Celebrating First Nations & Native American Authors
by Laura Larsen
Recently, I was tasked by my supervisor at the Russell Public Library to curate a collection of board and picture books by First Nations and Native American authors and illustrators. We took advantage of the materials recommended by two excellent websites, including Oyate and AICL (American Indians in Children’s Literature). These sites have lists of well-reviewed materials, and we chose a small collection of what we think are some of the best. We have put together not only a beautiful list of titles, but also several kits containing a book and a puppet. The eye catching kits are a hit, and they pair perfectly with the puppets from the Native Northwest catalog, and some of the titles we have in our collection.
You Hold Me Up
by Monique Gray Smith.
Kindness, sharing, learning together, playing and respect. This is a simple book with the strongest of messages. The inscription notes that Gray Smith wrote this book in the spirit of reconciliation. Many First Nations children were separated from their families and placed in Residential Schools. At these schools, they were stripped of their language and way of life. The beautiful, sun-drenched illustrations show a world full of respect and love that we all crave.
My Heart Fills with Happiness
by Monique Gray Smith.
What brings us joy? For this First Nations child, the simple things bring the most happiness. Food, family, home and the natural world bring everyone together. Exuberantly illustrated, this book will make you smile and remember what makes you happy!
Animals of the Salish Sea
by various illustrators from Native Northwest.
Coast Salish First Nations authors and illustrators collaborated on the animal art, which is strikingly produced and described. Each animal has a special meaning and teaches a special message. Owls are messengers of change and keepers of knowledge. Even Sasquatch is pictured as the protector of the forests, and the best at playing hide and seek. There is a coloring book with this title available as well!
*Paired with Native Northwest’s Streamer the Salmon puppet
We All Count: a Book of Cree Numbers
by Julie Flett
This beautifully illustrated board book contains a detailed pronunciation guide for counting from 1-10 in Cree. The pictures show traditional items, people and animals that are important to the Cree. This would be an interesting book to pair with an English or even a Spanish counting book for a fun counting storytime.
*Paired with Sage the Owl Puppet
A Day With Yayah
by Nicola Campbell.
It is spring and Yayah (Grandmother) takes her family to hunt for traditional spring herbs and mushrooms. Yayah asks her grandchildren what each plant is and what it is used for. Like any good grandmother, she warns them away from plants that are bad for people to eat or touch. The illustrations in this picture book are saturated with color. The yellow sunflowers, Yayah’s red head scarf and the deep olive grasses stand out against a turquoise sky as the family has their picnic. At the end of the day, the children give all they have gathered to their elders.
When We Were Alone
by David A. Robertson.
When a little girl asks her grandmother why she wears her hair in braids, and why she has a house where her uncle also lives, her grandmother tells her story. Grandmother explains that as a child, she didn’t live with her parents, but was taken to live at a Residential Home. Her long braids were cut, she was no longer able to see her brother, and she was no longer allowed to speak in her native tongue. She and her brother did the best they could to see each other, and to remember their language and customs. She explains to her grandchild that she wears bright colors, speaks in a different language, and lives in a house with her brother because she can. Grandmother proudly kept her identity despite the hardships she endured.
We Sang You Home
by Richard Van Camp.
This board book is all about the wishes that all parents have for their children. The illustrations glow, highlighting the mother’s and father’s love for this new life and all the promise she brings. This book, which celebrates new life, would be a perfect baby gift.
Counting Wild Bears of the Native Northwest
by Gryn White.
This board book is a bright, fun counting book, showing stylized bears doing everything from sneaking honey from a hive to catching and eating whole salmon! Bears are important to the Native Americans of the Northwest, and are honored in ceremonies by being shown on the regalia they wear.
*Paired with puppet Hunter Bear from Native Northwest.
Events at the Russell Library
- Slime Science, for grades 3-5, January 16, 5-6 p.m. Two different slimes every time!
- Homeschool Hub, for preschool to 4th grade, January 15, 1-2 p.m. Meet new friends, make a craft or play a game.
- Tween Trivia, for grades 5-8, January 9, 5-6 p.m. Play Kahoot with Kate, see if she can stump you!
The Russell Library is located at 123 Broad Street in Middletown. For more information, call 860-344-8479 or visit www.russelllibrary.org.
Laura Larsen is the Youth and Family Librarian at the Russell Library.