An Illustrated Book by an Indigenous Creator: Picks for the TPL Reading Challenge
There are many ways to complete the "an illustrated book by an Indigenous creator" category. Recommendations in this post span children's picture books, graphic novels, memoir, history and arts anthologies. Dive into books by multi-talented Indigenous creators, including writers, poets, illustrators, photographers, painters, cartoonists and more.
We All Play / Kimêtawânaw by Julie Flett (Cree-Métis)
Julie Flett's beautiful illustrations make this book a joy for all ages. Drawing from the Cree teaching of wahkohtowin (kinship or interconnectedness), We All Play explores our connections to the natural world in a fun and child friendly (but certainly not child exclusive) way. The story shows how we can all "wiggle and wobble" like bears, "yip and yawn" like wolf cubs, and eventually fall asleep after a long day of play.
Here are some recommendations from TPL staff for this category.
I Will See You Again by Lisa Boivin (Dene)
This is a beautifully illustrated memoir of a sister grieving the death of her brother. She narrates her journey to bring his ashes home and the steps she takes to comfort and free his spirit. I especially love the vivid flower illustrations and how they bring affirmation and hope to a story of loss.
—Susan, Senior Services Specialist
NotYourPrincess: Voices of Native American Women edited by Lisa Charleyboy (Tsilhqot’in) and Mary Beth Leatherdale
This anthology is really special, hard to define or categorize, stunning and brave! The art is incredible, and there is poetry and short stories.
—Iana, Senior Department Head
A Girl Called Echo by Katherena Vermette (Métis), Scott B. Henderson and Donovan Yaciuk
This is a four book graphic novel series. Each volume is really thin so you can easily read all four within a short amount of time. The story follows Echo Desjardins, a 13-year old Métis girl adjusting to her new life. Echo slips back and forth through time, visiting crucial events in Métis history and re-connecting with her ancestors. The series ends on a positive note of resiliency and hope without watering down anti-indigenous racism, death, police brutality, colonization and genocide in Canada.
We Sang You Home by Richard Van Camp (Dogrib Tłı̨chǫ) and Julie Flett (Cree-Métis)
It's such a beautiful story about new families and the experience of having a baby home.
—Jamie, Digital Content Lead
Four Faces of the Moon by Amanda Strong (Michif)
This beautiful graphic novel is adapted from Strong's short film of the same name and follows an indigenous woman's journey to uncover her family's past. Guided by her ancestors, Spotted Fawn travels through time to witness her people's struggles to survive the genocidal tactics used against them.
Borders by Thomas King (Cherokee) and Natasha Donovan (Métis)
This powerful graphic book is about a mother who travels to Salt Lake City and must go through the borders between America and Canada. The story is based on Thomas King’s experiences at the border crossing where Indigenous nationhood is not recognized. He explores themes of identity and belonging with a strong messaging of citizenship.
—Pia, Branch Head
Surviving the City Vols 1 and 2 by Tasha Spillet-Sumner (Cree and Trinidadian) and Natasha Donovan (Métis)
A graphic novel series that focuses on the lives of high schoolers and bffs Dez and Miikwan as they grow up in Winnipeg. Each volume focuses on a different theme - the first looks at Missing and Murdered Indigenous Girls and Women, while the second focuses on Two Spirit people as Dez starts to question their gender. I love the artwork by Natasha Donovan, which expresses so much emotion from Dez, Miikwan and the other characters. The feelings of the characters come through more in the artwork as opposed to the text, which I found to be a very satisfying reading experience.
- a book about mental health
- a coming-of-age story by a BIPOC author
- a book about a city
—Michael, Digital Content Lead
The Trail of Nenaboozhoo and Other Creation Stories edited by Christi Belcourt (Métis) and illustrated by Christi Belcourt and Bomgiizhik Isaac Murdoch (Ojibwe)
I love the art created by Christi Belcourt, and recently found this book she helped illustrate. Absolutely beautiful. I also recommend the art book, Christi Belcourt, for more images of her gorgeous art, as well as a dive into Belcourt's advocacy and artistic practice.
This Place: 150 Years Retold by Kateri Akiwenzie-Damm (Anishinaabe), Sonny Assu (Kwakwaka’wakw), Brandon Mitchell (Mi’kmaq), Rachel Qitsualik-Tinsley (Inuit and Cree), Sean Qitsualik-Tinsley (Haudenosaunee and Kanyen’keha:ka) , David Robertson (Swampy Cree), Niigaanwewidam James Sinclair (Anishinaabe), Jen Storm (Ojibway), Richard Van Camp (Dogrib Tłı̨chǫ), Katherena Vermette (Métis), and Chelsea Vowel (Métis), illustrated by Tara Audibert (Wolastoqi), Kyle Charles (Cree), GMB Chomichuk, Natasha Donovan (Métis), Scott B. Henderson, Andrew Lodwick, Scott A. Ford, Donovan Yaciuk, Ryan Howe and Jen Storm (Ojibway).
This book is beautiful and includes some of my favourite writers Richard Van Camp (Dogrib Tłı̨chǫ) and Chelsea Vowel (Métis).
500 Years of Indigenous Resistance by Gord Hill (Kwakwaka'wakw)
500 Years of Indigenous Resistance is a very powerful roundup of many People's experience with European "contact". Hill, who is also an accomplished carver, wrote and illustrated the book. Although not necessarily a children's book, my 11 year old son was transfixed by the many methods of resistance and Indigenous activism. The book sparked several conversations about colonialism in the past and present day.
In this picture book, a child and her grandmother explore the changes in nature that lets them know when a new season has arrived. It is a bilingual book with text written in Anishinaabemowin and English. Joshua's illustrations in traditional Woodlands style of painting compliments the story about the importance of nature. His colourful Woodlands art can also be found on his website.
Additional Resources from TPL
If you like to read in French, check out the list of recommended books for "ouvrages illustrés autochtones" - there's a mix of books, ebooks and digital audiobooks to try!
Read Indigenous is a yearly list of must-read titles written by Indigenous authors, writers, illustrators and knowledge keepers for all ages.
Upcoming Spring 2022 releases including books children, teens and adults.
Recommendations from the Facebook Group
These are just some of the recommendations from our Facebook TPL Reading Challenge 2022 discussion group. You can read the entire thread, even if you don't have a Facebook account.
- Red: A Haida Manga by Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas (Haida)
- The Power of Style by Christian Allaire (Ojibwe)
- Storyteller: The Art of Roy Henry Vickers, 2003-2013 by Roy Henry Vickers (Tsimshian, Haisla and Heiltsuk)
- If I Go Missing by Brianna Jonnie (Ojibwe), Nahanni Shingoose (Saulteaux) and Neal Shannacappo (Nakawe)
- The Gnawer of Rocks by Louise Flaherty (Inuit) and Jim Nelson