Friday, July 26, 2013

When I Was Eight by Christy Jordan-Fenton and Margaret Pokiak-Fenton -- ESSENTIAL

Jordan-Fenton, Christy, Margaret Pokiak-Fenton, and Gabrielle Grimard When I Was Eight 32 pgs. Annick Press, 2013. $9.95.

An autobiographical account of the author's childhood adapted for children from the book Fatty Legs. When Olemaun was eight, she convinced her father to let her leave their Inuit island and travel far away to the outsiders' school so she could learn to read. Victorious, Olemaun arrives at school ready to learn. Things are not easy for her, however. The nuns take away her native clothes, replacing them with an ill-fitting uniform. They rename her Margaret and order her to do chores. When she makes an enemy of her stern nun of a teacher, Margaret wonders if she will ever be allowed to learn to read. But her determination is stronger than all the things thrown at her, and in the end she teaches herself.

This is a wonderful story about the importance of education, as well as perseverance in the face of obstacles. I found myself worrying and cheering right along with Olemaun. Because of the cultural and historical references, some children may require a little extra explanation from adults to help them understand the context of the story and the significance of Olemaun's achievements. Would make a good companion to lessons on the culture and history of the Inuits. May also make a nice library read-aloud due to its emphasis on the power of reading.

EL -- ESSENTIAL. Reviewed by: Caryn

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