About the Books:

If you like historical fiction, you will enjoy both the Dear America and My Name is America series. In the Dear America books, girls tell the story of American history in diary format. My Name is America uses the same diary format, but each book is told from a boy's point of view. You get to read stories about the United States from the point of view of kids about your age. Even though the people telling you the stories are not real, many of the things they talk about did happen in the past. So pick one up and see what you think!

Journal of Jesse SmokeBruchac, Joseph. The Journal of Jesse Smoke, A Cherokee Boy, The Trail of Tears, 1838. New York: Scholastic, Inc., 2001. (Gr. 4-8)
Sixteen-year-old Jesse Smoke lives with his mother and two sisters on a farm in Tennesee. Many other Cherokee live nearby, some with small farms, and others with large plantations. Since white settlers want the Cherokee's land, Jesse and his family live at a dangerous time - so dangerous that Jesse's father was killed by white settlers. Before his father died, Jesse went to school, but now the schools have closed. He can speak and write in both his native language, Cherokee, and English, so he begins a diary to tell the story of his people during a very difficult period in American history. They are about to embark on a long and painful journey as Jesse and his people are forced from their homes to walk between 800 and 1,200 miles to a reservation in Oklahoma.

Written by acclaimed Native American author Joseph Bruchac, Jesse's story is full of images of Cherokee life. It provides an accurate account of the Trail of Tears as well as the time leading up to the forced removal of the Cherokee. Not only will you enjoy this story of survival and determination, you will come to appreciate the sacrifices the Cherokee made in order to remain at peace with the United States government.

My Heart is on the GroundRinaldi, Ann. My Heart is on the Ground: The Diary of Nannie Little Rose, A Sioux Girl, Carlisle Indian School, Pennsylvania, 1880. New York, Scholastic Inc., 1999. (Gr. 4-6)
Twelve-year-old Little Rose lives on a Lakota Sioux reservation where her father is a chief. When Captain Pratt, founder of a school meant to teach Native American children to assimilate into American culture comes to her reservation and asks for volunteers to send their children to his school. Little Rose's father sends her to the Carlisle Indian School where she must give up her clothes in favor of clothes worn by white children, give up her name for an American one, have her hair cut, speak only in English, and live far away from her family in the Dakotas. Many children die at the school from disease and homesickness, and, like the Journal of Jesse Smoke, Little Rose's diary tells the story of a painful time in American history.

Unfortunately, My Heart is on the Ground has been criticized by Native American groups for its unrealistic portrayal of the harsh life at the Carlisle Indian School. Historical inaccuracies about the school and a lack of understanding of Native American culture led the Native American group Oyate to devote a page on its website to the problems in this book. As a result, while we recommend learning more about the Carlisle Indian School and the children who were sent there, we do not recommend reading this book. We have chosen to leave it on this page as a lesson to readers of the importance of historical accuracy, even in a work of historical fiction. In addition, the book also teaches everyone about the need for authors to consult with members of the group they choose to write about if they are not members of that group. We want to remind students that both of these books are works of fiction. Just as in any historical fiction book, the authors used real events in the past along with their imagination to create a story for you to read.

you might also like to read:

We developed a list of themes and elements in The Journal of Jesse Smoke and My Heart is on the Ground. Click on the different terms to see other books you might like to read. Use the suggested grade range after each title to see whether the book is right for you. We didn't list other books in the Dear America, My Name is America or Royal Diaries series because we wanted to give you new ideas - but you'll probably like those, too. Don't forget, there are probably lots more books you might like, so ask your librarian or teacher for suggestions!

When suggesting books about Native American culture and history, we have tried to remain culturally sensitive. If you believe a book has been posted in error and should not be recommended, please let us know! (Note: we have included categories for nonfiction books even though these diaries are historical fiction, not true accounts. We have also grouped them together so that they are easy to identify.)

Boarding Schools - Fiction
Coming of Age - Fiction (Here we've used an official name for this type of book so that you can find more like it in your local library's catalog. Think of these as stories about growing up.)
Culture Shock - Fiction
Diaries - Fiction
Diaries - Historical Fiction
Native Americans - Folkore

Native Americans - Historical Fiction
Nonfiction - Culture Shock

Nonfiction - Diaries
Nonfiction - Native Americans
Orphans - Fiction
Survivial - Fiction

Boarding Schools - Fiction
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's StoneRowling, J.K. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. New York: A.A. Levine Books, 1997.
When his parents die, Harry Potter is sent to live with his mean aunt an uncle. On his eleventh birthday, Harry learns that he is a wizard and will be attending Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Once there, he discovers the truth about his parents and that he may be the only one capable of destroying an evil wizard. (Gr. 4-7)


Coming of Age - Fiction
The Winter PeopleBruchac, Joseph. The Winter People. New York: Dial Books, 2002.
Saxso, a fourteen-year-old Abenaki boy hunts for the English rangers who attacked and destroyed much of his village in Quebec. They took his mother and sisters hostage, and he must find them. In the process he learns what it means to take care of your family and become a man. Bruchac tells a gripping story of the French and Indian War from Saxso's point of view. (Gr. 5-9).

Harry Potter and the Order of the PhoenixRowling, J.K.  Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. New York: A.A. Levine Books, 2003.
In the fifth book of the Harry Potter series, Harry is no longer a young boy and has become a full-fledged teenager. As Harry continues to learn and grow, he also must figure out how to convince others at the Hogwarts School that the evil wizard Voldemort has become a growing threat. (Gr. 4-7)

 

Culture Shock - Fiction
BloomabilityCreech, Sharon. Bloomability. New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1998
Here is 13-year-old Domenica Santolina Doone's (or Dinnie for short) story of culture shock when she moved from New Mexico to Switzerland to spend a year at an international boarding school run by her aunt and uncle. She is not happy about the whole new environment at first, but she gradually gets adjusted by making new friends and learning new things. Dinne shares adventures, ideas, and emotions with her friends from all around the world. (Gr. 5-7)

ChaseR: A Novel in E-mailsRosen, Michael J. ChaseR: A Novel in E-mails. Cambridge, MA: Candlewick Press, 2002.
Are you living in a city or in a rural area? Wherever you are, you may well imagine how hard it would be to get adjusted to a different environment. Fourteen-year-old Chase talks in comic emails about his culture shock in country life. (Gr. 6-9)



Naomi: The Strawberry Blonde of Pippu TownSchreyer, Karmel. Naomi: The Strawberry Blonde of Pippu Town. Winnipeg: Great Plains, 1999.
Have you ever dreamed of living a far-away country all of a sudden? Here is a story of twelve-year-old Naomi who happened to live in Japan for a year because of her divorced mother's new job. She had to leave her best friends, beloved grandmother, and her dog in Manitoba, Canada. She experiences culture shock in Japan at first but eventually learns different ways of living and a new language to find her strength in a new culture. (Gr. 6-11)

 

Diaries - Fiction
Absolutely Normal ChaosCreech, Sharon. Absolutely Normal Chaos. New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1995.
Even if you don't like it when you're assigned to keep a journal, you may like to read Mary Lou's. She is a thirteen-year-old girl with a lot to tell you about her summer. (Gr. 5-9)

 

With Love from Spain, Melanie MartinWeston, Carol. With Love from Spain, Melanie Martin. New York: A.A. Knopf, 2004.
Eleven-year-old Melanie is off to Spain with her family for spring break. The only catch is that her dad is there to work and her mom is meeting up with an old boyfriend - even though they're just friends. Take a peek at her diary to find out how Melanie handles her mom, her little brother, and her own bit of romance. (Gr. 4-6)

 

Diaries - Historical Fiction
The Pox PartyAnderson, M.T. The Pox Party. Cambridge, MA : Candlewick Press, 2006.
Various diaries, letters, and other manuscripts chronicle the experiences of Octavian, a young African American, from birth to age sixteen, as he is brought up as part of a science experiment in the years leading up to and during the Revolutionary War. (Gr. 8 & up)

 

AssassinFinney, Patricia.  Assassin.  New York: Delacorte Press, 2004.
In the first book of the Lady Grace mysteries series is set in Elizabethan England, Lady Grace Cavendish must solve a murder mystery. Read her diary to find out whether thirteen-year-old Lady Grace, a maid of honor of Queen Elizabeth I, can prove she knows who killed one of her suitors. (Gr. 4-7)

 

Race for the SkyGutman, Dan.  Race for the Sky: The Kitty Hawk Diaries of Johnny Moore.  New York: Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2003.
Fourteen-year-old Johnny Moore must either keep a diary or be sent back to school by his mother. With nothing to write about living on the sparsely populated Outer Banks of North Carolina's coast, Johnny thinks he'll end up back in school before the year is over. Until a man from Ohio lands on the islands with the crazy idea of building a flying machine. (Gr. 4-7)

Mable RileyJocelyn, Marthe. Mable Riley: A Reliabe Record of Humdrum, Peril and Romance. Cambridge, MA: Candlewick Press, 2004.
In 1901, fourteen-year-old Mable Riley dreams of being a writer and having adventures while stuck in Perth County, Ontario, assisting her sister in teaching school and secretly becoming friends with a neighbor who holds scandalous opinions on women's rights. (Gr. 5-9)

 

Native Americans - Folklore
Spirits Dark and LightTingle, Tim. Spirits Dark and Light: Supernatural Tales from the Five Civilized Tribes. Little Rock, AR: August House, 2006.
This great collection of traditional stories from the Choctaw, Cherokee, Chicasaw, Creek and Seminole tribes has tales that are eerie, gruesome, and frightening. This is a great campfire or sleepover read aloud.

 

Native Americans - Historical Fiction
The Winter PeopleBruchac, Joseph. The Winter People. New York: Dial Books, 2002.
Saxso, a fourteen-year-old Abenaki boy hunts for the English rangers who attacked and destroyed much of his village in Quebec. They took his mother and sisters hostage, and he must find them. Bruchac tells a gripping story of the French and Indian War from Saxso's point of view. (Gr. 5-9).

 

The Birchbark HouseErdrich, Louise. The Birchbark House. New York: Hyperion Books for Children, 1999.
Orphaned as a baby by Smallpox, seven-year-old Omakayas, does not know that her Ojibwa family is not her real family. As you learn about the four seasons of the year for an Ojibwa family in 1847, you will also experience a funny, but suspenseful story of Omakayas' life. What will happen when Smallpox enters her life again? Winner of the Native American Youth Services Award for Middle School readers presented by the American Indian Library Association. (Gr. 4-7) Erdrich has also written a sequel: The Game of Silence.

Nonfiction - Culture Shock
Rattlesnake MesaWeber, Ednah New Rider. Rattlesnake mesa: Stories from a native American Childhood. New York: Lee and Low, 2004.
Weber's autobiography of her childhood as a Native American growing up on a reservation and attending the Phoenix Indian School in the 1920s includes eye-catching black-and-white photographs. If you want to learn more about the boarding schools set up across the country to "educate" Native Americans, this is a good one to start with. (Gr. 4-8)

Nonfiction - Diaries
Speaking of JournalsGraham, Paula W. Speaking of Journals: Children's Book Writers Talk About Their Diaries, Notebooks, and Sketchbooks. Honesdale, PA: Boyds Mills Press, 1999.
Are you interested in learning more about the journaling techniques used by Jessie Smoke and Nannie Little Rose? This book consists of a collection of interviews of children's book writers sharing their experiences about keeping diaries, notebooks, and sketchbooks when they were young. Explore the authors creative process and learn how you can use similar tools to tell the story of your own life. (Gr. 4-8)

Nonfiction - Native Americans
Only the Names RemainBealer, Alex W. Only the Names Remain: The Cherokee and the Trail of Tears. 2nd ed. New York: Little, Brown & Company, 1996.
Want to learn more about the Trail of Tears? This is a good resource to start with. Although not written by a Native American author, some Native American websites do place it on their recommended lists. (Gr. 4-6)

Navajo Long WalkBruchac, Joseph.  Navajo Long Walk.  Washington, D.C.: National Geographic Society, 2001.
If you want to know more about other American Indian tribes forced from their homes to reservations further west, check out Bruchac's book. Even though it looks like a picture book, Navajo Long Walk has a lot of information to offer as well as powerful images painted by Navajo artist Shonto Begay. (Gr. 3-8)

Children of Native America TodayDennis, Yvonne Wakim and Arlene Hirschfelder. Children of Native America Today. Watertown, MA: Charlesbridge Publishers, 2003.
Native American tribes are still active today, and this account of tribes from across the country lets you see what it's like to be an American Indian child in the twenty-first century. Great photos, lists of facts, maps, and interesting text make this a fun book to check out. (Gr. 2-6)

1621: A New Look at ThanksgivingGrace, Catherine O'Neill and Margaret M. Bruchac. 1621: A New Look at Thanksgiving. Washington, D.C.: National Geographic Society, 2001.
Not just another Thanksgiving story, this book is a great example of a cooperative effort between the Wampanoag tribe and the Plimoth Plantation. Check out this account of the first Thanksgiving with spectacular photos of reenactors. (Gr. 3-5)

Meet LydiaThe My World: Young Native Americans Today series is a great set of books designed to introduce kids to life as a Native American child in the twenty-first century. Published by the National Museum of the American Indian, the series currently includes 3 titles: Meet Lydia: A Native Girl from Southeast Alaska by Miranda Belarde-Lewis, Meet Naiche: A Native Boy from the Chesapeake Bay Area by Gabrielle Tayac, and Meet Mindy: A Native Girl from the Southwest by Susan Secakuku. Each book lets you get to know a Native American kid and his or her family. Note, these books may be hard for you to find in your local library. You may need to ask a librarian for help. We suggest giving him or her the links listed above so that she can learn more about them (Gr. 4-8)

Braid of LivesPhilip, Neil. A Braid of Lives: Native American Childhood. New York: Clarion Books, 2000.
If you are interested in learning more about the lives of American Indian children, you may enjoy this book. Through personal accounts and photographs you can learn more about tribal differences, customs, and the experiences of growing up American Indian. (Gr. 4-8)


Orphans - Fiction
RodzinaCushman, Karen. Rodzina. New York: Clarion Books, 2003.
Rodzina, a twelve-year-old Polish American girl has been sent west on an Orphan train. She doesn't know what will meet her at the end of the train and fears being adopted by a family and worked as a slave rather than being accepted as a member. Read this book to find out what happens to Rodzina and the other orphans sent west as they leave behind life in the city as beggars for what they hope will be a better life. (Gr. 5-8)

The Birchbark HouseErdrich, Louise. The Birchbark House. New York: Hyperion Books for Children, 1999.
Orphaned as a baby by Smallpox, seven-year-old Omakayas, does not know that her Ojibwa family is not her real family. As you learn about the four seasons of the year for an Ojibwa family in 1847, you will also experience a funny, but suspenseful story of Omakayas' life. What will happen when Smallpox enters her life again? Winner of the Native American Youth Services Award for Middle School readers presented by the American Indian Library Association. (Gr. 4-7) Erdrich has also written a sequel: The Game of Silence.

Survivial - Fiction
RodzinaCushman, Karen. Rodzina. New York: Clarion Books, 2003.
Rodzina, a twelve-year-old Polish American girl has been sent west on an Orphan train. She doesn't know what will meet her at the end of the train and fears being adopted by a family and worked as a slave rather than being accepted as a member. Read this book to find out what happens to Rodzina and the other orphans sent west as they leave behind life in the city as beggars for what they hope will be a better life. (Gr. 5-8)

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Nick Curotto
Sun Kyung Lee
Trisha Stech
Janet Vogel (webmaster)
LIS 403
Graduate School of Library and Information Science
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
December 3, 2007