Multitude of Stories: 13 Native Anthologies for Middle Grade Readers

Gathered from northernmost Canada to the Mayan of Central America, the following compilations, fiction and nonfiction, offer middle schoolers an inside look into some Indigenous peoples and their rich and varied cultures.

There are 574 federally recognized Indian tribes in the contiguous 48 states and Alaska and more than 600 tribes in Canada, including First Nations People, Métis, and Inuit. In Canada and the United States alone, over a thousand languages are spoken. Each band has its own identity, customs, and stories.

The following compilations offer an inside look into some of these Indigenous peoples and their rich and varied cultures. Many of these anthologies present fictional stories inspired by the creators’ backgrounds, but others are true tales handed down through generations. Others are collective biographies of important Native American figures everyone should know. Gathered from northernmost Canada to the Mayan of Central America, these works are only a selection of the stories that exist within the Native community. They take place in the past, but also the future, to emphasize that Native peoples have been, are still, and will always be an active and indelible part our complex story.


Ashwin Kate, Kel McDonald & Alina Pete, eds. The Woman in the Woods and Other North American Stories. Iron Circus. 2022. pap. $15. ISBN 9781945820977.
Gr 5-7 –Eleven writers and artists—identifying as cis, trans, or nonbinary—with a range of tribal affiliations—Taíno, Métis, and more—present legendary figures in eight graphic tales. In the titular selection set in south Florida, Luisa shares food and music with a mysterious forest neighbor who has intricate skin markings. In one story, a child befriends a wolflike “Rougarou” who is scary but not hostile, and in another, a kid wearing a “Trans Pride” shirt climbs into a storyteller’s lap to hear how the Creator, feminine and masculine, came to decide that life, “beautiful and messy and complicated,” should exist. The entries vary widely in narrative and visual finish, and offer a taste of what readers can expect from these creators’ future works.

Nicholson, Hope, ed. Moonshot: The Indigenous Comics Collection. illus. by various. Alternate History. 2015. pap. $17.99. ISBN 9780987715258.
Gr 5 Up –This collection of folklore from a legendary team of Native authors will impress readers with traditional and futuristic tales based on tribal-specific cultural teachings. Storytellers sought permission from their elders to share these in their comic form. Some comics include futuristic worlds and entries explaining natural phenomena, like the stars in the sky and the coyote’s howl. The full-page illustrations and bright colors in others add depth and understanding to the narratives. The artwork is as diverse as the stories collected, and readers will eagerly anticipate the next vignette with every page turn.

Pecore Weso, Tom. Native American Stories for Kids: 12 Traditional Stories from Indigenous Tribes Across North America. Rockridge. 2022. pap. $8.99. ISBN 9781638070627.
Gr 2-4 –A compilation of powerful tales from 12 tribes, such as the Cheyenne and the Lenape. These tales include how the mountain Denali formed, why the North Star stays still, and more. Every entry ends with a brief historical sketch of the tribe, providing context and offering a glimpse into their way of life and their traditions. Back matter includes fascinating facts, suggestions for additional reading, and a glossary of important words to give kids a deeper understanding and appreciation.

Smith, Cynthia Leitich, ed. Ancestor Approved: Intertribal Stories for Kids. HarperCollins/Heartdrum. 2021. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780062869944.
Gr 3-6 –Editor Smith and 16 other authors and artists collaborate in this short story collection; each tale focuses on a different character and their experience of an intertribal powwow in Michigan. The stories range from sacred to humorous, but focus on the importance of the tribal community and the roles of unity, healing, and family within it. This anthology provides a wonderful window into a central, binding cultural event for non-Native readers and, most importantly, a long-awaited mirror for Native kids.

Starr, Arigon, ed. Tales of the Mighty Code Talkers. Reycraft. 2019. Tr $9.95. ISBN 9781478868088.
Gr 3-5 –Native Americans make up a big part of the U.S. military and have made lasting contributions to the war effort. This comic book–style anthology features war stories based on the feats of the celebrated code talkers of World War II. They transmitted secret radio communications by speaking their native languages—something they were punished for as children. The selections are written and illustrated by Native Americans from various tribal nations and detail the range of emotions the young men experienced while far away from home, fighting for a country that never completely accepted them.



Ak’abal, Humberto. Aquí era el paraíso: Poemas seleccionados/Here Was Paradise: Selected Poems. illus. by Amelia Lau Carling. Groundwood. 2021. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9781773064956.
Gr 6 Up –This poetry collection introduces readers to Humberto Ak’abal, a Mayan poet from Guatemala. The selections showcase the pride and love he felt for his Maya K’iche’ village, nature, and even ghosts. He ruminates on the beauty of life, death, and the natural world. The poems also offer verses about injustice and poverty, the roots of which stretch back hundreds of years. The watercolor and pencil illustrations depict everyday life and transform mundane sights, such as dogs, flowers, trees, and the moon, into something extraordinary. English and Spanish translations are provided side by side.

Beason, Jimmy. Native Americans in History: A History Book for Kids. illus. by Amanda Lenz. Rockridge. 2022. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9798886085235.
Gr 3-7 –This collective biography highlights 15 Native Americans who should be as widely known as Harriet Tubman, Frida Kahlo, and the Founding Fathers. The volume explores how these figure used their talents and beliefs to advocate for their communities. Subjects include names that kids might have encountered before, including Sitting Bull and Tecumseh, and others that might be new to them, such as Maria Tallchief, who broke barriers in ballet, and Jim Thorpe, who showed the world that a Native man could win Olympic gold. Present-day icons are also featured, such as Deb Haaland and Suzan Harjo, who fight to raise awareness about Native American issues today. Lenz’s illustrations make the entries even more accessible. Readers will be inspired to do further research to delve deeper into these impactful leaders.

Bruchac, Joseph. Voices of the People. illus. by various. Reycraft. 2022. Tr $18.95. ISBN 9781478875161.
Gr 5 Up–The prolific Bruchac presents a collection of 34 poems, each highlighting a Native American leader. The subjects range from peacemakers and artists to warriors and activists. Bruchac makes a point to include figures who have already passed on, because current subjects are still making history. Each entry is accompanied by a striking illustration done by a contemporary Native American artist. From collage to spray paint, a variety of media render the powerful images. Whether through the poignant verse, the awe-inspiring and arresting art, or the combination of both, these profiles will impact young people and help them understand that Native American history is alive and well.



Charleyboy, Lisa & Mary Beth Leatherdale, eds. Dreaming in Indian: Contemporary Native American Voices. Annick. 2014. Tr $19.95. ISBN 9781554516872.
Gr 6 Up –This dynamic, creative work introduces readers to the lives of 64 Native American young people. The contributors include an award-winning throat singer, a fashion model, a hip-hop dancer, a tribal leader, an activist, and many more. The visuals are a blend of bold, contemporary digital graffiti and Indigenous art, resulting in a collage of profound, sometimes gritty, photos and digital images. The text is a combination of awe-inspiring poetry and lyrical prose. Topics include identity, racism, gender, bullying, abuse at boarding schools, adoption, mixed heritage, runaways, and more. This slim book effectively presents honest portrayals of strong, hopeful, and courageous Indigenous youth.

Charleyboy, Lisa & Mary Beth Leatherdale, eds. Urban Tribes: Native Americans in the City. Annick. 2015. Tr $21.95. ISBN 9781554517510.
Gr 7 Up –This compact book explodes with text and graphics that echo the lives of 40-plus Indigenous contributors—from New York to Calgary. Their stories are realistic, raw, and unique, yet have a common theme: the undeniable connection to Indigenous ways of knowing, learning, and being. A variety of formats are presented, from prose, poetry, hashtags, and song lyrics to murals, mixed-media collages, and photographs. The contributors are artists, actors, designers, innovators, scientists, writers, hip-hop performers, parents, and students of all ages. Though the collection addresses difficult subjects, such as racism, stereotypes, and suicide, a thread of hope runs through it.

Cutright, Patricia J. Native Women Changing Their Worlds. 7th Generation. 2021. pap. $9.95. ISBN 9781939053329.
Gr 6 Up –The ninth entry in the “Native Trailblazers” series explores the lives of 12 Native American and First Nations activists and changemakers. Each brief chapter narrates a different woman’s life, showcasing themes of perseverance, determination, and education. Cutright’s text is accessible and has a wide-ranging look at Native American and First Nations female leaders who inspire further reading.

García Esperón, María. The Sea-Ringed World: Sacred Stories of the Americas. illus. by Amanda Mijangos. Levine Querido. 2021. Tr $21.99. ISBN 9781646140152.
Gr 5 Up –This text features sacred stories that have been passed down within and by Indigenous cultures of the Americas for thousands of years. This collection presents tales from nations and cultures across two continents—the Sea-Ringed World—from the Andes all the way up to Alaska. These magnetic entries not only pass on messages of hope and resilience, but also present events filled with sadness and tragedy. The vibrant blue, black, and white palette used in the illustrations brings events from the stories beautifully to life. The art casts a spell; the stories deliver on it.

Jones, Dan SaSuWeh. Living Ghosts and Mischievous Monsters: Chilling American Indian Stories. illus. by Weshoyot Alvitre. Scholastic. 2021. Tr $26.99. ISBN 9781338681628.
Gr 4 Up –These 32 selections have been handed down from a variety of tribes and storytellers across Indigenous country and are divided into five sections—ghosts, spirits, witches, monsters, and the supernatural. The art that accompanies these tales is full of unsettling visuals that fans of all things spooky will appreciate. While most collections of creepy stories feature fictional tales, this volume is composed of scary reads that come directly from cultural and historical accounts, including the author’s own. Jones assures readers that each tale is shared with permission from tribes and, respectful of Indigenous storytelling protocols and customs, omits anything that should not be shared among non-Native readers.

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Shelley Diaz

Shelley Diaz ( is the Reviews Editor at School Library Journal.

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