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Why Gidjie and the Wolves is a Book That Our Youth (And We) Need to be Reading Right Now

Jody Langan

We are currently living through the largest civil rights movement in history. As protesters walk through streets and take up space in virtual and public areas for the Black Lives Matter movement all across the world, voices are being lifted that are demanding changes to many of the policies and structures that have been in place since the beginning of the colonized United States of America. Our ‘normal’ way of functioning as a society has also been put on hold during the COVID pandemic.

Now, more than ever, we are being called on not to just reform, but to entirely dismantle and reimagine what our society will look like and how it will function, and a book like Gidjie and the Wolves is the tool we need to help us do this work. Gidjie and the Wolves provokes us to examine the importance of diversity in children’s literature and publishing, and provides us with a new voice and story that encourages us to diversify the metaphors that we read by and reimagine what our world could be.

Gidjie and the Wolves is a middle grades speculative fiction novel by Tashia Hart, a Red Lake Anishinaabe author from Minnesota. The book is the first in the Intermediaries series and features a young Anishinaabe girl named Gidjie, who lives on Lake Superior and is being raised by her grandmother and other friends and family members that are intermediaries – beings that transform between human and animal form. “Gidjie and the Wolves is a highly imaginative alternative to modern American culture” (Thompson 2020) and Gidjie’s character questions concepts such as consumerism, capitalism, and colonialism.

Images and ideas of “colonialism and supremacy are transmitted via childhood stories, [and] it is absolutely critical that these functions of children’s literature are revealed, historicized, and interrogated.” (Thomas 2016). The chances of our young generation picking up a book that includes Native representation are almost nonexistent. Gidjie’s story, a story about an Anishinaabe girl by an Anishinaabe author, and other stories like it that feature Native American and First Nations characters make up less than 1% of children’s literature (Leeandlowbooks 2020). Stories offer the opportunity to build empathy and can act as a mirror into the experience of others, and as important, can offer access to diverse representation that is also accurate, essentially letting readers know that they are valued in their current social context. Gidjie and the Wolves adds to the growing 1% of Native characters and provides a desperately needed look into what can be a window or mirror for readers. In this moment that we are living in, “when astonishing technological breakthroughs meet vast human inequality,” (Rundell 2019) we need new voices, and Hart’s story of Gidjie should be one of them.

Not only is Gidjie adding to the growing number of Native characters, but as an #ownvoices author, Tashia Hart is also ambitiously adding her work to the world of publishing as a Native American author and publisher. Currently, less than 1% of the publishing world is Native American (Leeandlowbooks 2020). Hart ran into an obstacle when seeking to publish the book, denied the opportunity to publish because publishers felt like they weren’t able to relate to the characters, and that Gidjie is too different compared to other stories that are currently being sold. The situation abhorrently does not come as a surprise, considering who makes up the majority of publishing, but still can no longer be the accepted norm. New and diverse voices are essential, and thankfully Hart took matters into her own hands and created her own publishing company, (Not) Too Far Removed Press, that not only allows her to publish her own work, but will hopefully be a space where other Native writers will have the opportunity to share their stories. Tashia Hart and Gidjie invite us to examine the importance of diversity in literature, publishing and beyond. Stories like Gidjie and the Wolves and publishers like Tashia Hart are necessary to ensure that all voices and stories are heard.

Not only does Gidjie and the Wolves offer diversity of authors and characters, but the story and characters invoke us to imagine possibilities outside our ‘normal’ realm of thinking. Gidjie questions consumerism, capitalism, the dehumanization of indigenous peoples, destruction of land and animals, and power structures. There is currently an imagination gap in children’s literature and media, “caused in part by the lack of diversity in childhood and teen life depicted in children’s books and media” and this lack of diversity of characters and ideas limits the development of the reader’s imagination... “but the work of making new worlds always begins in the imagination” (Thomas 2016). Gidjie’s experience at her local shop, Animals-R-A-Wares, where a tourist tries to buy sunscreen and herbal tea and is met with a trade agreement of riding a bike instead of walking and only purchasing organic produce for the next month, helps us imagine a world where bartering and trading can successfully exist. The story helps us imagine a youth population that is not consumed by technology or even used technology at all. In the book, problems are solved by councils, and not councils of the most important older people, but instead councils of youth. Considering this scenario could help us imagine a world in which the voices of youth could be lifted and would be an integral and valued asset to help solve problems in society. Without a story like Gidjie and the Wolves, we would not be exposed to stories and characters that help fill the imagination gap.

In order to entirely dismantle and reimagine what our society will look like and how it will function, a book like Gidjie and the Wolves is necessary because it calls on us to examine the diversity of voices and stories that we are listening to, and allows us to imagine new ways of being and seeing. Because “if today’s children grow up with literature that is multicultural, diverse, and decolonized, we can begin the work of healing our nation and world through humanizing stories” (Thomas 2016). Because if not now, then when?

You can buy Gidjie and the Wolves at Birchbark Books or (It’s also on Amazon, but let’s support local businesses, please!)


Hart, T. (2020). Gidjie and the Wolves. (Not) Too Far Removed Press.

Leeandlowbooks. (2020, February 10). Where Is the Diversity in Publishing? The 2019 Diversity Baseline Survey Results. Retrieved June 11, 2020, from

Rundell, K. (2019). Why you should read childrens books, even though you are so old and wise. London: Bloomsbury Publishing.

Thomas, E. E. (2016). Stories Still Matter: Rethinking the Role of Diverse Children's Literature Tody. Language Arts, 94(2), 112–119.

Thompson, D. (2020, April 30). Author Tashia Hart Shares Her Story Behind Her First Book Gidjie and the Wolves. Retrieved June 11, 2020, from


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