Representation is important in literature. Here are our recommendations for wonderful children's books written by Indigenous and Black authors.
"Starting our children at an early age to read stories about different people and cultural groups is significant to their growth, learning and shaping as human beings and global citizens" - Channon Oyeniran
Sweetest Kulu, recommended ages 2+
Written by Celina Kalluk, illustrated by Alexandria Neonakis
This beautiful bedtime poem, written by acclaimed Inuit throat singer Celina Kalluk, describes the gifts given to a newborn baby by all the animals of the Arctic.
Lyrically and tenderly told by a mother speaking to her own little Kulu; an Inuktitut term of endearment often bestowed upon babies and young children, this visually stunning book is infused with the traditional Inuit values of love and respect for the land and its animal inhabitants.
Birdsong, recommended ages 3+
Written and illustrated by by Julie Flett
When a young girl moves from the country to a small town, she feels lonely and out of place. But soon she meets an elderly woman next door, who shares her love of arts and crafts. Can the girl navigate the changing seasons and failing health of her new friend? Acclaimed author and artist Julie Flett’s textured images of birds, flowers, art, and landscapes bring vibrancy and warmth to this powerful story, which highlights the fulfillment of intergenerational relationships and shared passions.
When We Were Alone, recommended ages 4+
Written by David A. Robertson, illustrated by Julie Flett
When a young girl helps tend to her grandmother’s garden, she begins to notice things that make her curious. Why does her grandmother have long, braided hair and beautifully coloured clothing? Why does she speak another language and spend so much time with her family? As she asks her grandmother about these things, she is told about life in a residential school a long time ago, where all of these things were taken away. When We Were Alone is a story about a difficult time in history, and, ultimately, one of empowerment and strength.
Una Huna? What Is This?, recommended ages 5+
Written by Susan Aglukark, illustrated by Danny Christopher and Amanda Sandland
Ukpik loves living in her camp in the North with her family and she especially loves thinking up names for her brand new puppy. When a captain from the south arrives to trade with Ukpik's father, she's excited to learn how to use forks, knives, and spoons. At first, Ukpik enjoys teaching the other children how to use these new tools. But soon, she starts to wonder if they'll need to use the new tools all the time, and if that means that everything in camp will change. After a conversation with her grandmother, Ukpik realizes that even though she will learn many new things, her love for her family and camp will never change - and it even inspires her to find a name for her puppy!
I Am Enough, recommended ages 4+
Written by Grace Byers, illustrated by Keturah A. Bobo
This is a gorgeous, lyrical ode to loving who you are, respecting others, and being kind to one another. We are all here for a purpose. We are more than enough. We just need to believe it.
The Stone Thrower, recommended ages 5+
Written by Jael Ealey Richardson, illustrated by Matt James
The African-American football player Chuck Ealey grew up in a segregated neighborhood of Portsmouth, Ohio. Against all odds, he became an incredible quarterback. But despite his unbeaten record in high school and university, he would never play professional football in the United States.
Chuck Ealey grew up poor in a racially segregated community that was divided from the rest of town by a set of train tracks, but his mother assured him that he wouldn’t stay in Portsmouth forever. Education was the way out, and a football scholarship was the way to pay for that education. So despite the racist taunts he faced at all the games he played in high school, Chuck maintained a remarkable level of dedication and determination. And when discrimination followed him to university and beyond, Chuck Ealey remained undefeated.
The Day You Begin, recommended ages 5+
Written by Jacqueline Woodson, illustrated by Rafael López
There are many reasons to feel different. Maybe it's how you look or talk, or where you're from; maybe it's what you eat, or something just as random. It's not easy to take those first steps into a place where nobody really knows you yet, but somehow you do it.
This book reminds us that we all feel like outsiders sometimes-and how brave it is that we go forth anyway. And that sometimes, when we reach out and begin to share our stories, others will be happy to meet us halfway.
Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History, recommended ages 7+
Written by Vashti Harrison
Note that there is a board book and paperback version of the book, where the paperback version contains more stories.
Among these women, you'll find heroes, role models, and everyday women who did extraordinary things - bold women whose actions and beliefs contributed to making the world better for generations of girls and women to come. Whether they were putting pen to paper, soaring through the air or speaking up for the rights of others, the women profiled in these pages were all taking a stand against a world that didn't always accept them.
The leaders in this book may be little, but they all did something big and amazing, inspiring generations to come.