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November is Native American Heritage Month, or as it is commonly referred to, American Indian and Alaska Native Heritage Month. The month is a time to celebrate rich and diverse cultures, traditions, and histories and to acknowledge the important contributions of Native people.
Heritage Month is also an opportune time to educate the general public about tribes, to raise a general awareness about the unique challenges Native people have faced both historically and in the present, and the ways in which tribal citizens have worked to conquer these challenges. In honor of Native American Heritage month I wanted to explore some new titles, or titles that may just be “new-to-you.” Either way these wonderful picture books will bring delight and education to the young readers in your life. Enjoy!
My Heart Fills with Happiness by Monique Gray Smith
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. The books is filled with vibrant illustrations and fun questions that aske readers, “what makes YOU happy?” 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.
Halito Gianna: The Journey Continues (Gianna the Great) by Becky Villareal
Halito means hello in Choctaw but Gianna was not to find that out for a long time. This feisty young girl has been searching for her family in what seems like forever. In this story she finds out more about her family than she ever envisioned and can’t wait to share what she has found out! Come along for the journey! http://amzn.to/2zpxrpO
The Cloud Artist from Sherri Maret
Born with the gift of painting with the clouds, Leona, a little Choctaw girl, uses the sky as her canvas to the delight of her people. When a traveling man learns of her gift and invites her to join the carnival, the cloud artist must make a decision about what kind of artist she wants to be.
This is a Native American tale (specifically Choctaw). It is also bilingual (English and Choctaw) and the translation was provided by Dora Wickson of the Choctaw Nation. Sherri also has some great companion worksheets to go with her book The Cloud Artist here.
I Am Not a Number by Jenny Kay Dupuis
A picture book based on a true story about a young First Nations girl who was sent to a residential school. When eight-year-old Irene is removed from her First Nations family to live in a residential school she is confused, frightened, and terribly homesick. She tries to remember who she is and where she came from despite the efforts of the nuns to force her to do otherwise. Based on the life of Jenny Kay Dupuis’ own grandmother, I Am Not a Number brings a terrible part of Canada’s history to light in a way that children can learn from and relate to. A very powerful, touching and heartbreaking book about something that is unfortunately part of our past history.
Hiawatha and the Peacemaker by Robbie Robertson
Hiawatha was a strong and articulate Mohawk who was chosen to translate the Peacemaker’s message of unity for the five warring Iroquois nations during the 14th century. This message not only succeeded in uniting the tribes but also forever changed how the Iroquois governed themselves—a blueprint for democracy that would later inspire the authors of the U.S. Constitution.
The Otter, the Spotted Frog and the Great Flood by Gerald Hausman
Over the years my family has enjoyed reading a variety of “great flood” tales from our local Blount County Library. This month found us enjoying the Creek Indian version called, The Otter, the Spotted Frog and the Great Flood by Gerald Hausman and beautifully illustrated by Ramon Shiloh. In this version, spotted frog announces to the world that a great flood is coming which will destroy all of their homes. All of the animals ignore spotted frog’s warning, except an otter named Listener.
Our family and friends alike have greatly loved this book. First because the story is told brilliantly by Gerald Hausman. It uses simple and concise language while sharing the story in a simple manner. Also part of this storytelling adventure are the exquisite paintings and illustrations of Ramon Shiloh. There is a nice even flow between story and text forming a single cohesive unit of storytelling magic.
This beautiful book is one we will come to again and again.
Something To Do | Native American Heritage Month Book Activities
Creating Villages: I offered this unique activity a few years ago on another book review and it was such a hit, I thought I would share it here as well.
The Wisdom Tales website has wonderful tipi patterns for book extension activities. See what happened when we downloaded them and created a village!
Get the full instructions and downloads HERE.