Notable Native American Children’s Author: Joseph Bruchac

Joseph Bruchac Author Study

They say that history is written by the victor.  In the case of the Native Americans, I will say that while the victors may allow the Native Americans a voice, the winners seem to get a better distribution deal.  And it’s strange that we, who grow up in the United States and even study history in college, know so little about the Native American heritage.

I worked on a post recently on Native American Children’s Books for my Top 10 Lists.  I had done lists on Korean American Children’s Books, Chinese American, Japanese American, and African American, etc.  Then I had the opportunity to meet two Native Americans through a graduate course I took … and this is probably only the fourth Native American I have actually met in my life that I started researching a Top 10:  Native American Children’s Book List. And it was surprisingly hard to find children’s fiction portraying their story.  Luckily as I checked out at the library, I ran into my “go to” children’s librarian and lamented my difficulties.  She suggested I check out Joseph Bruchac.  Finding him was like striking a vein of gold!

Joseph Bruchac is arguably the most prolific and talented of Native American children’s authors.  He’s the Amy Tan of Native American Children’s Literature.  He’s written over 70 books that range from picture books to young adult fiction.  An award-winning storyteller and author, he is an Abenaki Indian who also tells the story other tribes including the Navajo and the Sioux.  That’s like being Amy Tan and writing the story of the Chinese AND the Japanese, the Koreans, the Vietnamese, and the Malaysians, not to mention a few others!

I’ve picked a few of his books to highlight but I encourage you to seek out his books at your library … in the picture book section, children’s fiction, non-fiction, young adult and folk tales.  Whew!  Yep, he’s prolific!

Code Talker:  A Novel about the Navajo Marines of World War Two

Code Talkers is about the Navajo Marines, the unsung heroes, of World War II.  The Navajos both developed an unbreakable code (all other codes were broken by the Japanese) and risked their lives in battle to transmit messages that utilized their native language, which, as it turns out, the Japanese had never studied and is the most complex of all Native American languages. [young adult, ages 12-adult]

Eagle Song

This is a great story about a contemporary boy struggling to straddle two cultures, American and Mohawk.  It’s also appealing to a reluctant boy reader in 3rd to 5th grade at 79 pages with illustrations.  [chapter book, ages 6-10]

Anyone who loves lacrosse which was sacred to the Iroquois should read this book.  Set in contemporary Washington D.C., Jake has left his Iroquois reservation and entered a boarding school.  Lacrosse is the bridge that crosses both worlds for Jake, but is that enough for him?  [chapter book, ages 8-12]

Click on image of book to view at Amazon.

By Mia Wenjen, PragmaticMom

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