Tuesday, April 2, 2013

When I was Eight by Christy Jordan and Margarey Pokiak-Fenton

When I Was Eight

When I was Eight
by Christy Jordan and Margarey Pokiak-Fenton
art by Gabrielle Grimard
32 pages
NetGalley- Annick Press
Picture Books
February 2013

Book Jacket Summary
Olemaun is eight and knows a lot of things. But she does not know how to read. She must travel to the outsiders' school to learn, ignoring her father's warning of what will happen there.

The nuns at the school take her Inuit name and call her Margaret. They cut off her long hair and force her to do chores. She has only one thing left -- a book about a girl named Alice, who falls down a rabbit hole.

Margaret's tenacious character draws the attention of a black-cloaked nun who tries to break her spirit at every turn. But she is more determined than ever to read.

By the end, Margaret knows that, like Alice, she has traveled to a faraway land and stood against a tyrant, proving herself to be brave and clever.

Based on the true story of Margaret Pokiak-Fenton, and complemented by stunning illustrations, "When I Was Eight" makes the bestselling "Fatty Legs" accessible to young children. Now they, too, can meet this remarkable girl who reminds us what power we hold when we can read.
My Thoughts
Olemaun lives up to her name' meaning, "the stubborn stone that sharpens the half-moon ulu knife." She pleads with her father to go to the English school far from the Inuit Village she lives in. Her father does not want to send her because he knows what goes on in the schools. Once there Olemaun is dubbed Margaret and does manual labor to earn her keep. She embraces the character Alice from Alice in Wonderland to keep her strong and stubborn.
This is a beautiful picture book and Grimard illustrations are exquisite. I especially love the picture where Olemaun comforts herself with words. They surround her in chalky letters. Her eyes are closed and you can feel comfort push out the fear. 
A great book to add to a collection about the Native people of America and how their culture survived despite attempts to stamp it out.  

Book Pairings
Mama, Do You Love Me? by Barbra Josse
Arctic Son by Jean Craighead George and Wendell Minor
The Polar Bear Son: An Inuit Tale by Lydia Dabcovich


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