I am not going to pretend that this is a thorough booklist on Native Americans. There is just too much out there, and a lot of living books to boot. This is a very fertile topic for historical fiction, and many children’s author have made the most of it. But I will share with you my thoughts on the books we used when we recently took a couple of weeks out of our study of American history to concentrate on Native Americans. You can find all our recent booklists on American history here.
Living Books on Native Americans:
The Book of Indians by Holling C. Holling — I was for quite some time not a huge fan of Mr. Holling’s (or Holling, if I may dare to call him by his first name). Homeschoolers always tout his books but I had not liked them or found them very interesting for me or engaging for my children. But we did use a couple of his books for geography recently and they were not terrible. I think part of my problem was that I had looked at these books when my kids were younger, all elementary aged and younger elementary at that, and that for us at least they work a lot better now that the kids are older. In the case of The Book of Indians I think I would have fallen in love with it whenever I had seen it though this was my first time looking at it. I read this book aloud to all my children and the younger two particularly got into it. They fought over whose stuffed animals would get to play the parts and act out the stories as they narrated to us. Kids fighting to narrate is always a good sign. This book starts with an introduction that explains that there were many tribes on Native Americans in the US and that they lived in very different ways which depended a lot upon their natural surroundings. Holling divides these into 4 groups based on their geography and then through the rest of the book tells the stories of fictional children from each section showing how they lived as a matter of course. I highly recommend this book and would say it is for elementary and middle school ages.
The Legend of Blue Jacket by Michael P. Spradlin — This is along picture book that I had my 9-year-old read. She did so in 4 sittings I believe though one could go through it more quickly. She seemed to enjoy the story and narrated it well.
Bread and Butter Indian by Anne Colver — Always a good sign: this book is illustrated by Garth Williams whom you may know from the Little House books and Charlotte’s Web. This book was recommended by Truthquest History and was well worth it. I had my 9yo read this one also. It is a chapter book with 8-10 chapters and seemed just right for her level. It is about a young pioneer girl who is lonely for friends and ends up befriending an Indian.
Flaming Arrows by William O. Steele — Steele is another good author and has lots of books on Indians, pioneers and things western. His stories tend to be very adventurous. I had my 13-year-olds each read this one while her brother read another of Steele’s books, The Buffalo Knife, which is not about Native Americans. In Flaming Arrows the Indians are the bad guys and the pioneers are hiding in a fort to escape them.
Some books we have listened to in the car lately also fit here — the Mr. Tucket series by Gary Paulsen. Like Steele, Paulsen is a prolific writer and many if not all of his books are about life on the frontier. In Paulsen’s, the Naive Amerians are often but not always the bad guys. I think he actually does a fairly good job of giving a balanced view.
That’s the list. It’s short, I know. Do you have particular favorites you would add?