Ancestor Approved: Intertribal Stories for Kids

by Cynthia L Smith (Author)

Reading Level: 4th − 5th Grade

Edited by award-winning and bestselling author Cynthia Leitich Smith, this collection of intersecting stories by both new and veteran Native writers bursts with hope, joy, resilience, the strength of community, and Native pride.

Native families from Nations across the continent gather at the Dance for Mother Earth Powwow in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

In a high school gym full of color and song, people dance, sell beadwork and books, and celebrate friendship and heritage. Young protagonists will meet relatives from faraway, mysterious strangers, and sometimes one another (plus one scrappy rez dog).

They are the heroes of their own stories.

Featuring stories and poems by:

  • Joseph Bruchac
  • Art Coulson
  • Christine Day
  • Eric Gansworth
  • Carole Lindstrom
  • Dawn Quigley
  • Rebecca Roanhorse
  • David A. Robertson
  • Andrea L. Rogers
  • Kim Rogers
  • Cynthia Leitich Smith
  • Monique Gray Smith
  • Traci Sorell
  • Tim Tingle
  • Erika T. Wurth
  • Brian Young

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Publishers Weekly

Starred Review

In a letter to reviewers, editor Smith (enrolled Muscogee Creek) describes this anthology as a "sampling of the many rising Indigenous voices who are changing children's literature for the better." Using the framework of an intertribal powwow, 17 Indigenous authors craft stories that explore themes such as ethnic identity and ancestry. The rhythmic "What Is a Powwow?" by Kim Rogers (Wichita and Affiliated Tribes) first establishes the event as one "where our hearts beat as one/ to the thump of the drum." In enrolled Onondaga author Eric Gans-worth's thought-provoking "Indian Price," two cousins in different living situations connect for the first time. Family is also central to the inspiring "Secrets and Surprises" by Traci Sorell (Cherokee), which celebrates how Native cultures can support others--an idea threaded throughout. The most engaging entries detail aspects of Native culture alongside universal themes: sisters learn to navigate a changing relationship in "What We Know About Glaciers" by Christine Day (Upper Skagit), while two stories by Brian Young (enrolled Navajo) showcase the same events from the eyes of two frenemies. It's a wonderful introduction to the included authors' work and a persuasive encouragement to seek out more Indi-genous stories. Ages 8-12. Agent: Ginger Knowlton, Curtis Brown. (Feb.)

Copyright 2020 Publishers Weekly, LLC Used with permission.

School Library Journal

Gr 3-6--Editor Smith and 16 other authors and artists collaborate in this #OwnVoices short story collection from HarperCollins's HeartDrum imprint, which was created to "highlight the voices of Native creators." Each story focuses on a different character and their experience of an intertribal powwow in Michigan. The stories range from solemn to silly, but each emphasizes the power of the tribal community to support and heal its members. The well-edited volume begins with welcoming and humorous tales before moving into heavier territory. Each creator provides a short biography in the back matter, which includes their tribal affiliation and other works, in addition to their acknowledgements and notes on their contributions to the book. This anthology aims to both increase Native representation in middle grade literature and promote knowledge and understanding in non-Native readers. While not every story will be equally engaging for every reader and some points of overlap might seem a bit redundant, there is still more than enough to recommend this for school and public libraries everywhere. VERDICT All libraries should make room on their shelves for this collection of Native-voiced stories. Recommended.--Taylor Worley, Springfield P.L., OR

Copyright 2021 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

Review quotes

A thoughtful and sometimes funny celebration of a celebration, and whether kids are veteran powwow-goers or new to the experience, they'll long for the convivial warmth of the festivities.—Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books
Lexile Measure
Guided Reading Level
Publication date
February 09, 2021
BISAC categories
JUV011040 - Juvenile Fiction | People & Places | United States - Native American
JUV038000 - Juvenile Fiction | Short Stories
JUV017080 - Juvenile Fiction | Holidays & Celebrations | Other, Non-Religious
Library of Congress categories
Indians of North America
Short stories
ALSC Notable Children's Book
Selection 2022

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