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WRAD Q&A and Native Voices Book List

World Read Aloud Day 2022 Questions and Answers

I had so much fun reading to students and talking about my book SIOUX CODE TALKERS OF WORLD WAR II again! I met virtually with classrooms, teachers, and librarians in Connecticut, Texas, Iowa, and Canada! Kudos to all the teacher/librarians who organized the day – it was busy! I loved seeing and hearing the energy in the classrooms and kids had some fabulous questions. Thank you all for the invitations!

Here are a few questions that kept popping up during the day.

How long did it take you to write your book?

About 20 years, but keep in mind, I was teaching full time, raising 4 kids with my husband, and learning the craft of writing for children.

How many times did you revise?

SIOUX CODE TALKERS went through 36 full revisions, meaning I tore it completely apart and put it back together in different ways 36 times.

What did you take out of your manuscript while you were revising?

I tried writing it as a picture book at first, then as a fictional story. Then, as a mix of fiction with nonfiction sections in each chapter. However, the structure became nonfiction, I had to take out anything that wasn’t verified by my research. Even quotes. I had a strong, emotional quote in one chapter that I loved, and I had to change it because I couldn’t find the source. The quote that replaced it in the manuscript was fine, but not as compelling as the original one I typed up.

What did you do when you had writer’s block?

I have to walk away from the manuscript for a day or two. Sometimes weeks. Getting outside helps – go for a walk or run, hike, bike, whatever. Then, my brain seems to work better and I’m able to puzzle things out. 

When did you decide to write a children’s book? How old were you when you found out about your great-uncle John Bear King and his code talker service?

After I met Jack Langan (he was a bugler in the First Cavalry Division), and he helped me with research and encouraged me to write the story, then I got serious about writing a book. I was about 30 years old when I found out about my great-uncle’s code talker service.

Did you ever want to join the military?

Joining the military was not something I pursued. I always wanted to go to college. But I have many family members who served in the military, including one of my brothers who was a Marine and my uncle who was in the Army in Vietnam. My book is dedicated to those who served, and I believe there were 16 close family members who served. 

Native Voices suggested BOOK LIST

What are some books you’ve had a strong connection to?

Years ago, a book my children and I connected with a picture book titled JINGLE DANCER by Cynthia Leitich Smith (Muscogee Creek) and it was the first time we read a story with a Native protagonist. The story is about values like kinship, generosity, and collaboration – taking care of each other. My daughter (who was in 3rd grade at the time) made a jingle dress with her grandmother and a friend (auntie) who helped cut and stitch the dress together. The dress was her book project for school. And, the author, Cynthia Leitich Smith is a person I have admired for a long time. She’s paved the way for Native authors. She is so generous with her time and talent, and has supported so many Native writers and illustrators ever since. (Picture book)

Just recently, I saw myself in a story titled INDIAN NO MORE by Charlene Willing McManis (Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde) with Traci Sorell (Cherokee) for the first time. History about stolen lands and a fictional main character are woven together to share this emotional story. A Native girl and her family are forced to move away from the only home they know and she must learn how to live in a new city and culture. Her Tribal Nation was different than mine and some of her experiences in the book haven’t been talked about till now. Most people didn’t have to endure her challenges, but there were some similar instances that I lived through in my childhood. (Middle Grade)

I also read THE SEA IN WINTER by Christine Day (Upper Skagit) and had a connection with the main character who was a ballerina. She injured her knee and fell into despair, and her parents helped her recover through love, encouragement, and spending time in nature. The author (an amazing writer!) crafted an authentic tale of a loving family getting through things together. And… the author’s note in the back has lingered in my mind ever since I read it. It’s hard to believe there’s so much hatred in the world. This story is the opposite – love is the way to solve problems. (Middle Grade)

And the book FIREKEEPER’S DAUGHTER by Angeline Boulley (Sault Ste. Marie Chippewa) is one I couldn’t put down and am so in awe of how well the author crafted this story. It’s a murder mystery, set in a high school, with a Native protagonist – “A female Nancy Drew” is how I heard Angeline describe her story – how cool is that? It’s part (young) love story too. It’s no surprise the book has had tons of accolades and won several awards. (Young Adult)

Can you name some books that reveal Native Culture and Values?


  • YOU HOLD ME UP by Monique Gray Smith (Cree/Lakota)
  • AT THE MOUNTAINS BASE by Traci Sorell (Cherokee)
  • WILD BERRIES by Julie Flett (Cree-Metis)
  • BOWWOW POWWOW by Brenda J. Child (Ojibwe)


  • JO JO MAKOONS: USED-TO-BE BEST FRIEND by Dawn Quigley (Turtle Mountain Ojibwe)
  • INDIAN SHOES by Cynthia Leitich Smith (Muscogee Creek)


  • FIGHTER IN VELVET GLOVES by Annie Boochever with Roy Peratrovich, Jr.  (Tlingit)
  • HEALER OF THE WATER MONSTER by Brian Young (Navajo)
  • ELATSOE by Darcie Little Badger  (Lipan Apache)
  • CODE TALKER by Joseph Bruchac (Nulhegan Abenaki)

Can you recommend some books to use as mentor texts?

  • FRY BREAD by Kevin Noble Maillard (Seminole)
  • WE ARE WATER PROTECTORS by Carole Lindstrom (Anishinaabe/Metis)
  • APPLE IN THE MIDDLE by Dawn Quigley (Turtle Mountain Ojibwe)
  • SISTERS OF THE NEVERSEA by Cynthia Leitich Smith (Muscogee Creek)
  • THE NIGHT WATCHMAN by Louise Erdrich (Turtle Mountain Chippewa)

What are some books with a unique structure/genre?

  • REZ DOGS by Joseph Bruchac (Nulhegan Abenaki)
  • APPLE SKIN TO CORE by Eric Gansworth (Onondaga)
  • SNAKE THAT FALLS TO EARTH by Darcie Little Badger  (Lipan Apache)

[Check back again – This is a VERY QUICK list…There are so many more….I’ll keep adding to the list]



Children's Author and Educator

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