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Josie Dances

Josie Dances

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Author Denise Lajimodiere, Illustrator Angela Erdrich

Minnesota Historical Society Press (May 4, 2021)

An Ojibwe girl practices her dance steps, gets help from her family, and is inspired by the soaring flight of Migizi, the eagle, as she prepares for her first powwow.


Josie dreams of dancing at next summer’s powwow. But first she needs many special things: a dress, a shawl, a cape, leggings, moccasins, and, perhaps most important of all, her spirit name. To gather all these essential pieces, she calls on her mom, her aunty, her kookum, and Grandma Greatwalker. They have the skills to prepare Josie for her powwow debut.

As the months go by, Josie practices her dance steps while Mom stitches, Aunty and Kookum bead, and Grandma Greatwalker dreams Josie’s spirit name. Josie is nervous about her performance in the arena and about all the pieces falling into place, but she knows her family is there to support her.

The powwow circle is a welcoming space, and dancers and spectators alike celebrate Josie’s first dance. When she receives her name, she knows it’s just right. Wrapped in the love of her community, Josie dances to honor her ancestors.

In this Ojibwe girl’s coming-of-age story, Denise Lajimodiere highlights her own daughter’s experience at powwow. Elegant artwork by Angela Erdrich features not only Josie and her family but also the animals and seasons and heartbeat of Aki, Mother Earth, and the traditions that link Josie to generations past and yet to come.

Also of interest:
Bowwow Powwow
Hungry Johnny
The Forever Sky
Powwow Summer
The Creator's Game

Author information

Denise Lajimodiere is a retired associate professor of educational leadership at North Dakota State University and a citizen of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa. A traditional jingle dress dancer, a poet (Dragonfly Dance; Thunderbird; Bitter Tears; His Feathers Were Chains) and author (Stringing Rosaries), and a birch bark biting artist, she lives in a cozy cottage by a lake on the Turtle Mountain Reservation.

Dr. Angela Erdrich has worked as a pediatrician in Native American communities since 1997. She makes her home in Minneapolis, where she enjoys spotting birds and animals in the wild just as she does at Turtle Mountain, where she is a tribal member. She learned watercolor painting from her high school art teacher. Josie Dances is her first illustrated book.

Reviews and news

American Indians in Children's Literature Best Books of 2021

"I'll just say it: I love Josie Dances. That sense of love that readers experience with some books, is where I'll start. Why, I wonder, does this book give me that feeling? . . . I think what I'm trying to get at is this: the story given to us by Denise Lajimodiere and Angela Erdrichboth, citizens of the Turtle Mountain Band of Ojibweis so real, and so full of Native life and love."
Debbie Reese, American Indians in Children's Literature

"If you don’t have a child to read this book with, borrow one. Go see your niece or your cousin or the neighbor. Ask the kids to put down their phones and prepare to be dazzled. Let them hear and see and imagine how Josie learns to dance."
The Circle: Native American News & Arts

"This resonant modern-day Native narrative highlights the warmth of one girl’s family, the pride of traditions, and the beauty of finding a place in the world, themes as contemporary as they are ancient. Back matter includes an Ojibwe glossary."
Publishers Weekly

"This intergenerational story reveals the extensive preparation undertaken by the fancy dancer’s entire family to get ready for the biggest event of the year. . . . Colorful illustrations rendered in watercolor show the beauty and intricate patterns of traditional beadwork, birchbark baskets, and fine regalia. . . . Sweetly demonstrates how this traditional dance links the generations."

"Josie Dances is, at its core, two things: one, an invitation for children to imaginatively enter a powwow and a young Ojibwe girl’s life; the other, an invitation for adults to glimpse powwow culture more broadly. Look carefully at particular pages and you’ll see things like the cradleboard Lajimodiere hand-beaded with Ojibwe floral designs and used for all her kids and grandkids, paintings made by the Erdrich sisters’ mother, and important people in the northern powwow community, like Dakota dancer Emmet 'His Many Lightnings' Eastman."
MplsStPaul Magazine

2022 Early Readers selection by Rise: A Feminist Book Project for Ages 0-18. Rise has been promoting quality feminist literature for young readers since 2002.

2022 Wisconsin State Reading Association recommendation list



Related resources

Native American Boarding Schools article on MNopedia by Dr. Denise Lajimodiere

Minnesota History Center "Our Home, Native Minnesota"

Mille Lacs Indian Museum "The Jingle Dress at 100" Exhibit

Artwork by Denise Lajimodiere:

Floral Pattern Birch Bark Biting

Dazzle of Dragonflies #3

  • Ages 3-7
  • 32 pages
  • Fully illustrated
  • Includes glossary
  • 10 x 10 inches
  • ISBN: 9781681342078

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