Cover of the children’s book The Song Within My Heart | Image source: Strong Nations
The beginning of May marked Canadian Children’s Book Week where family reading is celebrated and promoted across the country, First Nations Communities Read also announced their shortlisted selections for the 2016-2017 Periodical Marketers of Canada Aboriginal Literature Award with the winner to be announced on June 23, for Aboriginal Day celebrations. In celebration of Indigenous stories for children here are nine must read Indigenous children’s books written and illustrated by Indigenous authors and artists.
1. Dragonfly Kites Tomson Highway (Cree) Strong Nations 2016
This is the third book in Tomson Highway’s Songs of the North Wind trilogy. The story follows the summer adventures of two young Cree brothers, Joe and Cody in northern Manitoba. Highway creates a beautiful story about the power of imagination as the brothers spend time chasing their dragonfly kites through the trees, meadows and beaches. Highway is a celebrated pianist, author and playwright.
2. Emma’s Gift by Deborah L. Delaronde (Métis) Kegedonce 2014
Emma’s gift is about a young girl who learns the true meaning of her community’s yearly King’s Day Celebration when her grandmother hurts her ankle. King’s Day is similar to Christmas, celebrating the birth of Christ. Emma reluctantly helps her grandmother prepare and serve the King’s Day meal and discovers that King’s Day is about not only exchanging presents, but being with friends and family. Deborah L. Delaronde has published eight stories and won the 2015 Beatrice Mosionier Aboriginal Writer of the Year Award (Manitoba Book Awards).
3. Goodbye Buffalo Bay by Larry Loyie (Cree) Theytus Bestseller 2016
Goodbye Buffalo Bay chronicles the life of Lawrence, a young teenage boy during his final year at residential school and his struggles afterwards. Author, Larry Loyie grew up living a traditional Cree life until he attended St. Bernard Mission Residential School in Grouard, Alberta. Goodbye Buffalo Bay mirrors the time he spent at St. Bernard.
4. Moonshot by Various Artists Alternate History Comics 2015
Moonshot uses a variety of Indigenous writers and artists to bring forth a combination of genuine traditional stories and futuristic tales involving Indigenous protagonists. The book features stories from the Tlicho, Algonquin, and Inuit culture that were published with permission from the Elders of their respective communities. Some of the authors features are Buffy Sainte-Maire and Métis artist, Stephen Gladue.
5. Sweetest Kulu by Celina Kalluk (Inuit) Inhabit Media 2013
This book is perfect for new parents. Sweetest Kulu is a beautiful bedtime poem told from the perspective of a mother speaking to her child – her ‘Kulu,’ an Inuktitut term of endearment for babies and young children. It describes the gifts given to a newborn baby by all the animals of the Arctic. Celina Kalluk is a celebrated Inuit throat singer and this her debut book.
6. The Apple Tree by Sandy Tharpe-Thee (Cherokee) Roadrunner Press 2015
The Apple Tree is told in English and translated into Cherokee alongside a Cherokee syllabus. The book explores the relationship Indigenous people have with their surroundings. Once a Cherokee boy plants an apple seed to grow a tree, the little tree grows up unsure of itself. After apples fail to appear on the tree, the young and impatient apple tree needs convincing from the boy to give the seasons the time to work their magic. Sandy Tharpe-Thee is a tribal librarian who is a descendant of the survivors of the Cherokee Trail of Tears.
7. The Outside Circle by Patti Laboucane-Benson (Métis) House of Anansi Press 2015
Another graphic novel, The Outside Circle follows the lives of two Aboriginal brothers, Pete and Joey, who grow up surrounded by poverty, drug abuse and gang violence. One night Pete gets into a fight with his mother’s boyfriend, killing him, and getting sent to jail. Initially Pete stays involved with his negative ties only to realize the influence it has on his younger brother Joey and changes his lifestyle. Author Patti Laboucane-Benson has a Ph.D in Human Ecology and does research on historic trauma healing opportunities in Aboriginal communities.
8. The Song Within My Heart by David Bouchard (Métis) Strong Nations 2015
The Song Within My Heart is a beautiful story about a young Indigenous boy who is preparing for his first pow wow with his Nokum – grandmother – who guides him through the day and watches over him as the day goes by. Renown late Cree Artist, Allen Sapp (January 2, 1928 – December 29, 2015) complements the story with his stunning artwork. During his life Sapp won numerous awards including the Officer of the Order of Canada. Author, David Bouchard has written over 20 children’s book including classics like, The Elders Are Watching and Qu’Appelle.
9. The Thundermaker by Allan Syliboy (Mi’kmaw) Nimbus 2015
The Thundermaker is based on a multi-media exhibit created by Alan Syliboy and carries the same name. Little Thunder is learning from his father, Big Thunder, about the traditional teachings and stories of his people – the Mi’kmaw – about why it is so important to make thunder. Syliboy’s illustrations bring the brings the story of Little Thunder to life. Syliboy is an established artist renown for large scale installations; his work was featured in the Vancouver 2010 Olympics.