Following on from yesterday’s blog on resources for educating ourselves on Indigenous issues and perspectives, here is a list of children’s books and resources to share with the little people in your life. These suggestions came from Ruth’s daughter, Alexis, an Indigenous Studies teacher and an active ally. (It was hard to choose; there are so many wonderful titles out there. This is just a start.)
1. Fatty Legs – Christy Jordan-Fenton and Margaret Pokiak-Fenton, an inspiring memoir of Margaret Pokiak-Fenton’s time in residential school.
2. When I was Eight – Christy Jordan-Fenton and Margaret Pokiak-Fenton, this book is written to make Margaret Pokiak-Fenton’s memoir accessible for younger readers.
3. The Water Walker – Joanne Robertson, a magical book that introduces children to how they can change the world by caring about our water. From Second Story Press, the book is available in a dual-language (Anishinaabemowin/Ojibwe and English) edition.
4. As Long as the River Flows – Larry Loyie (Oskiniko) and Constance Brissenden. A sensitive and evocative story of a Cree family’s last summer together before Larry (an award-winning author and playwright) was taken to residential school.
5. I am not a Number – Jenny Kay Dupuis and Kathy Kacer. Beautifully illustrated, the story follows 8-year-old Irene at residential school. On her return home, her parents decide she and her brothers will not go back. From Second Story Press, the book is also in a dual-language edition (Nishnaabemwin (Ojibwe) Nbisiing dialect – English)
6. When We Were Alone – David A. Robertson. Robertson, a Swampy Cree author and graphic novelist wrote this book in response to the Truth and Reconciliation call to action for more curriculum resources. He saw a big gap for younger readers and wrote a beautiful story about strength and empowerment even when everything is taken away.
7. Bear For Breakfast / Makwa kidji kijebià wìsinyàn – Robert Munsch and Jay Odjick. Donovan wants to catch a bear for breakfast — but what does the bear want? Expect the unexpected from Robert Munsch and when he teams up with artist, writer and television producer from the Kitigan Zibi Anishinabe community, Jay Odjick, the images are kid-appealing. Scholastic publishes this title in English and Algonquin dual languages.
8. & 9. Shi-shi-etko and Shin-chi’s Canoe – Nicola I. Campbell- (these two are by far Alexis’ favourites, and they go together. A rendition of Shi-shi-etko via film gives her goosebumps whenever she watches it.) To quote the first book: “Can you imagine a community without children? Can you imagine children without parents?”
10. Baseball Bats for Christmas – Michael Arvaarluk Kusugak. When a bunch of spindly trees are dropped off in Repulse Bay 1955 (present-day Naujaat, Nunavut) the kids aren’t sure what to do with these “sticking up” things. But then…
We know it’s 10 on the 10th, but we couldn’t help ourselves. We wanted to include these resources, too:
Secret Path – Songs by Gord Downie, illustrations by Jeff Lemire. Inspired by the tragic story of 12-year-old Chanie Wenjack’s 1966 journey home from residential school, the late Gord Downie of The Tragically Hip wrote 10 poems from Chaney’s perspective. Downie collaborated with music producers Kevin Drew and Dave Hamelin, and acclaimed graphic novelist and comic creator, Jeff Lemire, resulting in an award-winning 10-song album and an 88-page graphic novel by Lemire, both of which inspired The Secret Path, a television documentary. In the video, Downie’s words and Lemire’s illustrations bring to life Chanie Wenjack’s story along with many others who tried so hard to get home.
From the Royal Ontario Museum’s Indigenous Voices program, the ROM-at-Home series offers young people activities and insights into indigenous cultures in a fun and engaging video session: