Happy Indigenous People’s Day! This holiday has replaced the horror that was Columbus Day and is now instead used to celebrate native peoples that have been irreparably harmed by colonization.
Cynthia Leitich Smith
One of my favorite books this year has been Ancestor Approved. It it a wonderful anthology from many Native writers collected by Cynthia Leitich Smith. Smith is important in her own right, she is the 2021 NSK Neustadt Laureate and a New York Times bestselling author of books for young readers, including HEARTS UNBROKEN, which won the American Indian Library Association’s Youth Literature Award. Her 2021 releases are the middle grade anthology ANCESTOR APPROVED: INTERTRIBAL STORIES FOR KIDS and novel SISTERS OF THE NEVERSEA.
She is also the author-curator of Heartdrum, a Native-focused imprint at HarperCollins Children’s Books, and serves as the Katherine Paterson Inaugural Endowed Chair on the faculty of the MFA program in Writing for Children and Young Adults at Vermont College of Fine Arts. Cynthia is a citizen of the Muscogee Nation and lives in Austin, Texas.
Native families from Nations across the continent gather at the Dance for Mother Earth Powwow in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
In a high school gym full of color and song, people dance, sell beadwork and books, and celebrate friendship and heritage. Young protagonists will meet relatives from faraway, mysterious strangers, and sometimes one another (plus one scrappy rez dog).
They are the heroes of their own stories.
Featuring stories and poems by:
David A. Robertson
Andrea L. Rogers
Cynthia Leitich Smith
Monique Gray Smith
Erika T. Wurth
In partnership with We Need Diverse Books. This book and the stories within filled me with a range of emotions I was happy, sad, amused, and very hungry as we don’t have any of the food described in my town. This book as important as it draws from a variety of points of view and really brings you into the Powwow. It’s just a sense of joy coming from the book and makes me happy to read.
Also find my review of Ancestor Approved here: Ancestor Approved
One of my other favorite native authors is Christine Day she’s written a few books but the one that really spoke to me this year after having an injury was The Sea in Winter. Christine Day (Upper Skagit) grew up in Seattle, nestled between the sea, the mountains, and the pages of her favorite books. Her debut novel, I Can Make This Promise, was a best book of the year from Kirkus, School Library Journal, NPR, and the Chicago Public Library, as well as a Charlotte Huck Award Honor Book, and an American Indian Youth Literature Award Honor Book. Her second novel, The Sea in Winter, was an Indie Kids’ Next List selection, a Junior Library Guild selection, and the recipient of three starred reviews. She also wrote the forthcoming She Persisted: Maria Tallchief, an early reader biography in a new series inspired by Chelsea Clinton’s bestselling picture book. Christine lives in the Pacific Northwest with her family.
The Sea in Winter
It’s been a hard year for Maisie Cannon, ever since she hurt her leg and could not keep up with her ballet training and auditions.
Her blended family is loving and supportive, but Maisie knows that they just can’t understand how hopeless she feels. With everything she’s dealing with, Maisie is not excited for their family midwinter road trip along the coast, near the Makah community where her mother grew up.
But soon, Maisie’s anxieties and dark moods start to hurt as much as the pain in her knee. How can she keep pretending to be strong when on the inside she feels as roiling and cold as the ocean?
This is a Heartdrum publication and while it’s not an out right happy book it has it’s sweet moments and deals with the important subjects of how tough it is to recover from injury and give up something you love and what you can find in the interim that might be worth more than you were expecting.
You can find my review here: The Sea in Winter
This was a read from last year when I did IndigAThon which I plan to do again.
Celina Kalluk was born and raised in Resolute Bay, Nunavut, to Zipporah Kalluk and Leonard Thibodeau. Celina has two brothers and five sisters, one sister-niece, and many more beautiful nieces and nephews. She also has four daughters of her own, Jazlin, Aulaja, Saima, and Ramata. She dedicates her book The Sweetest Kulu to all the mothers and fathers of this earth and to our wonderful children. Celina is also a visual artist and has illustrated several book covers and other literacy materials. Currently, she is the Inuktitut Language Specialist and Cultural Arts teacher for grades seven through twelve at Qarmartalik School in Resolute Bay. Sweetest Kulu is her first book for children.
“Dream a little, Kulu, this world now sings a most beautiful song of you.”
This beautiful bedtime poem, written by acclaimed Inuit throat singer Celina Kalluk, describes the gifts given to a newborn baby by all the animals of the Arctic.
Lyrically and tenderly told by a mother speaking to her own little Kulu; an Inuktitut term of endearment often bestowed upon babies and young children, this visually stunning book is infused with the traditional Inuit values of love and respect for the land and its animal inhabitants
This is just a happy book, the author brought the animals of the artic alive for the reader. And after hearing her sing you can just imagine the book sung, it’s a beautiful piece of work and I hope to see more from her.
You can find my review here: Sweetest Kulu
Strong Nations Book Publishing: Sweetest Kulu
While these are wonderful authors and I’m happy to have read them. Don’t forget the tons of native, indigenous, or whatever they prefer to be call in your own community and around the world. Don’t let this time of the only time of the year you think or read about native people. As a quote on Instagram pointed out they are native other days of the year to and desperately need more attention from the middle grade and YA book world.