The American Indian Library Association (AILA) has created a fun reading challenge that encourages youth to engage with Indigenous writers and creators.

The bingo-type challenge, available to download at ailanet.org, includes prompts such as “A book by a Native author” and “A biography about a Native person.” To participate, readers should complete the book list and submit it by email for a chance to win prize packages.

There is a complementary Read Native for Adults campaign, and information about that program is in my News-Review Library column this week.

Readers looking for inspiration can check out AILA’s Twitter and Facebook accounts @readnative21 for booklists and links to author events. Alternately, start with these recommendations.

Board Books

The library just acquired three books for toddlers by First Nations artist Roy Henry Vickers. “Hello Humpback!”; “Sockeye Silver, Saltchuck Blue”; and “One Eagle Soaring” feature simple, rhyming text and stunning images that capture West Coast nature. The sturdy pages and vibrant illustrations are great for interacting with toddlers and books.

Picture Books

Author Tasha Spillett-Sumner shares the Inniniwak’s traditional understanding that babies choose their parents in “I Sang You Down from the Stars.”

Throughout the book, the mother gathers objects such as a stone and sage that make up a sacred medicine bundle for the child, and she recognizes the child will be her sacred bundle in return. Michaela Goade, who is from the Tlingit Nation in Alaska, paired the text with magical images. I loved all of the illustrations, but there is one of the mother holding her newborn that is especially beautiful. Consider using this book as a way to introduce Native traditions to children.

Middle Grades

Joseph Bruchac is a Nulhegan Abenaki citizen, a tribe based in the northeastern U.S, and a prolific author of Indigenous stories.

“Peacemaker” is a novel that tells the Haudenosaunee Nations story of the Peacemaker, a man believed to be sent by the Creator to bring peace among a people long at war with one another. Traditional Peacemaker stories are woven into a narrative that centers 12-year-old Okwaho, who lives with a small group that broke away from a war-loving chief. When Okwaho’s friend is kidnapped by another tribe, his anger and thoughts of revenge threaten to get the best of him until the Peacemaker helps him understand that the cycle of violence must end.

The Peacemaker stories have messages that will resonate with young readers, and the book includes a lot of information about the culture of the Haudenosaunee Nations.

Teens

“Firekeeper’s Daughter” by Angeline Boulley is a fantastic mystery steeped in the cultural traditions of the Anishinaabe and the sports culture of ice hockey with a relatable protagonist and a fast-paced plot.

My favorite mysteries have a well-developed main character, and that is present in Daunis Fontaine, an 18-year-old who has lived her life navigating between her Native heritage from her father and her mother’s white family. My favorite mysteries also have a strong sense of place, and in this book that is Sault Ste. Marie and Sugar Island on the Canadian border of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

There is an intricate plot involving meth dealing and addiction that overwhelmingly affect the community, and Daunis launches herself into the FBI’s investigation as a confidential informant as a way to honor her uncle’s drug-related death. Daunis finds herself making difficult decisions that will have lasting effects on her family and community.

Roseburg Public Library’s holdings include many books by Indigenous writers and artists. Start at roseburg.biblionix.com, click Booklists, then click Read Native 2021 for suggestions, or contact staff at library@cityofroseburg.org or 541-492-7050 for assistance.

Kris Wiley is the library director for Roseburg Public Library.

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