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When I Was Eight
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In this picture-book memoir, an adaption of Fatty Legs (2010), Olemaun (later known as Margaret) an Inuit, recollects how she begged her father to attend the church-run Indian residential school so she could fulfil her cherished dream to learn to read. Once there, what she discovers is the school is draconian. Using a simple, direct tone, Olemaun describes how a nun cuts her braid, changes her name, and assigns an endless list of chores. Classmates tease. Even as she labours, Olemaun finds strength in memories of her father's love and uses every opportunity to study the alphabet and sound out words. Effective shadow-ridden illustrations capture the pervasive atmosphere of abuse, but the final picture speaks volumes about Olemaun's determination and triumph: her face appears as large and shining as the sun emerging from darkness, because she has taught herself to read. A historical note providing context would have been helpful, but advanced readers can turn to the authors' longer work. A searing account of assimilation policies and a celebration of the human spirit. Grades 1-3. --Jeanne McDermott --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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About the Author

Christy Jordan-Fenton and Margaret Pokiak-Fenton are the authors of "Fatty Legs" and "A Stranger at Home." They live in Fort St. John, BC. Gabrielle Grimard has illustrated numerous books for children. She lives in Quebec.

Reviews

K-Gr 4-This condensed, illustrated version of Fatty Legs (Annick, 2010) brings the power of literacy to even younger children. An eight-year-old Inuit child from Banks Island in far northern Canada desperately wanted to learn to read English like her older sister, but her father refused to let her attend the Indian Residential School. However, her persistent pleading wore away his resistance, and he consented. They made the five-day trek to the Catholic-run school where Olemaun was stripped of her Native identity-her hair, her clothes, even her name. She was allowed to keep only her beloved copy of Alice in Wonderland. Renamed Margaret, she clung to her desire to learn to read, enduring humiliation and harsh treatment from cruel nuns and unkind classmates. She instinctively knew that literacy was powerful, and she used it to give her courage and "to carry [her] far away from the laughter." In a showdown with a nun, Margaret defied the insensitive teacher, who in turn tried to humiliate Margaret by demanding that she read a difficult passage aloud in class. However, she read without hesitation and triumphed. "There was no stopping me" is an accurate description of what happens when someone-child or adult-learns to read. Sprinkled throughout are details of Inuit life. The beautiful, expressive watercolor illustrations depict Margaret's journey from her village to the misery of residential school to her success. This book is a small but powerful reminder of the freedom that literacy brings.-Lisa Crandall, formerly at the Capital Area District Library, Holt, MI (c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

The words and the art in When I Was Eight convey a frightful but honest story about perseverance... Look for it. Order it. Share it.--Debbie Reese"American Indians in Children's Literature" (02/21/2013) A searing account of assimilation policies and a celebration of the human spirit In this picture-book memoir, an Inuit recollects how she begged her father to attend the church-run Indian residential school so she could fulfill her cherished dream to learn to read... What she discovers is the school is draconian... Olemaun describes how a nun cuts her braid, changes her name, and assigns an endless list of chores... Even as she labors, Olemaun finds strength in memories of her father's love and uses every opportunity to study the alphabet and sound out words. Effective shadow-ridden illustrations capture the pervasive atmosphere of abuse, but the final picture speaks volumes about Olemaun's determination and triumph: her face appears as large and shining as the sun emerging from darkness, because she has taught herself to read... A searing account of assimilation policies and a celebration of the human spirit.--Jeanne McDermott"Booklist" (04/30/2013) Olemaun is a great character and an excellent example for young readers to follow.--Shelbey Krahn"Canadian Materials" (06/21/2013) When I was Eight is a powerful story based on the true story of Margaret Pokiak-Fenton... It is a story of a young Inuit girl who goes to a residential school and suffers terrible abuse from the nuns at the school... Through all these trials, she perseveres in trying to learn to read. One day in class she is finally able to stand up to the teacher and show her own strength by reading aloud. It is a moment of victory! Although this story may be intended for younger students who are studying the Inuit, it could also be used in upper grades when discussing social justice issues. The story ties in with anti-bullying themes as well... Highly recommended.--Lori Austin"Resource Links, Vol. 18, No. 5" (05/31/2013) This condensed, illustrated version of Fatty Legs brings the power of literacy to even younger children... The beautiful, expressive watercolor illustrations depict Margaret's journey to the misery of residential school to her success.--Lisa Crandall"School Library Journal" (05/01/2013) This excellent picture book, written as a companion to the longer version of it called Fatty Legs, is a powerful way to introduce the residential school experience to younger readers.--Sally Bender"Sal's Fiction Addiction" (02/02/2014)

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