side run deep in St. Boniface, St. Norbert and beyond. Her maternal side is Mennonite from the Altona and Rosenfeld area (Treaty 1). You can find out more about her and her books at: katherenavermette.com
5. When We Were Alone
Written by David A. Robertson and illustrated by Julie Flett
When a young girl helps tend to her grandmother's garden, she begins to notice things about her grandmother that make her curious. Why does her grandmother have long braided hair and wear beautifully coloured clothing?
Why does she speak another language and spend so much time with her family? As she asks her grandmother about these things, she is told about life in a residential school a long time ago, where everything was taken away. When We Were Alone is a story about a difficult time in history and, ultimately, a story of empowerment and strength.
David A. Robertson (he, him, his) was the 2021 recipient of the Writers’ Union of Canada Freedom to Read Award as well as the Globe and Mail Children's Storyteller of the Year. He is the author of numerous books for young readers including When We Were Alone, which won the 2017 Governor General's Literary Award and the McNally Robinson Best Book for Young People Award. You can find our more about David here: www.darobertson.ca
6. On the Trapline
Another book written by David A. Robertson and illustrated by Julie Flett
A picture book celebrating Indigenous culture and traditions. The Governor General Award--winning team behind When We Were Alone shares a story that honors our connections to our past and our grandfathers and fathers. A boy and Moshom, his grandpa, take a trip together to visit a place of great meaning to Moshom. A trapline is where people hunt and live off the land, and it was where Moshom grew up. As they embark on their northern journey, the child repeatedly asks his grandfather, "Is this your trapline?" Along the way, the boy finds himself imagining what life was like two generations ago -- a life that appears to be both different from and similar to his life now. This is a heartfelt story about memory, imagination and intergenerational connection that perfectly captures the experience of a young child's wonder as he is introduced to places and stories that hold meaning for his family. – Penguin Random House Canada
7. Stolen Words
Written by Melanie Florence and illustrated by Gabrielle Grimard
The story of the beautiful relationship between a little girl and her grandfather. When she asks her grandfather how to say something in his language – Cree – he admits that his language was stolen from him when he was a boy. The little girl then sets out to help her grandfather find his language again.
This sensitive and warmly illustrated picture book explores the intergenerational impact of the residential school system that separated young Indigenous children from their families. The story recognizes the pain of those whose culture and language were taken from them, how that pain is passed down, and how healing can also be shared. – Malenieflorence.com
Melanie Florence is an award-winning writer of Cree and Scottish heritage based in Toronto. She was close to her grandfather as a child, a relationship that sparked her interest in writing about Indigenous themes and characters. Read more about Melanie at: www.melanieflorence.com