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Indigenous Author Spotlight

Hey everyone! It’s the perfect time of year to get cozy, snuggle up by the fire, and read some good books! This week, we thought it would be a fun idea to share novels and stories by some amazing Indigenous authors! Indigenous authors play an incredibly important role in sharing their perspectives and narratives through storytelling. With that being said, here are a few books by Indigenous authors for youth of all ages!

Book title: You Hold Me Up

Author: Monique Gray Smith

Illustrator: Danielle Daniel

This is a colourful picture book that is essential for youth because it explores how to create healthy relationships and offer support to your loved ones. It encourages children to think about the wellbeing of others in their actions. It also shows how having empathy builds a healthier, more loving community!

About the author: Monique Gray Smith is a Cree-Lakota writer of children's and young adult literature. She is also an international speaker and consultant. Smith is based in Victoria, British Columbia.

Genre: picture book, children’s book

Age group: 3-5 years

Book title: Birdsong

Author: Julie Flett

Illustrator: Julie Flett

This picture book is another beautiful narrative that touches upon intergenerational relationships, the important role that elders play within communities, and the significance of art and nature within the world. The story follows an Indigenous girl named Katherina who moves to a new town. Since she’s new, she feels lonely and out of place. However, all of that starts to change when Agnes, elderly artist next door, forms a bond with her. Together, they connect over their passion for art, birds, and nature. Furthermore, they spend time trying to learn about each other’s cultures, as Katherina shares her Cree perspectives while Agnes recites stories about her rural life.

About the author: Julie Flett is a Cree-Métis author and illustrator. She is known for her work in children's literature centered around the life and cultures of Indigenous Peoples. Her works have been awarded the Governor General's Literary Award and the TD Canadian Children's Literature Award.

Genre: picture book, children’s book

Age group: 12 years or under

Book title: Surviving the City (Series)

Author: Tasha Spillet-Summer

Illustrator: Natasha Donovan, Donovan Yaciuk

Trigger warning: Misgendering, discussion of police brutality

This is a powerful series about the importance of friendship, connection building, and acceptance. The novels explore gender protocols and diversity, as well as community resilience. The story follows the main character, Dez, who spends her time in a group home after the loss of her grandmother. Meanwhile, Dez also navigates her relationship with her girlfriend, Kacey, as a Two-Spirit person. Throughout the story, Dez and her other friends make the community a better and more accepting place towards people of various genders and ethnicities.

About the author: Tasha Spillet is a Cree-Trinidadian author and educator. She has illustrated a number of picture books including: Shanyaak'utlaax: Salmon Boy, which was the winner of the 2018 American Indian Youth Literature Best Picture Book Award, and the New York Times bestselling and Caldecott Award-winning book, We Are Water Protectors.

Genre: graphic novel, fiction, comics

Age group: 11+

Book Title: Ancestor Approved: Intertribal Stories for Kids

Author: Cynthia Leitich Smith

Illustrator: Nicole Neidhardt, Molly Fehr

This book is a collection of poems and stories all set at a powwow. Every piece within the book deals with themes of fostering Indigeneity within the community and strengthening Indigenous pride. Ancestor Approved aims to showcase how Indigenous youth, communities, and nations at large are all full of heroes that have valuable ideas to share.

About the author: Cynthia Leitich Smith is a member of the Muscogee Creek Nation. She is a New York Times best-selling author of fiction for children and young adults. She was named the inaugural Katherine Paterson Chair in 2020. In addition, she was the winner of the 2021 NSK Neustadt Prize for Children’s Literature.

Genre: Middle grade fiction

Age group: 9-15 years old

Book title: This Place: 150 Years Retold

Author: Kateri Akiwenzie-Damm, Jen Strom

Illustrator: Scott Henderson, Donovan Yaciuk

This graphic novel is an anthology that explores the genre of magic realism, from characters having psychic powers to actual time travel taking place -- it’s safe to see why these stories are magical. This Place contains a collection of ten narratives all told by a group of talented Indigenous narrators and illustrators that share the triumphs and tribulations they have faced throughout the past 150 years, in the place we now call Canada the last 150 years.

About the author: Kateri Akiwenzie-Damm is an Anishinaabe writer, poet, and performer. She has worked as a lecturer, communications consultant, and even created her own publishing firm in 1993, which she is still an editor at today.

Genres: Graphic novel, comics, fiction, magic realism, science fiction

Age group: 15 years+

Book title: A Blanket of Butterflies

Author: Richard Van Camp

Illustrator: Scott Henderson, Donovan Yaciuk, Nickolei Villiger

Trigger Warning: Allusions to World War II, violence

This graphic novel creatively explores the importance of human and community connection. The story follows Sonny, a young Tłı̨chǫ Dene boy, and his grandmother, as they help a Japanese man named Shinobu find his grandfather's samurai sword and battle scary giants to keep the harmony of their community intact.

About the author: Richard Van Camp is a Dogrib Tłı̨chǫ writer from the Dene Nation. He has won multiple awards and accolades for his works. One of his most popular works, The Lesser Blessed, has also been turned into a film of the same name. He currently also works at the University of British Columbia and Emily Carr Institute as a Creative Writing professor.

Genres: graphic novel, comic, fiction, action

Age group: 15+

We hope you enjoyed these recommendations and that they have inspired you to read something enjoyable this holiday season! Happy reading!

Author: Ginuki, ITMP Blog Writer

Editor: Misha, ITMP Blog Coordinator

Photo Credits, in order of appearance: Janko Ferlič via Unsplash, Danielle Daniel via Orca Book Publishers, Julie Flett via Cedar Lake, Natasha Donovan via Portage & Main Press, Nicole Neidhardt and Molly Fehr via HarperCollins Canada, Scott Henderson via Portage & Main Press, Scott Henderson via HighWater Press


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