The best children’s picture books about Native American celebrations today

Nancy Bo Flood Author Of First Laugh, Welcome, Baby!
By Nancy Bo Flood

Who am I?

Stories help us understand ourselves, another culture, or a new student sitting alone at a nearby desk. While teaching, working side by side, and living on the Navajo Nation for nearly twenty years, I wanted to share some of the special and surprising aspects of their culture—especially the kindness, wisdom, and the laughter Navajo people shared with me. Laughter is a holy gift for the Navajo people. First Laugh shows the reader why this is true. My books have been given a variety of national and international awards but the best reward is when a child looks up while reading one of my books, quietly grins, and then proudly says, “I am in this book.”


I wrote...

First Laugh, Welcome, Baby!

By Rose Ann Tahe, Nancy Bo Flood, Jonathan Nelson (illustrator)

Book cover of First Laugh, Welcome, Baby!

What is my book about?

Imagine celebrating a baby’s first laugh with the entire family present—young and old, far and near. First Laugh invites you to experience a unique Navajo tradition that is celebrated today.  This celebration (La’tse Awee’ ch’ideeldloh) is a child’s first formal welcome into one’s family. A taste of salt is given to each guest as a reminder to be kind and generous. From their child’s first act of sharing, the parents hope their child will have a happy life with much laughter and love and will always gladly give to anyone in need. Fun glimpses of family antics are woven into this story as siblings and grandparents try to make this grumpy baby laugh. Jonathan Nelson’s art illustrates the land, the people, the celebration.

The books I picked & why

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We Are Grateful: Otsaliheliga

By Traci Sorell, Frane Lessac (illustrator),

Book cover of We Are Grateful: Otsaliheliga

Why this book?

This is a delightful journey of seeing the thankfulness expressed by the Cherokee people for the gifts of each season.  Reader and listeners might pause and think about “what is something for which I am thankful?” Page by page this question is answered as one becomes aware of the gifts we often take for granted—water to refresh us; air to sustain us; earth to hold us; and family who love us, and thus we give thanks. 

We Are Grateful: Otsaliheliga

By Traci Sorell, Frane Lessac (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked We Are Grateful as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.


Fry Bread: A Native American Family Story

By Kevin Noble Maillard, Juana Martinez-Neal (illustrator),

Book cover of Fry Bread: A Native American Family Story

Why this book?

Reading this picture book makes you hungry, makes you smile, and makes you ready to sit down and bite into some hot sizzling fry bread (maybe with a drizzle of honey or a scoop of ice cream). What a fun look into the world of Native American families.  Fry bread is much more than something to eat. The author presents us with a new awareness: “fry bread is food… Fry bread is time… Fry bread is nation…is us… a celebration of traditional and modern….” Yes, what a delicious way to think about it – “fry bread is us.”

Fry Bread: A Native American Family Story

By Kevin Noble Maillard, Juana Martinez-Neal (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Fry Bread as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Fry bread is food.
It is warm and delicious, piled high on a plate.

Fry bread is time.
It brings families together for meals and new memories.

Fry bread is nation.
It might look or taste different, but it is still shared by many, from coast to coast and beyond.

Fry bread is us.
It is a celebration of old and new, traditional and modern, similarity and difference.

Fry Bread is a story told in lively and powerful verse by Seminole Nation member Kevin Noble Maillard, with vibrant art from Pura Belpre Award winner Juana Martinez-Neal.

Powwow's Coming

By Linda Boyden,

Book cover of Powwow's Coming

Why this book?

Powwow's Coming is a simple, colorful, and “full of dancing descriptions” that show the fun and importance of powwow celebrations. Linda is part Native and part teacher and fully a creative author and illustrator. She explains in rhyming narrative the reasons for the gathering of many tribal members at a powwow to share dancing, chanting, and drumming. Powwow’s Coming is a perfect read aloud for younger “listeners.” Boyden has included a teachers’ resource page so the book can easily be incorporated into different curriculums.

Powwow's Coming

By Linda Boyden,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Powwow's Coming as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Powwow's coming, hear the beat? Powwow's coming, dancing feet. Powwow's coming, hear the drum? Powwow's coming, everyone! Frustrated as a school teacher not being able to find good instructional materials on American Indians, Linda Boyden has bypassed the tired stereotype of Indians on horseback or hunting game and placed them in today's setting of a powwow. ""Powwow's Coming"" provides children with a foundation for understanding and celebrating the enduring culture and heritage of American Indians. Boyden's exquisite cut-paper collage and engaging poem visually place readers within the scenes of a contemporary Native American community while offering a thoughtful look at…

Jingle Dancer

By Cynthia Leitich Smith, Cornelius Van Wright (illustrator), Ying-Hwa Hu (illustrator)

Book cover of Jingle Dancer

Why this book?

This book was one of the first—and still one of the best—picture books to describe the importance of jingle dancing and powwow today. The setting is contemporary. The story is engaging. The author, Cynthia Leitig Smith, is a tribal member and weaves many authentic details into the story.

Jingle Dancer

By Cynthia Leitich Smith, Cornelius Van Wright (illustrator), Ying-Hwa Hu (illustrator)

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Jingle Dancer as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.


Josie Dances

By Denise Lajimodiere, Angela Erdrich (illustrator),

Book cover of Josie Dances

Why this book?

Josie wants to dance at next summer’s powwow. But she needs nearly everyone in her family to help make this possible. As Josie’s story unfolds we are introduced to the special people in her family. We learn of their love, their kindness, and their special talents. We are also introduced to the beautiful connections to many parts of our natural world.  

Josie Dances

By Denise Lajimodiere, Angela Erdrich (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Josie Dances as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in dancing, Native Americans, and Cherokee?

6,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about dancing, Native Americans, and Cherokee.

Dancing Explore 21 books about dancing
Native Americans Explore 144 books about Native Americans
Cherokee Explore 8 books about Cherokee

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

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