Category Archives: Canadian

Moon at Nine by Deborah Ellis

Moon at NineAt 15, Farrin is the privileged only child in a tense, unhappy, albeit very wealthy family. Her father runs a construction company that takes advantage of illegal, desperate Afghan workers to make big profits. As successful as he might be, Farrin’s mother continuously laments that she has married beneath her aristocratic standing. Portraits of the Shah have been replaced for 10 years with that of the Ayatollah Khomeini and the Revolutionary Guard have eyes and ears everywhere.

In this restrictive environment, Farrin is lucky to still be able to go to school at all – especially one for gifted girls. But she has no friends there, and is often bullied by the head girl, Pargol. And then new student Sadira arrives: for the first time, Farrin has an ally and companion. Their affection soon grows into something more … but their joy and devotion morph into ammunition for Pargol to torment the girls. The consequences for falling in love escalate far beyond their school and their families, until each is abandoned to fight for their very lives.

In 1988 Tehran, homosexuality is punishable by execution. In her ending “Author’s Note,” mega award-winning Canadian author Deborah Ellis best known for her Breadwinner tetralogy – who has built a renowned international reputation for giving voice to children in the most challenging circumstances around the world – explains how her latest novel is true. “At the beginning of the summer of 2013, I met a woman who told me about her early years in Iran … Some of the details have been changed, but this story is essentially hers.”

Adding a succinct historical overview of Iran’s history, Ellis is careful to balance details of Ayatollah Khomeini’s destructive regime with the rich diversity – especially artistically – of the country’s past. But neither does she shy away from the shocking numbers of tragic victims as they relate to this novel: “According to the Iranian gay human rights group Homan, over 4,000 lesbian and gay Iranians have been executed since 1979.” Iran is not alone in its punishment – Ellis names six countries that execute their homosexual citizens as of the end of 2013, and more than 70 countries that deem homosexuality illegal. In light of such horrific restrictions, her final paragraph is both declaration and hope: “As a proud, gay woman, I am honored to have been entrusted with the story of Farrin and Sadira, and I hope that the real-life Farrin will be able to spend the rest of her life with whatever peace and happiness she is able to find.”

As more and more states strike down anti-gay marriage laws, Moon at Nine is a chilling reminder of the suffering of too many others deprived not only of love, but their very lives. As difficult as it is to read – the ending is especially piercing – its importance is hard to deny.

Readers: Middle Grade, Young Adult

Published: 2014

Leave a comment

Filed under ..Middle Grade Readers, ..Young Adult Readers, .Fiction, Canadian, Iranian

Not My Girl by Christy Jordan-Fenton and Margaret Pokiak-Fenton, illustrated by Gabrielle Grimard

Not My GirlChristy Jordan-Fenton and her mother-in-law Margaret Pokiak-Fenton began publishing stories in 2010 about the older Pokiak-Fenton’s difficult childhood as a young Inuit child growing up in Canada’s Northwest Territories. Their four books in four years are comprised of two titles for middle grade readers, Fatty Legs and A Stranger at Home, which were then adapted into two complementary picture books, When I Was Eight and this, Not My Girl, which debuted earlier this year.

Now 10 years old, Margaret finally returns to her family from the faraway “outsiders’ school” where “I had grown tall and very thin from two years of hard chores and poor meals.” Virtually unrecognizable, her mother’s reaction is wrenching: “‘Not my girl!’ she called in what little English she knew … everything she remembered of me” had been ‘educated’ out of young Margaret, including her native Inuit language, culture, and even her name.

“Olemaun,” her father reaches out to her: “I had not heard my Inuit name in so long I thought it might shatter like an eggshell with the weight of my father’s voice.” Tight in his embrace, her mother, too, finally reaches out and “sheltered me in that safe place between them.” In spite of their love and attention, Olemaun’s return to her family proves to be a difficult challenge: her stomach is unable to digest the family’s traditional foods, the sled dogs no longer recognize her scent, she only understands her father’s translations, and she has “lost the skills [she] needed to be useful … [to] help feed the family.” She’s even rejected by her only friend whose parents forbid her to play with another “outsider.” Slowly, Olemaun must find her place with her family once more, comforted by her favorite book and a helpless puppy.

Artist Gabrielle Grimard again illustrates the duo-generational collaboration; again, her open, nothing-hidden expressions enhance Olemaun’s experiences – her father’s gentle gaze, her disappointed worry over tangling the family fish net, her dare-to-be-hopeful glance as her mother guides her hands in using the traditional knife, her single tear that matches the single drop of rice water as she nurses her puppy. The trio again transforms painful, unfortunate memories into another enduring story of resilience, tenderness, and unconditional love.

Readers: Children

Published: 2014

Leave a comment

Filed under ..Children/Picture Books, .Memoir, .Nonfiction, Canadian, Native American

I Know Here and From There to Here by Laurel Croza, illustrated by Matt James

I Know Here and From There to Here

Absolutely no doubt that you could read either of these titles separately and find two engaging standalone stories. But read them together and you’re guaranteed a much more satisfying experience that reveals Kathie’s love of frogs, the significance of “[only] me in grade three” meeting someone “[e]ight, almost nine,” the importance of the sketchbook, and so much more.

I Know Here – a Canadian mega-award winner – captures all that is familiar for a little girl about to move from a nameless “yellow dot” somewhere in Saskatchewan to the big city of Toronto. Her “here” is close to Carrot River where her baby brother was born, and Nipawin from where the family’s groceries get delivered. “Here” is an enclave of 18 trailers, of which her “school is the trailer at the end of the road.” “Here” is where the dam her father is building “will send out electricity far across the prairies,” signaling that “[s]oon we will all be leaving.” What the little girl knows are the forest, the howling wolves, the tobogganing hill, the moose and rabbits on the Pas Trail – and somehow she’ll need to figure out how to take some of “here” to “there.”

Four years after Here, the sequel hits shelves next month. “Here” trades places with “there” when the family arrives in Toronto: “It’s different here, not the same as there,” the little girl narrates. “There” is where her father’s dam stretched across the Saskatchewan River, and “here” is where his next project is a city highway. From a “road without a name,” the family now lives on Birch Street, even though the birches “must be hiding in the backyard behind the fences.” Doors went unlocked there, but not so here. There the aurora borealis “dance[d] just for us”; here the street lamps keep darkness at bay. But best of all, here is something – someone – new: Anne, who knocks on the door to ask if the little girl is “ready” … for new adventures and new friendship.

Author Laurel Croza, whose back flap bio reveals her peripatetic past, uses her own Saskatchewan-to-Toronto childhood relocation as inspiration for both titles. Her co-traveler, artist Matt James, presents a rich, saturated palette to give textured energy to Croza’s memories. His intentionally naive, guileless style captures just the right balance of longing for the familiar, intertwined with the excited anticipation of discovery. Croza and James twice prove the strength of their complementary collaboration, creating a poignant journey both timely and timeless.

Readers: Children

Published: 2010, 2014

Leave a comment

Filed under ..Children/Picture Books, .Fiction, Canadian

Norman, Speak! by Caroline Adderson, illustrated by Qin Leng

Norman, Speak!When Norman and his parents go to the animal shelter, they return home with a brown-and-white dog with a stump for a tail because he’s the “saddest.” “‘No one knows his real name,’” the shelter employee explains, “‘Norman is what we call him.’” As soon as his cage door is opened, Norman begins to wag until “his whole rump swung from side to side. His wag was a hula dance of happiness.”

Wagging proves to be the only communication between boy and dog. “Norman didn’t understand a word we said … after a few days with Norman, we knew the truth. He just wasn’t very smart.” And yet Norman’s energetic glee is just irresistible and “[w]e loved Norman anyway.”

One day at the park, Norman’s family learns quite the language lesson: a man and his playful canine companion show that Norman is actually fluent in Chinese (!), which prompts Mom, Dad, and the boy to sign up for Saturday morning Chinese classes. In spite of the difficult challenge (“‘More effort. Fewer jokes,’” Teacher Wang warns airplane-throwing Dad), the boy works hard to speak to his new best friend. Oh, the many languages of love …

Caroline Adderson, an internationally lauded Canadian writer for adults as well as older readers, debuts her first picture book which arrives south of the border already prized with the 2012 Helen Isobel Sissons Canadian Children’s Story Award. Adderson’s thought-provoking, diversity-celebrating (oh, so cleverly so!) tale is superlatively enhanced by Qin Leng‘s whimsical, humorous illustrations. Most noteworthy are the expressions Leng imbues on both her canine and human subjects – from the quizzical head tilt to classroom giggles. Get ready to join in on that “hula dance of happiness.”

Readers: Children

Published: 2014

1 Comment

Filed under ..Children/Picture Books, .Fiction, Canadian, Canadian Asian Pacific American

A User’s Guide to Neglectful Parenting by Guy Delisle, translated by Helge Dascher

User's Guide to Neglectful ParentingAfter traveling and drawing the world – Pyongyang, Shenzhen, BurmaJerusalem – comic master extraordinaire Guy Delisle turns inward to his own family with a tongue-in-cheek look at the challenges of being a parent trying to keep his kids safe, supported, loved … as well as distracted and entertained. Interestingly, Nadège – his partner/girlfriend/wife/mother of his children (her monikers have changed throughout various volumes) – whose foreign postings with Médecins San Frontières/Doctors Without Borders  made his last two titles (Burma Chronicles and Jerusalem) possible, makes an early half-asleep appearance here. Although we don’t see her again, the two adorable kids, Louis and Alice, both make references to Mom enough times to know that Mom has an ever-so-slightly different parenting style …

If you didn’t love Delisle before, his droll, ludicrous adventures in parenting will undoubtedly make you a groupie. He’s not a very reliable tooth mouse, reduced to writing an apology note complete with little paw print after forgetting his monetary duties two nights in a row. He distracts the kids when Alice swallows an apricot pit by quickly creating a flip book (wow!) showing a tree sprouting out of her belly.

He encourages a timid Louis to “really hit” the punching bag by pretending “it’s your sister!” and then decides to teach Louis about being “half-Canadian” by staging a gruesome prank with a chainsaw which sends Louis screaming for “Mom! Mom!” He can swear with the best of us when the plumbing is not cooperating, even as Louis isn’t quite sure what to do.

He’s maybe not so good at comforting Alice’s Christmas tears when she admits she’s “sad because you and Mom don’t have any presents.” Awwww. And he’s a downright disaster when she can’t sleep because her schoolmate told her about baby snatchers, so he tells her instead about a Malaysian monkey who drops a borrowed baby five stories to its death. He sneaks off to a café when he’s supposed to be watching Alice during a swim lesson, but hurries back in time to wave at just the right moment of floating triumph. When Alice presents him with one of his drawings, his gratitude inadvertently goes a bit off topic with “I’m gonna tell you straight out, you’re not bringing home an Eisner with this stuff.” Geeeez …!

As self-admittedly neglectful as his parenting style might be, his resilient kids seem to have weathered his wacky unpredictability without too much damage. They certainly inspire delightful fodder, even as you’re thinking, ‘good thing they have a mother!’ more often than not.

Readers: Adult

Published: 2013 (United States)

1 Comment

Filed under ..Adult Readers, .Fiction, .Graphic Novel/Manga/Manwha, .Translation, Canadian, European

Looks Like Daylight: Voices of Indigenous Kids by Deborah Ellis, foreword by Loriene Roy

Looks Like DaylightDeborah Ellis has a doubly powerful schtick: first, her nonfiction titles give underrepresented children a highly visible podium for their very own words (Three Wishes: Palestinian and Israeli Children SpeakOff to War: Voices of Soldiers’ Children, Children of War: Voices of Iraqi RefugeesKids of Kabul: Living Bravely through a Never-Ending War); then she ends up putting her royalties where her pen goes. Her latest gives center stage to young people throughout the North American continent who are Native Americans south of the border, and First Nations people to the north; her royalties benefit the First Nations Children & Family Caring Society of Canada. Her gifting has proven impressively prodigious: she’s parlayed her bestselling success to raise over a million dollars for Canadian Women for Women in Afghanistan and Street Kid International with the first three (of four) titles of her award-winning signature Breadwinner series alone.

Regardless of the different monikers – Iqaluit to Inuit, Nez Perce to Navajo, Pueblo to Seminole, and so many more – the 45 young people here share an indigenous heritage: they are the original Americans. “These are the stories of young people who have inherited the challenges of colonialism,” writes Dr. Loriene Roy in her “Foreword”; Roy is Anishinabe, former president of the American Library Association, and teaches at the University of Texas at Austin. “These challenges of family dissolution, family/intimate partner violence, diabetes, alcoholism/drug abuse, foster care, bullying, Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD), self-abuse and suicide are the outcomes of the efforts of majority cultures to abolish traditional lifeways …

“Yet they live and often, thrive,” Roy concludes.

Ellis spent two years crisscrossing the U.S. and Canada to speak to these surviving, thriving young people. In her “Introduction,” Ellis lays bare the horrific Native history through the last two centuries: from genocide to the creation of schools for survivors designed to “‘Kill the Indian in him and save the man,’” to the legalized abduction of children for indentured service or even slavery, to the attempts to abolish indigenous languages (of an estimated 300 original languages, half have disappeared; of the remaining 150, 130 are threatened with extinction as today’s children can only speak some 20 languages), to the replacement of the Native diet with handouts of canned and processed foods. “The children in this book have inherited this history. That they are here at all is a miracle.”

These resilient youth are definitely ‘here’ – each learning, adapting, sharing, thriving. Tingo, 14, is working to get over grief: “… grief over losing our land, our language, our customs, our ways. Grief often comes out as trouble.” Mari, 18, helped get smoking banned from public parks in Minneapolis. Myleka, 13, and her brother Tulane, 14, represent a new generation of proud artists. Cohen, 14, who belongs to the remote Haida Gwaii, helped battle the logging companies who arrived to cut down their trees.

But sometimes, illness and death are just too close to home. Miranda, 12, knows too many sick people damaged by the nearby petrochemical plants: “It’s almost a normal thing here to die of cancer, especially if you’re a woman.” Destiny, 15, has survived five suicide attempts: “I guess I was meant to live … I guess maybe the Creator is telling me … you’ve got something important to do before you die …”; she lives “just over the hill from where the Wounded Knee Massacre took place … For white kids it’s just something in a history book. For me, it’s my family. … They’re still killing us today, but now they do it with alcohol and drugs and bad food and suicide.”

Solace and strength comes in many forms, sometimes via surprising options. Isabella, 14, is an actress hoping to break Hollywood’s stereotypes. Danton, 14, performs extensively with his family group, the Métis Fiddler Quartet, including during the opening ceremonies of the Vancouver Winter Olympics. Ta’Kaiya, 11, is already a staunch environmentalist with numerous international speaking engagements, a website, and has thus far been in four films. Cuay, 12, is a skateboarder: “Skateboarding is the fastest-growing sport on native American reservations.” Lane, 14, is a multi-generational lacrosse player; named by French priests in the 1600s, the sport is a Native creation: “Lacrosse has been played by my people since forever, since long before your people came here.”

And speaking of us non-Native people, Jeffrey, 18, gets the final word today of all days: “I come from the Watuppa Wampanoag Reservation of Martha’s Vineyard … It was my ancestors who greeted the Pilgrims when they landed on Plymouth Rock, and my ancestors who helped them survive through the first winter. When you think of Thanksgiving, think of us.” [For an unforgettable novelization of the life of the first Native American graduate of Harvard who was also Wampanoag, check out Geraldine Brooks' Caleb's Crossing.]

In spite of his history, Jeffrey “get[s] squashed for being Native” in high school. Growing up, he didn’t understand his heritage: “It felt like a disadvantage.” And then he got involved with the local youth council, eventually attending a UNITY conference which “transformed” him: He left behind feeling “empty, angry, and alone,” and found “connection … in the traditions of their own communities.” Unlike too many of his contemporaries who didn’t survive, Jeffrey, and many like him, do what they do “for the Native youth who will follow us, seven generations from now.” That’s reason for thanks-giving indeed.

Readers: Middle Grade, Young Adult

Published: 2013

Leave a comment

Filed under ..Middle Grade Readers, ..Young Adult Readers, .Memoir, .Nonfiction, Canadian, Native American

One Step at a Time : A Vietnamese Child Finds Her Way by Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch

One Step at a TimeIntroduced to U.S. readers by award-winning Canadian author Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch in last year’s Last Airlift: A Vietnamese Orphan’s Rescue from War, Son Thi Ahn Tuyet’s story continues – literally one step at a time. Now that Tuyet has a real home with her own real family – Dad, Mom, sisters Beth and Lara, and baby brother Aaron – she’s learning to finally feel safe. Nighttime still remains a bit scary when memories of war and tragedy return to haunt her dreams; no matter how nice her own room is, for now, Tuyet prefers to sleep safely “burrowed into her nest of pillows and covers on the throw rug between Beth and Lara’s beds.”

In addition to adapting to her new family and struggling to understand a culture so different from the one she left in a language she hasn’t yet learned, Tuyet prepares for some of the greatest physical challenges of her young life. The beautiful new red shoe and soft red slipper Mom bought for her polio-damaged feet and legs have already filled Tuyet’s heart with joyful smiles. Now Tuyet faces the first of multiple operations that will someday allow her to walk. In the 1970s, hospital rules did not allow for constant parental interaction as is today’s accepted norm; remarkably, Tuyet endured her surgeries virtually alone.

Thankfully, recovery proved to a full family affair: the whole Morris family not only made Tuyet physically comfortable, but each ensured that she was emotionally buoyed as well. From learning to blow out birthday “fire” and realizing that the beautiful wrapping paper is meant to be torn, to not grabbing her baby brother and seeking shelter at the sound of an airplane, to being able to balance well enough on her own two legs to kick a soccer ball, Tuyet takes her new life – and her steadily recovering legs – one glorious, triumphant step at a time.

“Thank you, Tuyet,” Skrypuch writes in her ending “Author’s Note,” “for allowing me to share your story.” Readers, too – especially younger readers who might be facing any sort of adversity – will surely appreciate Tuyet’s inspiring experiences. Step by step, Skrypuch shows with forthright clarity how Tuyet becomes her own very best hero.

Tidbit: Here’s an update (with pictures!) from Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch herself!

Last year, Last Airlift won the Red Cedar award in British Columbia and was a [2013] Red Maple Honour Book in Ontario. These awards are readers’ choice awards, where kids do the voting. For the Red Maple award, the Ontario Library Association hosts a huge event at Harbourfront in Toronto, with thousands of kids bussed in. I arranged for Tuyet to stand on the stage with me, and for her daughter to hold the sign and her son to introduce the book. We had long snaking line-ups for autographs, and many of the kids wanted Bria and Luke to sign their books in addition to me and Tuyet signing them. I’ve got some photos on my website. Check it out here:
♦   Last Airlift signing with Tuyet and her kids
♦   Red Maple Day at Harbourfront
♦   Tuyet and Red Maple Day

Readers: Middle Grade

Published: 2013 (United States)

2 Comments

Filed under ..Middle Grade Readers, .Biography, .Nonfiction, Canadian, Canadian Asian Pacific American, Southeast Asian, Southeast Asian American, Vietnamese American

My Name Is Blessing by Eric Walters, illustrated by Eugenie Fernandes

My Name Is BlessingMuthini – whose name means “suffering … [a]ll because he was born with no fingers on his left and only two on his right” – is the youngest of nine children who live with their grandmother in Kenya. What Nyanya – grandmother – lacks in money or food, she makes up with “extra portions of love.” One day, Nyanya takes the long, difficult walk to Muthini’s school to tell him she can no longer care for him: “He was too young and she was too old.”

With tears and resignation, Nyaya and Muthini walk “hand in hand” to meet a man named Gabriel whose home is filled with children laughing and playing. Gabriel tells the tired pair that he has “‘no room for Muthini … But there is always room for a blessing.’” Muthini becomes Baraka; by changing his name, he changes his future: “‘I can never look at you and see suffering and I don’t want others to see it either,’” Gabriel explains, “‘I want them to hear your name and see what I see, what your Nyanya sees: a blessing. Baraka.’” And thus Baraka’s new life begins …

Here’s the best part of this book: it’s true! The final five pages re-tells the story with on-site photographs that begin, “Baraka is a real person. And so is Grace, his grandmother or Nyanya.” Award-winning Canadian author Eric Walters – who’s written over 90 titles for children and young adults! – co-founded and runs The Creation of Hope which cares for Kenyan orphans, including Baraka and his family; Baraka is directly sponsored by Walters’ own daughter and her friend. For you savvy givers, rest assured, “A commitment has been made that 100% of money that comes from schools or children will always go to service“: 23 cents pays to plant a sapling, $20 will purchase farm tools for a family, and $50 will cover the costs of the Rolling Hills Residence for a full day. And after reading Blessing’s story, surely you’ll be hard pressed not want to share you own blessings with others, too …

Readers: Children

Published: 2013

Leave a comment

Filed under ..Children/Picture Books, .Nonfiction, African, Canadian

Sweetness in the Belly by Camilla Gibb

Sweetness in the BellyRaised as a Roman Catholic convinced of at least one past life as a Jewish grandmother, I find myself in my old age utterly wary of institutionalized religions, repeatedly alarmed at what we human beings commit upon one another in the name of various (one-and-only) gods. In our post-9/11 era of heightened intolerance, this quote from British-born, Canadian-domiciled author Camilla Gibb‘s Sweetness struck me as especially sane: “My religion is full of color and possibility and choice; it’s a moderate interpretation … one that allows you to use whatever means allow you to feel closer to God … It’s an interpretation where … one’s personal struggle [is] to be a good Muslim, not a fight against those who are not Muslim.” Replace “Muslim” with any other religion, and it still remains a rational, caring, open-minded statement … oh, if only we could all be so accepting.

Meet Lilly, a white Muslim, “born in Yugoslavia, breast-fed in the Ukraine, weaned in Corsica, freed from nappies in Sicily and walking by the time we got to the Algarve.” The only child of “two solitary renegades who’d met at Trinity College Dublin in the 1950s,” Lilly’s early life was rootless: “‘You don’t want to spoil the journey by missing what you’ve left and worrying about where you’re going,’” her parents insisted. When Lilly is orphaned at 8, the rest of her upbringing continues in a Sufi shrine “on the Moroccan edge of the Sahara,” quietly educated and nurtured under the guidance of the Qur’an and the Great Abdal.

At 16, Lilly is sent on pilgrimage to Harar, Ethiopia, where her gender does not allow her access to the intended sheikh’s home and she is instead thrust upon an impoverished, angry mother of young children. Eventually Lilly’s open teachings of the Qua’ran earn her both students and respect – for awhile – as well as the attention of a young local doctor.

By 1974 when the Derg overthrows Emperor Selassie and plunges the country into tragic violence, Lilly flees for an unfamiliar ‘home.’ With her cultural fluidity and linguistic efficiency, she works as a hospital nurse in a London hospital that serves the city’s downtrodden. She creates a family-of-sorts with Amina, a single mother – also from Harar – and her children, the youngest of whom Lilly helps delivers in an alley. Together the two women form a community organization that helps incoming refugees reunite with their families. “Our work is not as altruistic as it sounds,” Lilly admits. Amina awaits news of her missing husband; Lilly of her good Dr. Aziz.

For Gibb, Sweetness was 16 years in the making, including two years spent living in Harar while finishing her Oxford PhD in social anthropology. A university friendship with a young Ethiopian woman who arrived in Toronto as a refugee was Gibb’s initial inspiration for the novel; “this book is my attempt to understand” her friend’s experience of dislocation, of feeling “like a ghost” that first year of escape and arrival. Seamlessly moving between two decades, two countries, and multiple cultures, Gibb presents a jarring, difficult story with empathetic grace, carefully sifting through what we hang onto and what we must let go in order to do more than just survive, to somehow become whole.

Readers: Adult

Published: 2006

2 Comments

Filed under ..Adult Readers, .Audio, .Fiction, African, British, Canadian

When I Was Eight by Christy Jordan-Fenton and Margaret Pokiak-Fenton, illustrated by Gabrielle Grimard

When I Was EightAlthough she “knew many things when [she] was eight,” what Olemaun didn’t know was “how to read the outsiders’ books. It was not enough to hear them from my older sister, Rosie. I longed to read them for myself.” Against her father’s wishes – “[h]e knew things about the school that I did not” – the determined Inuit girl’s desire for literacy takes her far from her family to be educated by nuns.

Her long braids are shorn and her warm traditional parka is replaced by clothing impractical for the harsh temperatures. Even her name is taken from her and she must answer only to the unfamiliar ‘Margaret.’ She labors through exhausting chores – floors, dishes, laundry – instead of learning letters. One cruel nun takes every opportunity to add misery to Margaret’s life, yet still she perseveres: “I used every task as an opportunity to learn new words. I studied each letter of the alphabet before wiping it from the board, I looked at the labels on cleaning supplies and sounded out the words.”

She survives being locked in the dark basement, her classmates’ bullying, and eventually stands up against the nun’s continuous humiliations. Reading gives her the unstoppable power to be “Olemaun, conqueror of evil, reader of books … who traveled to a strange and faraway land to stand against a tyrant.” Indeed, she knew many things, “because now [she] could read.”

When I Was Eight is the latest rendition of the real-life of Margaret Pokiak-FentonEight is the simplified picture-book adaptation of Pokiak-Fenton’s Fatty Legs, the first half of her award-winning, double-volume memoir (written with daughter-in-law Christy Jordan-Fenton) which is more suitable for a middle-grade/young adult audience. Pokiak-Fenton’s unwavering tenacity to learn to read is especially highlighted here, inspiring and encouraging fluency for younger readers-in-training. Artist Garbiele Grimard‘s open, revealing expressions are especially effective, sharing Olemaun’s fears and reveling in her hard-won triumphs. Here’s to discovering the unlimited power of reading together …

Readers: Children

Published: 2013

Leave a comment

Filed under ..Children/Picture Books, .Memoir, .Nonfiction, Canadian, Native American