Wednesday, July 28, 2010

2010: Best Books Recommended for Elementary School

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Editor's Note: January 18, 2014 - The title of this post has been edited to reflect its year of publication. See also 2013: Top Ten Books Recommended for Elementary School

If I was starting a library in an elementary school, these are the first ten books I'd buy. In reading these books, students would be reading stories Native writers create about Native people and places. The books I list here include fiction, historical fiction, traditional story, and poetry.
  • Campbell, Nicola. Shi-shi-etko
  • Campbell, Nicola. Shin-chi's Canoe
  • Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes. Beaver Steals Fire: A Salish Coyote Story
  • Harjo, Joy. The Good Luck Cat
  • Messinger, Carla. When the Shadbush Blooms
  • Ortiz, Simon J. The Good Rainbow Road/Rawa 'kashtyaa'tsi hiyaani: A Native American Tale
  • Sockabasin, Allen J. Thanks to the Animals
  • Smith, Cynthia Leitich. Jingle Dancer
  • Tingle, Tim. Crossing Bok Chitto (If you can, also get When Turtle Grew Feathers and Saltypie)
  • Waboose, Jan Bourdeau. SkySisters
For annotations, see my article Native Voices in School Library Journal.

See also:
Top Ten Books Recommended for Middle School
Top Ten Books Recommended for High School

Download a pdf titled "Selecting Children's and Young Adult Literature about American Indians that includes an introduction and all three "Top Ten" lists.


ax2groin said...

If you create a "list" on, I think it increases the likelihood of these books being recommended and being recommended together. Could be a good way to promoting good literature.

Casie said...

thanks for the list! here are a few more of my favs:

_The Birchbark House_ by Louise Erdrich (Ojibwa)
_Where the Red Fern Grows_ by Wilson Rawl (Cherokee)
_Crossing Bok Chitto_ by Tim Tingle (Choctaw)

Debbie Reese said...


Birchbark House is on my list for middle school. Grade levels are so ambiguous!

Do you also have the next two books in Erdrich's series: THE GAME OF SILENCE and PORCUPINE YEAR?

Maria Morrison said...

Check out our Aboriginal/First Nation books for education and literacy providers.

Pragmatic Mom said...

Great list! I would love to repost on my blog, linking to you and crediting you, of course!

Anonymous said...

I'd like to know what you think about Thompson Highway's three children's picture books:
Caribou Song;
Dragonfly Kites;
Fox on the Ice.

Debbie Reese said...

They are excellent and should be on the list. That's a problem with lists like this... For those who don't know his books, they feature a Cree family, are set in the present day, and include Cree text and English. AND they were published by a major publishing house... who let them go out of print. I think they may be available in used bookstores. I wrote about them here:

Karen Gorss said...

I wonder if you would consider recommending some preschool-age books.

I am about to buy Barbara Joosse's _Mama, do you love me?_ for a couple of baby nieces but would feel more confident if I had your opinion. As far as I can tell it checks out with Oyate's criteria, except for the fact that it is about an Inuit mother-child dyad and the author and illustrator have no non-European heritage that I can discover.

I have found your blog very helpful and educational over the years. Thank you for writing it.

S. Mozer said...

This is a great list, thanks.

Vive...rie...ama said...

Thank you so much for your list on amazon! That is how I found your web site, and I will be perusing the different pages:). I am wondering if you have a post about talking to kids about Thanksgiving? Thanks for sharing-

Anonymous said...

I found you via Wikipedia, having done a search for 'american indian history children's literature.' I wanted a counterpoint to Little House on the Prairie after reading it to my six-year-old daughter. I am grateful for your work and for the authors who are filling this gap in the literary canon. It has great impact. Children can be reared with compassion and reverence if they are given all sides of the story. Thank you for making it possible.

Sam Skar said...


Do you have any recommendations for books about westward expansion from Native Americans point of view?

Debbie Reese said...


The ones that come to mind right away are by Michael Dorris. Check out GUESTS and MORNING GIRL. And most definitely, see the four books in Louise Erdrich's BIRCHBARK HOUSE series.

Vicky said...

Thank you for this list. I am going to check these out. I wonder what you think of the book Fatty Legs by Christy Jordan-Fenton?

Anonymous said...

Hi Debbie,

Just wanted to thank you for all your hardwork. I'm a brand new teacher starting out with a kindergarten class in Ahousaht, BC, and I'm using your Best Books lists to start our class library!

Many thanks - you make using high-quality Aboriginal literature an easy and obvious choice!

Aida said...

Hi Debbie my name is Aida I live in Palmdale California, I am a daycare provider and Preschool teacher working in my family daycare. I am new to Indian literature that I can read for my babies and preschoolers. I am Mexican so would you please recommend some books that are age appropriate so I can add them to my library. It will help a lot and I am going to start reading the books that you have posted here for older children so I can get more knowledge on Indian literature. Thank You. I will follow you and post your link in face so people can get more understanding about Indian literature and get to know a little bit more of your culture.

Debbie Reese said...

Here you go, Aida:

Wendy from Maryland said...

I was so glad to see the book, When the Shadbush Blooms, on your list. I teach a class for a Historical Society and my class is life in this town in the 1800's. Each month it is a different topic. When I teach about Native Americans, I explain they use to hunt and visit in the summers in this area in the 1700's. I love this book because it shows a Native American family now and generations ago. I have tried to be as accurate as possible with these young children. It is nice to know that the book I have chosen, is on one that is recommended by you. Thank you!