Book List: The Indigenous Collection

Reading Lists Book List: The Indigenous Collection

Like many cultures, Indigenous people use storytelling as a way to share customs, history and heritage. As they explored their land, storytelling became an important tool. It was used to pass down traditions, such as local customs, how to live off the land, and how to survive in the natural environment in which they lived. We are working to weave more Indigenous culture into our work, including the collection of books at the Children’s Reading Place.

Here are a few books that we love by Indigenous children’s authors from across Canada.

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Richard Van Camp, internationally renowned storyteller and bestselling author of the hugely successful Welcome Song for Baby: A Lullaby for Newborns, has partnered with talented illustrator Julie Flett to create a tender board book for babies and toddlers that honors the child in everyone. With its delightful contemporary illustrations, Little You is perfect to be shared, read or sung to all the little people in your life—and the new little ones on the way!

When a young girl helps tend to her grandmother’s garden, she begins to notice things that make her curious. Why does her grandmother have long, braided hair and beautifully coloured clothing? Why does she speak another language and spend so much time with her family? As she asks her grandmother about these things, she is told about life in a residential school a long time ago, where all of these things were taken away. When We Were Alone is a story about a difficult time in history, and, ultimately, one of empowerment and strength.

When We Were Alone won the 2017 Governor General’s Literary Award in the Young People’s Literature (Illustrated Books) category, and was nominated for the TD Canadian’s Children’s Literature Award.

The story of the beautiful relationship between a little girl and her grandfather. When she asks her grandfather how to say something in his language – Cree – he admits that his language was stolen from him when he was a boy. The little girl then sets out to help her grandfather find his language again. This sensitive and warmly illustrated picture book explores the intergenerational impact of the residential school system that separated young Indigenous children from their families. The story recognizes the pain of those whose culture and language were taken from them, how that pain is passed down, and how healing can also be shared.

This vibrant picture book, beautifully illustrated by celebrated artist Danielle Daniel, encourages children to show love and support for each other and to consider each other’s well-being in their everyday actions.

Consultant, international speaker and award-winning author Monique Gray Smith wrote You Hold Me Up to prompt a dialogue among young people, their care providers and educators about reconciliation and the importance of the connections children make with their friends, classmates and families. This is a foundational book about building relationships, fostering empathy and encouraging respect between peers, starting with our littlest citizens.

In this introduction to the Anishinaabe tradition of totem animals, young children explain why they identify with different creatures such as a deer, beaver or moose. Delightful illustrations show the children wearing masks representing their chosen animal, while the few lines of text on each page work as a series of simple poems throughout the book.

In a brief author’s note, Danielle Daniel explains the importance of totem animals in Anishinaabe culture and how they can also act as animal guides for young children seeking to understand themselves and others.

The sun on your face. The smell of warm bannock baking in the oven. Holding the hand of someone you love. What fills your heart with happiness? This beautiful board book, with illustrations from celebrated artist Julie Flett, serves as a reminder for little ones and adults alike to reflect on and cherish the moments in life that bring us joy.
International speaker and award-winning author Monique Gray Smith wrote My Heart Fills with Happiness to support the wellness of Indigenous children and families, and to encourage young children to reflect on what makes them happy.

You can find these along with other books representing Indigenous culture at the Children’s Reading Place in Inglewood, Calgary.