10 Books for National Aboriginal Day

Today is National Aboriginal Day, which celebrates the heritage, cultures and achievements of Indigenous peoples. In honour of this day, here are ten great books for kids and teens to pick up from your local bookstore or library.

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Akilak's Adventure

Akilak’s Adventure
Written by Deborah Kigjugalik Webster
Illustrated by Charlene Chua
Inhabit Media, 2016
ISBN 978-1-77227-123-2
IL: Ages 2-8 RL: Grades 2-3

When Akilak must travel a great distance to another camp to gather food, she thinks she will never be able to make it. With a little help from her grandmother’s spirit, and her own imagination, Akilak manages to turn a long walk into an adventure. Her grandmother’s reassuring words help Akilak enjoy the journey that at first seemed so daunting.

Dragonfly Kites

Dragonfly Kites
(Songs of the North Wind Trilogy, Book 2)
Written by Tomson Highway
Illustrated by Julie Flett
Fifth House Publishers, 2016
ISBN 978-1-89725-263-5
IL: Ages 4-9 RL: Grades 1-3

Told in English and Cree, this is the story of two brothers spending their summer in northern Manitoba, exploring the world around them. They love inventing toys and naming all manner of things and animals, but best of all is flying their magical dragonfly kites. As they drift off to sleep after a long day, their imaginations continue to soar high above the clouds with the dragonflies.

I Am Not a Number

I Am Not a Number
Written by Jenny Kay Dupuis and Kathy Kacer
Illustrated by Gillian Newland
Second Story Press, 2016
ISBN 978-1-927583-94-4
IL: Ages 8-11 RL: Grades 3-4

Based on the true account of Jenny Kay Dupuis’s grandmother, this picture book tells the story of eight-year-old Irene who is taken from her Nipissing First Nation home by an Indian Agent and sent to live in a faraway residential school. Stripped of her name, frightened and homesick, Irene endures, holding on to her mother’s words “Never forget who you are!” This title is also available in French as Je ne suis pas un numéro.


L’Nu’k — The People: Mi’kmaw History, Culture, and Heritage
(Compass: True Stories for Kids)
Written by Theresa Meuse
Nimbus Publishing, 2016
ISBN 978-1-77108-452-9
IL: Ages 8-12 RL: Grades 3-4

Long before Europeans arrived, the Mi’kmaq hunted and fished throughout the Maritime provinces, living off and giving back to the land. They enjoyed storytelling, drumming and dancing within their tight-knit communities. Discover the lineage of today’s Mi’kmaq people, their customs, traditions and history. Learn how to make luski (Mi’kmaw bread), what happens at a powwow and how North America earned its Aboriginal name, Turtle Island.


The Missing
Written by Melanie Florence
James Lorimer, 2016
ISBN 978-1-4594-1085-5
IL: Ages 13 and up RL: Grade 4

Feather’s best friend, Mia, vanishes, but the Winnipeg authorities won’t investigate the disappearance of this frequent runaway. Mia is just one in a long line of Aboriginal girls who are disappearing and being killed, but no one is taking it seriously. Then Feather’s brother is arrested for Mia’s abduction, and she decides to start her own investigation — which puts her in sight of a serial killer.

These Are My Words

These Are My Words: The Residential School Diary of Violet Pesheens
(Dear Canada)
Written by Ruby Slipperjack
Scholastic Canada, 2016
ISBN 978-1-4431-3318-0
IL: Ages 10-14 RL: Grades 5-6

In 1966, Violet must go far away from home to attend Residential School. She has run-ins with the other girls, she misses her grandma, and everything she brought has been taken from her, including her name — she is now just a number. But worst of all, she fears forgetting the things she treasures most: her Anishinaabe language and her traditional customs. She fears forgetting who she is. This title is also available in French as Les mots qu’il me reste : Violette Pesheens, pensionnaire à l’école résidentielle.

We Sang You Home

We Sang You Home
Written by Richard Van Camp
Illustrated by Julie Flett
Orca Book Publishers, 2016
ISBN 978-1-4598-1178-2
IL: Ages 0-3 RL: Grades 1-2

We sang you from a wish / we sang you from a prayer. This sweet and lyrical board book captures the wonder new parents feel as they welcome baby into the world. Julie Flett’s warm, evocative illustrations complement Richard Van Camp’s spare but emotionally effective text celebrating that special bond between parent and child. A perfect love song to share with little ones.

Whale Child

Whale Child
(Coastal Spirit Tales)
Written and illustrated by Caroll Simpson
Heritage House Publishing, 2016
ISBN 978-1-77203-135-5
IL: Ages 5-9 RL: Grades 3-4

A little girl is swept out to sea in a canoe. She is rescued by Mother Whale who guides her to safety. After Mother Whale gives birth to a daughter, the baby whale and the little girl form a magical connection. As one, the whale and the girl — now called Whale Child — must find their way back to the girl’s village.

When We Were Alone

When We Were Alone
Written by David Alexander Robertson
Illustrated by Julie Flett
HighWater Press, 2016
ISBN 978-1-55379-673-2
IL: Ages 6-9 RL: Grades 2-3

A young girl is curious about her grandmother’s long braided hair and beautifully coloured clothing. Why does she speak another language and spend so much time with her family? Nókom (grandmother) explains about life in a residential school long ago, where everything was taken away. A story about a difficult time in history and, ultimately, of empowerment and strength.

Will I See

Will I See?
Written by David Alexander Robertson
Based on the story by Iskwé and Erin Leslie
Illustrated by GMB Chomichuk
HighWater Press, 2016
ISBN 978-1-55379-674-9
IL: Ages 16 and up RL: Grade 10

May, a young teenage girl, finds keepsakes on a walk through the city. May and her kookum (grandmother) make these keepsakes into a necklace, opening a world of danger and fantasy. While May fights against a terrible reality, she finds strength in the spirit of those who have passed. But can that strength save her? A story of tragedy and beauty, illuminating the issue of missing and murdered Indigenous women.