Summer Slide Reading for Kids.

Six great books for kids to read over summer, when learning is definitely not on their minds. If you can request these books at your local library, that would be great because a lot of books by Native authors don’t make it in library reviews, and librarians can only respond to what readers want. If you want these, librarians will make the magic happen.

In the Footsteps of Crazy Horse by Joseph Marshall III

Joseph Marshall III’s In the Footsteps of Crazy Horse (Harry N. Abrams, 2015) has a lot going for it. First off, it’s set in the present day. The main character, Jimmy, is Lakota. But, he has blue eyes and light brown hair because his lineage includes people who aren’t Native. That means he gets teased for his looks. In steps his grandpa, who takes him on a road trip. As they drive, Jimmy learns about Crazy Horse, but he also learns that Native people have different names for places. One example is the Oregon Trail. Jimmy’s grandpa tells him that Native people call it Shell River Road. Marshall’s storytelling is vibrant and engaging, and the perfect tone for kids in middle school.





Arigon Starr’s “Super Indian” comics poke fun at many topics.You can’t miss with Arigon Starr’s Super Indian (Wacky Productions Unlimited) stories. She’s got the inside track on telling it like it is. Or, could be, if eating commodity cheese could give you super powers. In other words, every panel of Starr’s comics is a reflection of Native life, and she brilliantly pokes at the uber popular Twilight books and movies, and testy issues like blood quantum. There’s a ka-pow to this super power series (two volumes at this point) that will have you and your kids laughing out loud.



A Blanket of Butterflies by Richard Van Camp.Richard Van Camp’s A Blanket of Butterflies (HighWater Press, 2015) is riveting. This graphic novel opens with a boy who looks to be in his early teens, standing in front of a samurai suit of armor in a display case in his tribe’s museum. That suit is going to be returned to its original owner, but the sword is missing. That launches this fast-paced story in which Van Camp provides us with an opportunity to think about museums and who owns items in them.






Moonshot, Graphic Novel. For your older kids, take a look at Moonshot (Alternate History Comics Inc., 2015). In it, you’ll find a collection of short stories by Native writers, told in graphic novel format. There is a wide range of voice, style, and tribal nation. Getting to know the writers in this collection can lead readers to other works by Native writers whose stories are in Moonshot.




Wild Berries, by Julie Flett.We must not forget your younger kids. For many Native people, berry picking is part of our summer activity. In Julie Flett’s Wild Berries (Simply Read Books, 2014), a little boy named Clarence and his grandma are out picking blueberries. They sing as they go. And of course, they eat some berries as they gather them. Clarence sees a fox, and a spider web, and, an ant crawls on him at one point. A huge plus is that you can get and read the book in English, or in Cree.







Hungry Johnny by Cheryl Minnema. Check out Cheryl Minnema’s Hungry Johnny (Minnesota Historical Society Press, 2014). In it, a little boy—named Johnny, of course—comes home and spies a plate of sweet rolls on the counter. He heads straight for that plate, but his grandma stops him, saying “Bekaa, these are for the community feast.” Bekaa is Ojibwe for “wait.” Waiting is tough on Johnny. He’s got to wait while the elders at the feast pray, and then he’s got to wait for them to eat first. Will there be any rolls left for Johnny? Minnema’s use of Ojibwe and English is great. A lot of families talk to each other using a mix of their Native tongue and English. And that feast is like ones so many Native kids go to all the time.


Via ICTMN. I’m far from being a kid, but I’ll be reading all of these, except for Arigon Starr’s Super Indian, because I already have that, and love her work. To this list, I would add The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie, a National Book Award Winner.  This book tackles difficult subjects, like bigotry and alcoholism, so it might be best for teens.


  1. rq says

    Definitely going to keep an eye out when I’m in Canada.
    (If anything looks like it fits Eldest’s current English niche, going to try and pick it up; he’s past picture books but not yet into novels (even middle school), so it’s a bit weird trying to figure out what will give him sufficient practice without being too difficult. Comics seems to work, but more descriptive prose would be good for him, too.)

  2. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    This is great stuff, Caine. I’m definitely going to be bringing some of these home next chance i get. I haven’t seen Super-Indian in my local comic store, and I generally expect Canadian stores to be marginally better than US stores, but I’ve been out of circulation for a long time -- more than 2 months -- and I’ve also been hit by some “therapies” that hit the memory pretty hard. (So maybe I have seen the book and just don’t remember.)

    But ultimately it doesn’t matter. As long as I can get back to the store, I can order it if it’s not in.

    I’m sure to hook my kids on Wild Berries b/c they just LOVE blueberries & BB picking. I’ll have to check out Moonshot, but I’m pretty sure I’ll be picking up A Blanket of Butterflies. The rest will likely be library first, then see how the kids respond.

    (Sherman Alexie, BTW, is already in my library more than once: he’s hysterically funny. Have you seen his main website? It’s at )

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