Youth Book Corner: Indigenous History Month

In honour of National Indigenous History month, our Outreach Coordinator Leena Desai recommends some books for young people that celebrate the heritage, cultures and outstanding accomplishments of Indigenous peoples.

Go Show the World: A Celebration of Indigenous Heroes
Written by Wab Kinew, illustrated by Joe Morse

Celebrated Indigenous journalist, media personality and hip-hop musician Wab Kinew’s book, Go Show the World, is a resounding, full-colour celebration of Indigenous people who changed history. Kinew’s rap song forms the basis of the text of this book that showcases a diverse group of Indigenous people in the US and Canada, both the more well-known and the not- so-widely recognized, from personalities such as Tecumseh and Sacagawea to former NASA astronaut John Herrington and Canadian NHL goalie Carey Price. Award-winning artist Joe Morse’s illustrations accompany Kinew’s rap lyrics, which reiterate the contribution, knowledge and power of Indigenous people. Ages K-4

The Sasquatch, the Fire and the Cedar Baskets
Written by Joseph Dandurand, illustrated by Simon Daniel James

Kwantlen storyteller Joseph Dandurand’s The Sasquatch, the Fire and the Cedar Baskets tells a simple story with a powerful message about the importance of non-interference in the lives of those who have been living one with nature for a long time. In the book, a young Sasquatch raises himself alone in the wild after his parents flee from a fire in their forest. The Sasquatch inhabits the spirit of the great cedar forest which helps him elude human hunters. One day, he falls in love and fathers a daughter. His mate weaves cedar baskets and when a fire threatens to ravage his home again, it is these baskets that douse the fire with water. Dandurand’s simple and profound story is accompanied by whimsical black and white illustrations from Kwakwaka’wakw artist Simon Daniel James. Grades 1-3

What the Eagle Sees: Indigenous Stories of Rebellion and Renewal
Written by Eldon Yellowhorn and Kathy Lowinger

The eagle is an important bird for Indigenous peoples. It flies high and looks over everything and its half-light, half-dark feathers represent their history, both tragic and triumphant. What the Eagle Sees is a book of great ambition and great beauty. It recaps the story of the Indigenous peoples in North America and the challenges, diseases, wars, broken promises and forced assimilation that they faced and fought against. Accompanying the information-packed text are original illustrations, photographs, historical pictures, maps and much more. This is a visually immersive and knowledge-rich book that should be mandatory reading for anyone interested in the history of Indigenous peoples. Grades 6 to 12

How I Survived Four Nights on the Ice
Written by Serapio Ittusardjuat, illustrated by Matthew K. Hoddy

How I Survived Four Nights on the Ice tells the true story of Indigenous author, artist, hunter and mechanic Serapio Ittusardjuat, when he was stranded in the Arctic for four days. One day, on a fishing trip, Ittusardjuat’s snowmobile broke down halfway across the sea ice. Stranded at the top of the world, in the middle of nowhere and with no water to drink, Ittusardjuat tapped into the traditional skills and knowledge he had learned from his parents to protect himself from an unforgiving climate till help arrived. This is a harrowing first-person account that shows young readers that it is possible to survive for a few days in the harshest conditions with the right knowledge and some steely determination. Grades 7 to 12

I Will See You Again
Written and illustrated by Lisa Boivin  

Deninu Kue First Nation interdisciplinary artist and PhD student at University of Toronto’s Faculty of Medicine, Lisa Boivin’s stunning picture book is a meditation on loss and grief. The book follows the author as she learns of her brother’s passing, travels to England to collect his ashes and returns back home to give him a traditional farewell in keeping with Dene traditions. Flowers play an important role in Dene artwork, and in the book they represent dreams, beauty and the spirit world. Boivin uses her background in medicine to vividly depict human anatomy with circular joints and concentric shapes. This is a deeply personal and, at the same time, universal story of grief and coming to terms with the loss of a loved one. Grades 8-12


Leena Desai