The search for books on this list came from scouring the American Indian Youth Awards, American Indians in Children’s Literature website, the Birchbark Books catalogue, The Children’s Literature Comprehensive Database, The Cooperative Children’s Book Center (CCBC) website, and from my own personal experience reading and discussing books over the years. The selections come from a very small pool of contenders. There is a dearth of books for young people that feature authentic American Indians and aspects of the Native American culture. Very few books about American Indians for young people are written by American Indians. I interviewed author Joseph Bruchac several years ago for the November 2004 issue of LibrarySparks magazine. He stated, “It’s not a question of a big enough population of Indian writers. They are out there. It’s a struggle for many to get published. There’s a long history of misrepresentation of American Indians. It’s important that these writers are heard.” Hopefully, publishers will finally realize there is a market out there. Check out the list I made for the Children’s Literature Network that features American Indian books for children. There will be some age crossover titles and young adult may find books to their liking there.
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie (Little, Brown, 2007): Arnold makes a big decision when he leaves his reservation school to attend an all-white high school several miles away. American Indian Youth Literature Award, National Book Award.
Code Talker: A Novel about the Navajo Marines of World War Two by Joseph Bruchac (Dial, 2005): Sixteen year old Ned joins the U.S. Marines and uses his native language, which up until now has been robbed from him by his education in white schools, to use a code the Japanese military cannot break. CCBC Choices.
Counting Coup: Becoming a Crow Chief on the Reservation by Joseph Medicine Crow (National Geographic, 2006): When Joseph returns home from fighting in World War II, he learns that his war deeds completed the four requirements to become a chief. Biography. American Indian Youth Literature Award.
High Elk’s Treasure by Virginia Driving Hawk Sneve (Holiday House, 1972): Joe and his sister seek shelter from a storm in a cave. There, they find a strange leather object that turn out to have historical significance.
Jim Thorpe: Original All-American by Joseph Bruchac. (Dial, 2006): Jim is forced to attend the Carlisle Indian School in Pennsylvania, miles from his Oklahoma home. His father told him to “show other races what an Indian can do.” Jim went on to win two gold medals in the Olympics. Biography.
Lana’s Lakota Moons by Virginia Driving Hawk Sneve (University of Nebraska, 2007): Cousins Lori and Lana learn about their Lakota heritage and make friends with Shoua, a Hmong immigrant.
Moccasin Thunder: American Indian Stories for Today, edited by Lori Marie Carlson (HarperCollins, 2005): Ten short stories feature sketches of contemporary American Indian lives. Contributors include Sherman Alexie, Joseph Bruchac, Louise Erdrich, Joy Harjo, and Cynthia Leitich Smith.
My Name Is Not Easy by Debby Dahl Edwardson (Marshall Cavendish, 2011): Luke and his brothers are sent to a boarding school hundreds of miles from their home where they are forbidden to speak their Iñupiaq language.
Night Is Gone, Day Is Still Coming: Stories and Poems by American Indian Teens and Young Adults, edited by Annette Pina Ochoa, Betsy Franco, and Traci L. Gourdine. (Candlewick, 2003): This collection of 57 pieces come from young people ages 11-22 who live all over the country, both rural and urban.
Pipestone: My Life in an Indian Boarding School by Adam Fortunate Eagle (University of Oklahoma Press, 2010): Adam Fortunate Eagle describes student years at the Pipestone Indian Boarding School in Minnesota in the 1930s and 1940s. Biography. American Indian Youth Literature Award.
Rain Is Not My Indian Name by Cynthia Leitich Smith (HarperCollins, 2001): Fourteen year old Rain is grief-stricken over the death of her best friend. She takes a job as a photographer for the local newspaper to cover her Aunt Georgia’s Indian Camp.
Walking on Earth and Touching the Sky: Poetry and Prose by Lakota Youth at Red Cloud Indian School, edited by Timothy P. McLaughlin (Abrams, 2012): Fifth through eighth grade students at the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota share their poetry.
The Warriors by Joseph Bruchac (Darby Creek, 2003): Jake’s life is dramatically changed when he leaves his home on an Algonquin reservation and moves to Washington, D.C. where he’s enrolled at a boarding school.
The Way by Joseph Bruchac (Darby Creek, 2007): Cody, who is starting high school and the target of bullies, wants to be a ninja. His Uncle John, a martial arts expert, comes to town and begins to teach Cody “The Way.”