Tuesday, December 10, 2019

AICL's Best Books of 2019

Below is American Indians in Children's Literature's list of Best Books published in 2019.  Because we are not able to read and review every book that comes out in a given year by the time we create our annual Best Books list, we ask that you come back from time to time to see if we've added anything since your last visit (an "added on [date]" note will be included with books we add after we publish this list). 

Books are presented (primarily) by age of reader(s) but please don't assume that a teen can't get something from a picture book, or that a young adult book is inaccessible to upper elementary or middle grade readers. Your best strategy on selecting books is to get the book and read it yourself to see if it will work with your intended audience. 

In parentheses following the names of individuals, we provide information about each person's identity, such as tribal affiliation or citizenship in a country. This is in keeping with what we did in the index to An Indigenous Peoples' History of the United States for Young People. Doing this is part of "unmaking the white default." If we have an error in how we've listed you, please let us know.

We hope you share this list with parents, teachers, librarians, caregivers, professors... anybody who works with children and books! And if you know of a book that we did not list, please let us know in the comments.

And, we find ourselves in an awkward spot! Our adaptation of Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz's An Indigenous Peoples' History of the United States came out in 2019. We hope you'll get it. We're including it in the list, based on the review it received from the @OfGlades team at Indigo's Bookshelf. 



Comics and Graphic Novels

  • Akiwenzie-Damm, Kateri (Chippewa of Nawash First Nation), Sonny Assu (Liǥwildaʼx̱w of the Kwakwaka’wakw Nations), Brandon Mitchell (Mi'kmaq), Rachel Qitsualik-Tinsley (Inuit-Cree), Sean Qitsualik-Tinsley (Scottish-Mohawk), David A. Robertson (Norway House Cree Nation), Niigaawewidam James Sinclair (Anishinaabe), Jen Storm (Ojibway, Couchiching First Nation), Richard Van Camp, Katherena Vermette, Chelsea Vowell (Métis); foreword by Alicia Elliott (Tuscarora, Six Nations of the Grand River), and illustrated by Tara Audibert (Wolatoqiyik), Kyle Charles, (Whitefish Lake First Nation) GMB Chomichuk (White), Natasha Donovan (Métis Nation of British Columbia), Scott B. Henderson (White), Ryan Howe (White), Andrew Lodwick (White), Jen Storm; Colour by Scott A. Ford (White) and Donovan Yaciuk (White). This Place: 150 Years Retold. Portage & Main Press. Canada. [Review forthcoming.]
  • Vermette, Katherena (Métis), and Scott B. Henderson (White) and Donovan Yaciuk (White). Red River Resistance (A Girl Called Echo book). Highwater Press, Canada.
  • Visaggio, Magdalene (White), Darcie Little Badger (Lipan Apache), art by Guillermo Sanna; cover by Dan Panosian. Strangelands (series). Humanoids, United States.

Board Books

  • Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa. Gitige She/He GardensBlack Bears and Blueberries Publishing, USA. Review added on 1/28/2020.
  • Joseph, Kaal.atk' Charlie (Tlingit),  Hlii'ilaang Kun 'Langay family (Haida), HIGaa'xatgu 'Laanaas family (Haida), Haayk Foundation, Nancy Barnes (Tlingit), illustrations by Crystal Kaakeeyaa Worl. Cradle Songs of Southeast Alaska. Sealaska Heritage. Added 1/28/2020.
  • Van Camp, Richard (Tlicho Nation). Photos by Tea & Bannock, a blog by Indigenous women photographers. May We Have Enough To ShareOrca Book Publishers. Canada. 

Picture Books
  • Blaeser, Kimberly (Minnesota Chippewa Tribe), illustration by Marlena Myles (Spirit Lake Dakota/Mohegan/Muscogee). Flights in Thanku: Poems of Gratitude, edited by Miranda Paul (White). Millbrook/Lerner, United States. 
  • Flett, Julie (Cree-Métis). BirdsongGreystone Books. Canada. 
  • Lindstrom, Carole (Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians), illustration by Marlena Myles (Spirit Lake Dakota/Mohegan/Muscogee). Drops of Gratitude in Thanku: Poems of Gratitude, edited by Miranda Paul (White). Millbrook/Lerner, United States.
  • Maillard, Kevin Noble (Seminole Nation, Mekusukey Band), illustrated by Juana Martinez (Peruvian). Fry Bread: A Native American Family Tradition. Roaring Book Press (Macmillan). USA. 
Note about Fry Bread: the endpapers include names of over 500 tribal nations with a nation-to-nation relationship with the United States, but it also includes several groups recognized by a state (like the group anyone on earth can join--for a price--called the United Cherokee Nation that is recognized by the state of Alabama, but its offices are in New Mexico).  Those endpapers are empowering to legitimate nations, but inclusion of sketchy ones is of significant concern because including them legitimizes the harm they do. 
  • Minnema, Cheryl (Ojibwe), illustrated by Julie Flett (Cree-Métis). Johnny's Pheasant. University of Minnesota Press, United States. 
  • Peacock, Thomas. (Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa), illustrated by Annette S. Lee (Ojibwe and D/Lakota). The Forever Sky. Minnesota Historical Society Press. Added on 4/10/2020.
  • Peacock, Thomas (Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa), illustrated by Jacqueline Paske Gill (White). The Dancers. Amazon On Demand Publishing LLC. USA. [Review forthcoming]
  • Smith, Cynthia Leitich (Muscogee Creek Nation), illustrated by Marlena Myles (Spirit Lake Dakota/Mohegan/Muscogee). Stories for Dinner in Thanku: Poems of Gratitude, edited by Miranda Paul (White). Millbrook/Lerner, United States.
  • Sorell, Traci (Cherokee), illustrated by Weshoyot Alvitre (Tongva/Scots-Gaelic). At the Mountain's BasePenguin. United States.
  • Sorell, Traci (Cherokee), illustrated by Marlena Myles (Spirit Lake Dakota/Mohegan/Muscogee). College Degree in Thanku: Poems of Gratitude, edited by Miranda Paul (White). Millbrook/Lerner, United States.
  • Vermette, Katherena (Métis), illustrated by Julie Flett (Cree-Métis). The Girl and the Wolf. Theytus Books. Canada.

For Middle Grades
  • Coulson, Art (Cherokee), illustrated by Hvresse Christie Blair Tiger (Muskogee Creek). The Reluctant StorytellerBenchmark Education. United States.
  • Day, Christine (Upper Skagit). I Can Make This PromiseHarperCollins. United States. 
  • Dunbar Ortiz, Roxanne (White). An Indigenous Peoples' History of the United States for Young PeopleAdapted by Jean Mendoza (White) and Debbie Reese (Nambé Pueblo). Beacon Books, USA.  
  • Gyetxw, Hetxw'ms (Brett D. Huson) and Natasha Donovan (Métis). The Grizzly Mother. Highwater Press. Canada. 
  • Hutchinson, Michael (Misipawistik Cree Nation). The Case of Windy Lake (Mighty Muskrat Mystery Series). Second Story Press, Canada.
  • Hutchinson, Michael (Misipawistik Cree Nation). The Case of the Missing Auntie. (Mighty Muskrat Mystery Series). Second Story Press, Canada. 
  • McManis, Charlene Willing (Grand Ronde), with Traci Sorell (Cherokee). Indian No MoreTu Books, United States. 
  • Smith, Cynthia Leitich (Muscogee Creek). A Girl's Best Friend in The Hero Next Door. Crown Books for Young Readers. USA.
  • Weiden, David Heska Wanbli (Sicangu Lakota), illustrated by Jim Yellowhawk (Itazipco Band, Cheyenne River Sioux) & Pat Kinsella (White). Spotted Tail. Reycraft Books. USA. Added on 12/11/19.

For High School

Cross-Over Books (Written for adults; appeal to young adults)
  • Rendon, Marcie (White Earth Anishinabe). Girl Gone Missing. Cinco Puntos Press. USA. [Review forthcoming]  


Picture Books


Wina Mortenson said...

My library just purchases 'Fry Bread', and I looked on the end papers to find the "United Cherokee Nation that is recognized by the state of Alabama, but its offices are in New Mexico". Is there a chance they have removed that from the publication? I can only find "United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians", which is headquarted in Tahlequah,Oklahoma. They all seem to be in alphabetical order, so I'm assuming the "sketchy" organization you sited has been removed. Good news. Wina Mortenson, Galesville Public Library, Wisconsin

Sarah Lusakbi said...

I'm a public librarian and I have heard from our selectors that they want to buy more diverse and inclusive books but "don't know how" to find the best ones. Instead of just sending them a list again, I am hoping to give them good resources that they can consult and learn from so that it doesn't all fall on me as one of the two Indigenous librarians in our system. So I am going to forward them a link to your site, but I was wondering if you knew of another site or person that is doing the same work you are but for adult books?

Debbie Reese said...


Lot of people ask me if there's a site that focuses on books for adult readers, but as far as I know, there isn't. The best option I know of is the book review sections in issues of Study of American Indian Literatures. Some are online here: https://sites.uwm.edu/asail/sail-publications/sail-1989-present/

Today, I was asked if there's a site that focuses on video games. I'm asking if anybody is doing that. If I find good info I'll be back to add it here.

Kristen Suagee-Beauduy said...

Dear Dr. Reese,
I read this year in the Librarians of Color Facebook group we here that many people have stopped capitalizing "white" when describing ethnicity/race because white supremacists capitalize the word. I made the change myself once I learned. I found this article today because I was curious what AP was doing since they had finally started capitalizing Indigenous and Black rather recently: https://apnews.com/article/7e36c00c5af0436abc09e051261fff1f. I notice that you are capitalizing "white" in the original post. I'm curious-- have you changed that since this post or do you agree with the folks who think it should be capitalized?

Best Regards,
Kristen Suagee-Beauduy, Library Specialist, Venito Garcia Library, Tohono O'odham Nation, Sells, AZ

Debbie Reese said...

Hi, Kristen,

Jean and I will talk about it and then make sure we're consistent.

When you say "original" post, I'm not sure what post you mean. I don't think we've changed anything in this Best Books of 2019 one. Can you elaborate?


Kristen Suagee-Beauduy said...

Good morning, Dr. Reese.

I commented because I was curious about your opinion on the usage of "white" versus "White" because there's not a cross-discipline professional consensus at the moment, as far as I can tell.

I used the phrase "original post" because I didn't know if you would change the capitalization in the January 2020 post after my comment on it in December 2020--I have gotten confused reading things online when people make edits after people comment because some platforms (like Bibliocommons) don't show an "originally published" date after you make edits.

Thank you for your time,