Coming of Age: American Indian Heritage

These stories focus on the transition from childhood to adulthood in historic and contemporary settings, with information about coming-of-age rituals and ceremonies, as well as the challenges and adventures that mark a turning point in the young protagonists' lives.

Daughter of Suqua

Illustrated by: Paul Micich
Age Level: Middle Grade

"It is 1905, and Ida, 10, lives with her parents and grandmother among their people, the Suquamish, on an island off the coast of Washington. The story revolves around their struggle to maintain their identity; first as a family, and second as a tribe when the U.S. government resettles them on allotted lands and enrolls their children in 'American' schools. Readers will identify with Ida's need to be with her friends and family and her despair over being sent away to a white boarding school.

Apple in the Middle

Painting of young adolescent girl
Age Level: Middle Grade

Apple Starkington turned her back on her Native American heritage the moment she was called a racial slur. After her wealthy father gives her the boot one summer, Apple reluctantly agrees to visit her Native American relatives on the Turtle Mountain Indian Reservation in northern North Dakota for the first time. Apple learns to deal with the culture shock of Indian customs and the Native Michif language, while she tries to find a connection to her dead mother.

Belle of Batoche

Product Description: Belle, an 11-year-old Métis girl, and Sarah both want to become the ringer of the new church bell in the Saskatchewan settlement of Batoche. They enter an embroidery contest to win the position. Then General Middleton's forces advance on Batoche in Canada's historic 1885 Riel Rebellion, and Belle and Sarah must work together to save themselves and their families.


Age Level: 6-9

Product Description: Twin brothers Chickadee and Makoons have spent every day side by side and have done everything together since they were born — until the day the unthinkable happens and the brothers are separated. Desperate to reunite, Chickadee and his family must travel across new territories, forge unlikely friendships, and experience both unexpected moments of unbearable heartache as well as pure happiness. And through it all, Chickadee has the strength of his namesake, the chickadee, to carry him on.

Children of the Longhouse

Age Level: Middle Grade

In this coming-of-age story, the children of the longhouse are 11-year-old Ohkwa'ri and Itsi:tsia. Twin brother and sister, they live in a Mohawk town in the traditional homelands of what is now eastern New York State in 1491. Reflecting the balance between male and female roles in Iroquois society, the book's chapters alternate between the events and perspectives of Ohkwa'ri and Itsi:tsia, who very definitely see things differently. Bruchac seamlessly incorporates an impressive amount of information about pre-contact Mohawk culture, society, and beliefs, and tells a good story as well.

Dream Feather

The story of a young boy's spiritual awakening and mystical journey beyond the sun, this book speaks to a level of understanding that cannot be reached by words alone. Complemented by richly colored illustrations of Native American symbolism.


Illustration of young woman in black and white landscape
Illustrated by: Rovina Cai
Age Level: Young Adult

Elatsoe — Ellie for short — lives in an alternate contemporary America shaped by the ancestral magics and knowledge of its Indigenous and immigrant groups. She can raise the spirits of dead animals—most importantly, her ghost dog Kirby. When her beloved cousin dies, all signs point to a car crash, but his ghost tells her otherwise: He was murdered. Who killed him and how did he die?

Fire Starters

Illustrated by: Scott B. Henderson
Age Level: Young Adult

Looking for a little mischief after finding an old flare gun, Ron and Ben suddenly find themselves in trouble when the local gas bar on Agamiing Reserve goes up in flames, and they are wrongly accused of arson by the sheriff’s son. As the investigation goes forward, community attitudes are revealed, and the truth slowly comes to light.

For a Girl Becoming

By: Joy Harjo
Illustrated by: Mercedes McDonald
Age Level: Middle Grade

For a Girl Becoming is a book of beautiful, sensitive poetry and song celebrating a young girl's coming of age. Created by acclaimed Mvskoke/Creek poet, writer, and musician, Joy Harjo, For a Girl Becoming is… a beautiful experience waiting to be treasured by its lucky recipient, appropriate for celebrations of such joyous transitions as birth, graduation, or any other significant turning point in a young woman's life. — Midwest Book Review (Sun Tracks Series)

Gift Horse: A Lakota Story

Age Level: 6-9

Product Description: An action-packed coming-of-age story, Gift Horse is a wonderfully evocative introduction to 19th-century Native American life on the Great Plains. When his father gives him a gift horse, marking the beginning of his journey to manhood, Flying Cloud and the horse, Storm, spend their days hunting and roughhousing with the other boys and their horses. But when an enemy raiding party steals his beloved Storm, Flying Cloud faces the ultimate rite of passage.

Girls Dance, Boys Fiddle

Girls Dance, Boys Fiddle
Illustrated by: Kimberley McKay
Age Level: 6-9

"Young Metisse may think she has two left feet when it comes to dancing, but her hands know how to coax beautiful music from a fiddle. If only everyone would understand. Girls Dance, Boys Fiddle is a funny but feeling story of a girl who has to challenge tradition to prove that she can fiddle with the best. Carole Lindstrom's thoughtful story is warmed and brightened by Kimberley McKay's vivid illustrations." — McNally Robinson

Gray Wolf's Search

Age Level: 3-6

In this wonderful original tale, a young boy is told by his uncle, the village shaman, that his role in their clan and tribe depends on his finding and getting to know a very important person. Gray Wolf journeys through the woods and seashore around his home and through the seasons for a full year in the course of his search. Through conversations with his brothers and sisters in the woods and waters — Bear, Eagle, Whale, Beaver, Owl and Wolf — Gray Wolf makes a wonderful discovery about the value of each and every one of us.

Healer of the Water Monster

Two people sit at a campfire

When Nathan goes to visit his grandma, Nali, at her mobile summer home on the Navajo reservation, he knows he’s in for a pretty uneventful summer, with no electricity or cell service. Still, he loves spending time with Nali and with his uncle Jet, though it’s clear when Jet arrives that he brings his problems with him. One night, while lost in the nearby desert, Nathan finds someone extraordinary: a Holy Being from the Navajo Creation Story — a Water Monster — in need of help. Now Nathan must summon all his courage to save his new friend.

Hearts Unbroken

Hearts Unbroken

When Louise Wolfe’s first real boyfriend mocks and disrespects Native people in front of her, she breaks things off and dumps him over e-mail. It’s her senior year, anyway, and she’d rather spend her time with her family and friends and working on the school newspaper. The editors pair her up with Joey Kairouz, the ambitious new photojournalist, and in no time the paper’s staff find themselves with a major story to cover: the school musical director’s inclusive approach to casting The Wizard of Oz has been provoking backlash in their mostly white, middle-class Kansas town.

Her Land, Her Love

The first novel in a sweeping epic of one determined Navajo family’s efforts to persevere during the Long Walk, blends history, romance, conflict, culture, and family in a finely crafted story that is a true work of passion.

Heroes of the Water Monster

Two boys near heavy rain

Edward feels ready to move in with his dad’s girlfriend and her son, Nathan. He might miss having his dad all to himself, but even if things in their new home are a little awkward, living with Nathan isn’t so bad. And Nathan is glad to have found a new guardian for Dew, the young water monster who has been Nathan's responsibility for two years. Now that Nathan is starting to lose his childhood connection to the Holy Beings, Edward will be the one to take over as Dew’s next guardian. But Edward has a lot to learn about taking care of a water monster. And fast.

How I Became a Ghost (A Choctaw Trail of Tears Story)

How I Became a Ghost (A Choctaw Trail of Tears Story)
Age Level: Middle Grade

Told in the words of Isaac, a Choctaw boy who does not survive the Trail of Tears, renowned author Tim Tingle tells tale of innocence and resilience in the face of tragedy. From the book's opening line, "Maybe you have never read a book written by a ghost before," the reader is put on notice that this is no normal book. Isaac leads a remarkable foursome of Choctaw comrades: a tough-minded teenage girl, a shape-shifting panther boy, a lovable five-year-old ghost who only wants her mom and dad to be happy, and Isaac's talking dog, Jumper.

Indian No More

girl with brains standing in front of a city and a mountain

Regina Petit's family has always been Umpqua, and living on the Grand Ronde reservation is all ten-year-old Regina has ever known. But when the federal government signs a bill into law that says Regina's tribe no longer exists, Regina becomes "Indian no more" overnight -- even though she was given a number by the Bureau of Indian Affairs that counted her as Indian, even though she lives with her tribe and practices tribal customs, and even though her ancestors were Indian for countless generations.

Kinaaldá: A Navajo Girl Grows Up (We Are Still Here : Native Americans Today)

Age Level: Middle Grade

Celinda McKelvey looks like a typical 13-year-old American, and most of the time she lives like one, but her roots are deep in the Diné (Navajo) nation, and she returns to the reservation to solemnize and celebrate her change from girl to woman. The ceremony, called Kinaaldá, marks the coming-of-age for a Diné girl…Roessel's text describes Celinda's preparations and the ceremony itself and relates the ancient myth that gave rise to it. — Booklist (We Are Still Here: Native Americans Today)

Kunu's Basket: A Story from Indian Island

Illustrated by: Susan Drucker
Age Level: 6-9

Product Description: Young Kunu wants to make a pack basket on his own. He's watched his dad and his grandfather make baskets on Indian Island, but now that he's trying to make one for himself, it's not as easy as he thought it would be. Kunu isn't a quitter, but he gets so frustrated that he has to go outside to cool off. When his grandfather asks Kunu to help him with some basket-making tasks, Kunu comes to understand that it is the tradition in his family for one generation to help the next. His grandfather shows him the way, and at last Kunu's first basket is something to celebrate.

Little Voice

Things have been hard for Ray, a young, green-eyed Ojibwe girl, since her father's accidental death. But when she spends the summer with grandmother, who is an elder and a healer, she finds her voice and begins her own process of healing. Set in northern Ontario in the late 1970s, this story from Ojibwe author Ruby Slipperjack speaks to a young girl's coming of age in a thoughtful, quiet way.

Little Woman Warrior Who Came Home: A Story of the Navajo Long Walk

Age Level: Middle Grade
Language: Diné (Navajo)

Dzanibaa' is alone when U.S. troops swoop down on her family's hogan. Before she can run to safety, a soldier grabs her and puts her on his horse. She is taken to Fort Canby, and from there is forced to walk to Bosque Redondo. For four long years, Dzanibaa' and her family endure incredible hardship and sacrifice. Nevertheless, this time of trial gives Dzanibaa' a profound sense of herself as a Navajo and of the importance of her culture. Bilingual Diné (Navajo)/English.

Love Beyond Body, Space, Time

Age Level: Young Adult

Love Beyond Body, Space, and Time is a collection of indigenous science fiction and urban fantasy focusing on LGBT and two-spirit characters. These stories range from a transgender woman undergoing an experimental transition process to young lovers separated through decades and meeting in their own far future. These are stories of machines and magic, love and self-love.

Meet Mindy: A Native Girl from the Southwest

Illustrated by: John Harrington
Age Level: Middle Grade

Mindy is a Hopi and Tewa girl from the Southwest. Readers will journey with Mindy through her coming-of-age ceremony and will trace the history of the Hopi tribe. John Harrington's impressive photography brings to life the Arizona landscape and the beautiful katchina dolls carved by Mindy's father and grandfather. This insightful and instructive book offers a rare glimpse into the contemporary culture of the Hopi tribe, while celebrating Native American life. (My World: Young Native Americans Today)

My Indian Boyhood, New Edition

Although the traditional Sioux nation was in its last days when Luther Standing Bear was born in the 1860s, he was raised in the ancestral manner to be a successful hunter and warrior and a respectful and productive member of Sioux society. His life would be very different from that of his ancestors, but he was not denied the excitement of killing his first buffalo before leaving to attend the Carlisle Indian School in Pennsylvania.

Owl in the Cedar Tree

Haske, a Navaho boy, is torn between the past of his people's rich, self-sustaining culture and a present that opens up new possibilities. His parents propel him in one direction, his grandfather in another, his teacher in still another. The boy has a secret wish, but its fulfillment seems beyond reach. At night he listens to the hoot of the owl in the cedar tree and wonders if good fortune or bad is in store. This beautifully written story finally supplies the answer.

Proud to Be a Blacksheep

Illustrated by: Keith Smith
Age Level: 6-9

Product Description: Curious, headstrong, and impatient, Shundeen is a young girl always in search of adventure. As the only Diné (Navajo) in her school, and growing up away from the Diné Reservation, she must retain her culture while surrounded by peers who don't understand it. Every summer, Shundeen lives with her grandparents on the reservation. When a day of adventure culminates in a terrifying accident, Shundeen discovers there is more to herself — and to her people — than she had ever imagined. Bilingual text.

Rock and Roll Highway: The Robbie Robertson Story

Illustrated by: Adam Gustavson
Age Level: Middle Grade

Canadian guitarist and songwriter Robbie Robertson is known mainly for his central role in the musical group The Band. But how did he become one of Rolling Stone's top 100 guitarists of all time? Written by his son, Sebastian, this is the story of a rock-and-roll legend's journey through music, beginning with the songs and stories he learned from his mother's family as a child on a Six Nations reservation north of Toronto.

Sees Behind Trees

Product Description: No matter how hard he tries, nearsighted Walnut just can't earn his adult name the way other boys do, by hitting a target with a bow and arrow. With his highly developed other senses, however, he shows he can "see what can't be seen" and earns a new name: Sees Behind Trees. But his special skill proves to be more important than he'd ever imagined when he is invited to go on a journey to a mysterious land, a journey filled with unforeseen challenges and dangers.

Skeleton Man

Age Level: Middle Grade

Ever since the morning Molly woke up to find that her parents had vanished, her life has become filled with terrible questions. Where have her parents gone? Who is this spooky old man who's taken her to live with him, claiming to be her great-uncle? Why does he never eat, and why does he lock her in her room at night? What are her dreams of the Skeleton Man trying to tell her? There's one thing Molly does know: she needs to find some answers before it's too late.


Illustrated by: Mary Jane Gerber
Age Level: Middle Grade

Georgia Salois, 11, lives with her grandparents in 1964 Montana, near a Blackfeet Reservation. After a spring of record rainfalls, a local dam bursts and a flood completely destroys the family's house and barn…While searching through the wreckage of their old homestead, Georgia discovers a foal that survived the flood, adopts her, and names her Sky. As the family struggles to put their lives back together, she learns that caring for the animal can be a form of healing, too. — School Library Journal


Age Level: Young Adult
Language: Cree

Spirit is a graphic novel published in 4 languages (Cree, Chıpewyan, Slavey, and English), written by Richard Van Camp, a proud member of the Dogrib (Tlicho) Nation from Fort Smith in the Northwestern Territories of Canada. Richard writes, "I was devastated to read of a young man taking his life some time ago in one of our northern communities because of bullying and I immediately wrote down what I wished for him: I wished that in his final hours that there was a way to show him how much he was loved, cherished, adored, admired, believed in.

Super Indian: Volume 1

Age Level: Middle Grade

Hubert Logan was an ordinary Reservation boy until he ate tainted commodity cheese infused with Rezium, a secret government food enrichment additive. Known as Super Indian, Hubert fights evil forces who would overtake the Reservation's resources and population. Assisted by his trusty sidekicks Mega Bear and Diogi, they fight crime the way they know how — with strength, smarts, and humor.

The Contest

The Contest

Product Description: Young readers will delight in the story of Rosy, a spirited and dark-haired girl, who, being half-Mohawk, is the first and only Native to enter an Anne of Green Gables look-alike contest. Convinced that being "kindred-spirits" and well versed in everything Anne is actually the true nature of the contest, Rosy bravely sets forth to do what she must to win. As Rosy overcomes setbacks with her health as well as financial hardships, readers will experience along with Rosy her discovery of the true value of friendship, family, and community.

The Creator's Game: A Story of Baaga'adowe/Lacrosse

Illustrated by: Robert Desjarlait
Age Level: Middle Grade

Product Description: The game of lacrosse is a gift from the Creator, given to the American Indians in the long ago. But Travis Skinaway doesn't know the full story of the game: he only knows that he struggles to catch the ball and that his teammates and coach seem to think he's hopeless. Travis is ready to hang up his gear, but then his grandfather appears in a dream, explaining to him that lacrosse is a spiritual quest, just like a prayer, a song, or a dance.

The Heart of a Chief

Age Level: Middle Grade

Chris's life is complicated. At school, he's been selected to lead a project on sports teams with Indian names. At home, where his father is battling alcoholism on the Penacook reservation, the Indians are divided about building a casino. It would destroy the beautiful island Chris thinks of as his own. What can one sixth-grade boy can do in the midst of so many challenges?

The Porcupine Year

Age Level: Middle Grade

The struggle to survive provides the exciting action in this sequel to The Birchbark House and The Game of Silence, which takes place in 1852…Omakayas, now 12, feels the anguish of displacement as her family, driven from its beloved Madeline Island by white settlers, endures violent raids in the freezing winter and comes close to starvation in its search for a home. — Booklist

The Return of Skeleton Man

Age Level: Middle Grade

Molly thought she'd put her traumatic past behind her when she escaped from Skeleton Man last year. She rescued her parents and tried to get her life back to the way it used to be. She thought her family would live happily ever after and just be normal again. She thought wrong. Skeleton Man is back for revenge — but this time Molly is ready. In this long-awaited sequel to the award-winning Skeleton Man, Joseph Bruchac revisits his most terrifying villain yet.

The Whale Rider

Age Level: Middle Grade

Product Description: Eight-year-old Kahu, a member of the Maori tribe of Whangara, New Zealand, is descended from a legendary "whale rider." In every generation since, a male heir has inherited the title of chief. But now there is no male heir, and the aging chief is desperate to find a successor. Kahu is his only great-grandchild — and Maori tradition has no use for a girl. But when hundreds of whales beach themselves and threaten the future of the Maori tribe, it is Kahu who saves the tribe when she reveals that she has the whale rider's ancient gift of communicating with whales.

The Wool of Jonesy

Age Level: Middle Grade

Written and illustrated by Diné artist Jonathan Nelson, The Wool of Jonesy #1 tells the first story of Jonesy the Sheep and his adventures out on the "rez."  As Jonesy heads out to explore life after high school he finds himself discovering and dreaming.  The wonderfully illustrated story gives young and old alike a simple and enchanting view of reservation life through the eyes of an amazing character.

When Thunders Spoke

Illustrated by: Oren Lyons
Age Level: Middle Grade

Product Description: Norman Two Bull is a modern and savvy fifteen-year-old Sioux who lives on a Dakota reservation with his parents. He is impatient with, if not faintly contemptuous of, the "old ways." Encouraged by his grandfather, Norman makes a perilous climb to the top of a sacred butte, searching for agates where Indian boys had once gone for spirit visions. There, unexpectedly, he finds an ancient relic with the power to make strange things happen — and they do! When Thunders Spoke is a haunting story whose strength often lies in what is not said.


Age Level: Young Adult

Whistle is part of Pearson Canada's Well Aware series, a series of literature and non-fiction titles addressing issues of mental health for students in Grades 4-12. Written by Richard Van Camp, a proud member of the Dogrib (Tlicho) Nation from Canada's Northwest Territories, Whistle tells the story of Darcy, a young man who writes letters from a group home to the victim of his buylling. Through his writing, he comes to understand how he can break his cycle of destructive behaviour and bullying.