Not My Girl by Christy Jordan-Fenton & Margaret Pokiak-Fenton illustrations by Gabrielle Grimard

5 stars
I was lucky enough to meet with the authors in an intimate setting at United Library Services one day last spring. They have written a number of picture books and novels based on Margaret Pokiak-Fenton's experience as a girl in residential school and her return home. 

The first part of Margaret's story is told in the novel, Fatty Legs, and picture book, When I was Eight

This picture book tells the story of Margaret's return from the residential school where she had been for two years. She arrives home feeling as though "one thousand birds soared through my heart." Then her mother didn't recognize her and called out "Not my girl!" Luckily her father embraces her and gives her back her Inuit name, Olemaun. The next while is difficult as Olemaun has to relearn how to belong in her family and people again. It is a heartbreaking story. 

I'm now going to track down A Stranger at Home, the companion novel that tells this part of Margaret's ordeal. 

Here in Canada, the last residential school finally closed in 1996. In the United States they didn't end until 2007. These books are a perfect introduction to this abhorrent policy as it gives readers an introduction to the evil of these schools, while leaving out some of the more horrific details. 

If you want to learn more about residential schools, click here


  1. I did not know about these books or authors--thank you for sharing!!

  2. They are delightful Kellee. I am sure you will enjoy all of them. After I read I Was Eight, to a class of grade 4/5's we did a compare contrast activity that ended in one of the most powerful conversations about First Nations history I can recall having with children.