On the Trapline

I have another wonderful intergenerational story for y’all today.

From David A. Robertson and Julie Flett, the creators of When We Were Alone, On the Trapline is a stunning picture book that highlights indigenous values, including the deep connections to family and the land.

In this book, we meet a young Cree boy who is accompanying his Moshom (grandfather) on a trip to visit a place that is dear to his heart. They are going to the trapline, a place where his grandfather grew up hunting game with his family.

Throughout the book, the boy sees the places his grandfather grew up, listening to the stories of his childhood. He sees the house by the lake that his family stayed in, the school his grandfather attended, and finally, they reach the trapline. He learns about the way the entire family slept in a tent, the food they ate, and the animals they trapped. On each page, young readers learn a Swampy Cree word, with pronunciation guides provided in the back matter.

As always, Julie Flett’s illustrates are absolute perfection. I really appreciated the way she captured both the past and present in the illustrations. My personal favorites are two mirrored illustrations in which one page captures the grandfather’s story of sneaking into the bush at school to speak Cree, and the next page shows our narrator, his Moshom, and his Moshom’s old friend in the same bush years later. I found myself turning the pages to compare the landscapes, noting how trees and mushrooms had grown in the grandfather’s absence.

The back matter contains both an Author’s Note and Illustrator’s Note detailing their personal connections with this story, highlighting the authentic voices that are present throughout the book.

On the Trapline would make for an amazing Father’s Day gift. It is available now wherever books are sold, including Bookshop and Amazon. (Please note: Some links provided are affiliate links. Affiliate links allow me to receive a small commission for recommendations at no cost to you. This commission is used to maintain this site and to continue bringing content to you. I always appreciate your support!)

David A. Robertson is a member of Norway House Cree Nation and an award-winning children’s book author based in Winnipeg. To learn more about him and his work, please visit his website at darobertson.ca.

Julie Flett is an award-winning Cree-Metis author, illustrator, and artist based in Vancouver. Please visit her website at julieflett.com to learn more about her and her work.

Thank you so much to Tundra Books for generously providing me with a review copy of this wonderful book. It was an absolute delight and I know I will be revisiting it many times.

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We Are Still Here! – Native American Truths Everyone Should Know

Traci Sorell and Frané Lessac, the award-winning creators of We Are Grateful: Otsliheliga are back at it with a companion title: We Are Still Here!

We Are Still Here! is a nonfiction book documenting the challenges Native Nations have faced and the ways they continue to fight for their rights today. Focusing mainly on the actions taken by the United States Government, this book shares many lessons currently taught in Native-operated schools today.

The book actually uses a Native-operated school as its backdrop as we follow a class working on their Indigenous Peoples’ Day project. On the first page we are introduced to some “familiar” history, but each child’s presentation will focus on topics after treaty making stopped in 1871, such as forced assimilation, religious freedom, and economic development. Every child’s presentation drives home the fact that Native American History is still being made today.

Fans of We Are Grateful: Otsliheliga will be glad to find Frané Lessac’s familiar vibrant style continues into this companion book as well. Each spread depicts the subject of a child’s project, capturing both historical and contemporary Native American experiences.

The back matter contains lots of additional information about each of the twelve topics discussed in the children’s projects, as well as a glossary and timeline, making this title the perfect addition to classroom and school libraries.

We Are Still Here! officially releases tomorrow (April 20,2021), but you can preorder your own copy today where books are sold, including Bookshop and Amazon. (Please note: Some links provided are affiliate links. Affiliate links allow me to receive a small commission for recommendations at no cost to you. This commission is used to maintain this site and to continue bringing content to you. I always appreciate your support!)

Traci Sorell is a dual citizen of the Cherokee Nation and The United States, and is an award-winning author of five children’s books. She lives in Oklahoma, where her tribe is located. To learn more about her and her work, please visit her website at tracisorell.com.

Frané Lessac is an award-winning author and illustrator of over fifty books. Please visit her website at franelessac.com to learn more about her and her work.

I would like to thank Charlesbridge Publishing for providing me with a review copy of We Are Still Here. I am honored to share such an important book and encourage young readers to learn more about Native American history.

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Zonia’s Rain Forest

I’m so excited to share Zonia’s Rain Forest with you all today! From Caldecott Honor and Robert F. Sibert Medal winner Juana Martinez-Neal, this lovely picture book follows a young girl named Zonia who lives in the rain forest with her family.

We follow Zonia through her day as she introduces us to her neighborhood. Zonia adventures through the rain forest, making friends with all of her animal neighbors. We see how she interacts with sloths, snakes, pink dolphins, and more, until she comes upon something she has never seen before. Zonia discovers a portion of the rain forest has been cut down, and her beloved home is in danger.

While this book is fiction, Zonia’s story mirrors the true story of the Asháninka people living in the Peruvian Amazon, who have a long history of being removed from their homeland. The Asháninka people have made it their mission to protect the rain forest they call home through activism and legal action, though their rights to that home continue to be denied.

The perfect pick for Earth Day next month, Zonia’s Rain Forest is a gentle reminder to young readers about the ways our rain forests need our protection. With a hopeful ending, this book will inspire children to protect the rain forest and the rest of our planet.

Fans of Juana Martinez-Neal’s previous titles like Fry Bread and Swashby and The Sea will be happy to see her familiar style in the illustrations. I absolutely adored the way they capture Zonia’s playful personality as she interacts with her friends in the rain forest.

The back matter contains quite a bit of additional information about the Asháninka people, the Amazon, and the threats that they face. There is also a page dedicated to identifying each of the animals featured in Zonia’s adventure.

Zonia’s Rain Forest is officially available next week (March 30, 2021), but you can preorder it wherever books are sold today, including Bookshop and Amazon. (Please note: Some links provided are affiliate links. Affiliate links allow me to receive a small commission for recommendations at no cost to you. This commission is used to maintain this site and continue bringing content to you. I always appreciate your support!)

To learn more about Juana Martinez-Neal and her award-winning work, please visit her website at juanamartinezneal.com.

I also want to thank Candlewick Press for generously providing me with a review copy of this amazing book. I’m so grateful to have the privilege of sharing Zonia’s story with everyone today.

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5 Picture Books to Recognize America’s Indigenous Peoples on Thanksgiving

I’ve been thinking about Thanksgiving a lot for the past few weeks. It’s my son’s first Thanksgiving, and obviously, it looks different this year due to the pandemic. But I’ve been thinking about how to teach my son about Thanksgiving, while also being honest about our country’s history of colonization and genocide.

I want him to know that the Creek, Cherokee, Choctaw, and Chickasaw tribes lived on the land in Alabama, the state we call home, long before he ever existed. I need him to know that our ancestors took this land, and in the process, brought illnesses that wiped out countless Indigenous Peoples. I need him to know the “pilgrims and Indians” didn’t sit around a picnic table and hold hands and talk about corn.

I plan to begin a tradition of honesty this year. So, like I always have, I will turn to books. I plan to read books and discuss the whole truth behind our country’s heritage every year for Thanksgiving. I have been reading lots of books by and about Indigenous Peoples in America to prepare, and I wanted to share some of my favorites with you.

(Please Note: This article will contain affiliate links. I do receive a very small commission from these links. This commission is used to maintain this website and provide further content.)

Fry Bread by Kevin Noble Maillard, Illustrated by Juana Martinez-Neal

Fry Bread is a precious picture book all about the Native American food, fry bread. Thought to be originally made by the Navajo, fry bread was created using flour, sugar, and lard – the supplies provided to Reservations by the United States Government after they forced tribes to relocate to lands where their crops could not grow. In this book, we learn of the importance of fry bread to the Native American peoples through one family. This is a great book to begin discussion about the diversity of Native peoples.

We Are Grateful: Otsaliheliga by Traci Sorrell, Illustrated by Frane Lessac

We Are Grateful Otsaliheliga (oh-jah-LEE-hay-lee-gah) is a picture book inspired by the Cherokee Nation that’s all about gratitude, which seems perfect for Thanksgiving. This book begins in Fall (when the Cherokee New Year occurs) and moves through each season, discussing the many things the people of the Cherokee Nation are grateful for throughout the year. There are Cherokee words included (with phonetic pronunciation for those of us who do not speak Cherokee) on each spread, as well as fantastic illustrations by Frane Lessac.

We Are Water Protectors by Carole Lindstrom, Illustrated by Michaela Goade

We Are Water Protectors is a beautiful picture book about the dangers of the Dakota Access Pipeline and the water protectors who continue to fight against the pollution of the water on the Standing Rock Indian Reservation. This is a beautifully illustrated book that touches on the sacredness of water, and the importance it has to our world. It is also a great tool for introducing conversations about the injustices Indigenous Peoples still face in our nation.

Hiawatha and The Peacemaker by Robbie Robertson, Illustrated by David Shannon

In Hiawatha and The Peacemaker, we are introduced to Hiawatha, a member of the Mohawk Nation who has just suffered a great loss. His village has been burned down by the Onondaga tribe, and his family has been killed. He sits with his anger and grief until one day, he meets The Peacemaker, who wants to speak through him to bring peace to the Iroquois Peoples. Together they they bring this message of unity and peace to the Mohawk, Cayuga, Seneca, Oneida, and even the Onondaga clan that burned Hiawatha’s village down. This is a great story of peace and forgiveness, and a reminder that the way the Iroquois Peoples governed themselves would later be used to define democracy in the United States Constitution.

In My Anaana’s Amautik by Nadia Sammurtok, Illustrated by Lenny Lishchenko

In My Anaana’s Amautik is a precious picture book told from a baby’s perspective as he is carried in a pouch inside his mother’s parka (called an amautik). The vivid descriptions of the baby’s soft, warm home are paired with illustrations that perfectly capture the security of the amautik, creating one of the coziest books I’ve ever read. This book would be perfect for bedtime stories any day of the year.

These are just a few of my picks to get started with this year. I hope some of them help your family have open conversations about our country’s history on this holiday and throughout the year.

Does your family have a similar Thanksgiving tradition? What books are you sharing with your little ones today? Be sure to share in the comments below!