Christy Jordan-Fenton

Christy Jordan-Fenton spent her early years on a farm near Rimbey, Alberta. It was common for her to find lambs, calves, and foals in the bathroom on early spring mornings. Brandings, cattle drives, and rodeos were regularly attended events. She moved with her mother and younger brother to Red Deer at the age of seven, and later to Sylvan Lake. Her favorite activities were (and still are) camping and dancing, and she has always loved horses and the mountains.

As a teenager, Christy moved to Orono, Ontario, to live with her aunt and uncle. She attended a rural high school with a population of five hundred students collected from six different communities. Her greatest accomplishments were composing volumes of poetry during math classes, and secretly reading nearly every book by Mordecai Richler during lectures.

Christy joined the infantry reserve in her final semester of high school and spent the next few years travelling from base to base. She was then accepted to Norwich University (VT) in the Corps of Cadets to study Peace, War and Diplomacy. While there, she was part of the Mountain Cold Weather Special Operations Company, played rugby, and often road crazy carpets down the school’s ski hill.

Christy was awarded a Rotary Ambassadorial Scholarship in her senior year to study at the University of Queensland in Australia. She then returned to the United States where she worked developing a leadership challenge program for disadvantaged youth, and taught wilderness survival; however, unable to shake the travel bug, she left to spend a year in South Africa. Her fondest memories are of reading stories to street children at night.

Western Canada eventually called her home. She travelled across the prairies working in the oil patch and riding bucking horses in the rodeo, before meeting her husband and settling down. They live on a farm outside Fort St. John, British Columbia, which they share with her mother-in-law Margaret (the main character in both Fatty Legs (2010) and A Stranger at Home (2011), three small children, three dogs, a llama, too many rogue rabbits to count, and enough horses to outfit a small town.

A desire to raise her children with a healthy sense of self-esteem rekindled her passion for Native issues. Having a Native step-father and step-siblings gave her an early awareness that she credits for igniting that passion. She is eternally grateful to Margaret for having the courage to share her residential school experiences and for giving her the chance to write abou them in not one, but two, books.

Christy’s work has appeared, or will appear, in Jones AvePrairie Fire, and an anthology entitled DiVerseCities 2. She is also a performing cowgirl poet and hopes to continue to tell stories that promote education, understanding, and healing.

A Stranger at Home: A True Story
Editors:
Liz Amini-Holmes
Format: Paperback
Text Content Territories: Inuit; Inuvialuit;

The powerful memoir of an Inuvialuit girl searching for her true self when she returns from residential school. 

Traveling to be reunited with her family in the Arctic, 10-year-old Margaret Pokiak can hardly contain her excitement. It's been two years since her parents delivered her to the school run by the dark-cloaked nuns and brothers. 

Coming ashore, Margaret spots her family, but her mother barely recognizes her, screaming, "Not my girl." Margaret realizes she is now marked as an outsider. 

And Margaret is an outsider: she has forgotten the language and stories of her people, and she can't even stomach the food her mother prepares. 

However, Margaret gradually relearns her language and her family's way of living. Along the way, she discovers how important it is to remain true to the ways of her people -- and to herself. 

Highlighted by archival photos and striking artwork, this first-person account of a young girl's struggle to find her place will inspire young readers to ask what it means to belong.

Sequel to Fatty Legs.

Reviews
"This memoir, detailing a woeful piece of Canadian history and demonstrating Margaret's strength of character, compassion, courage and her willingness to sacrifice herself for her family's sake, gives the reader a lot to ponder. Highly recommended." — Shelbey Krahn, Canadian Materials, February 2012

"A Stranger at Home will speak to anyone who has experienced displacement or assimilation into a new culture. This fabulous story enhances the Grades 6 to 8 social studies curriculum." — Professionally Speaking (Ontario College of Teache, April 2012

"While it may not have the same drama and tension of the first memoir, this tale provides a compelling and moving story of a girl searching for the strength to find her place in the world." — Jody Kopple, School Library Journal, December 2011

"Without being graphic or overwhelming, the Fentons recreate a tragic moment in Canadian history through the innocent reflections of a child...a must for any classroom library." — Canadian Teacher Magazine, May 2012

"This tale provides a compelling and moving story of a girl searching for the strength to find her place in the world. The writing is unpretentious and accessible and readers who enjoyed the first book will find this an interesting follow-up. Vivid paintings are a beautiful accompaniment to the storytelling. Photographs from Pokiak Fenton's own collection add important points of reference for readers looking to visualize the characters and the unique setting of the Arctic Circle. A welcome addition to biography collections." — Jody Kopple, School Library Journal, December 2011

Educator Information
Recommended Ages: 9-13.

Guided Reading Level: Fountas and Pinnell U

Themes: biography; Inuit; Indigenous peoples; arctic; residential schools; identity; community; Canadian content; family; society; history; memoir.

Additional Information
128 pages | 6.25" x 9.00"

 

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Authentic Indigenous Text
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Etrangere chez moi
Format: Paperback
Text Content Territories: Inuit;
Margaret a dix ans et elle se réjouit à l’idée de rentrer à la maison après avoir passé deux ans dans un pensionnat. Mais quand elle retrouve enfin sa famille, sa mère ne la reconnaît pas et crie : « Pas ma fille! » Cet accueil n’est pas celui que Margaret espérait. Elle a oublié la langue de son peuple et a du mal à avaler la nourriture de sa mère. Margaret n’a même pas le droit de jouer avec son amie Agnès parce que les gens trouvent qu’elle ressemble trop aux étrangers détestés. Elle est devenue une étrangère parmi les siens.

Dans ce deuxième livre extraordinaire, Margaret dépeint le portrait de son apprentissage difficile pour retrouver sa place et réconcilier son ancienne personnalité avec la nouvelle.


Christy Jordan-Fenton vit à Fort St. John, en Colombie-Britannique, Margaret Pokiak-Fenton est sa belle-mère.

Margaret Pokiak-Fenton a passé son enfance sur l’Île Banks dans l’océan Arctique. Elle vit maintenant à Fort St. John, en Colombie-Britannique.

Liz Amini-Holmes est diplômée de l’Academy of Art College de San Francisco. Elle illustre des livres pour enfants et travaille pour différents journaux, magazines et entreprises qui oeuvrent notamment dans le domaine de l’éducation et du jeu. Elle vit à San Francisco, en Californie.
$16.99

Out of Print
Fatty Legs: A True Story
Artists:
Liz Amini-Holmes
Format: Paperback
Text Content Territories: Inuit; Inuvialuit;

The moving memoir of an Inuit girl who emerges from a residential school with her spirit intact. 

Eight-year-old Margaret Pokiak has set her sights on learning to read, even though it means leaving her village in the high Arctic. Faced with unceasing pressure, her father finally agrees to let her make the five-day journey to attend school, but he warns Margaret of the terrors of residential schools. 

At school Margaret soon encounters the Raven, a black-cloaked nun with a hooked nose and bony fingers that resemble claws. She immediately dislikes the strong-willed young Margaret. Intending to humiliate her, the heartless Raven gives gray stockings to all the girls -- all except Margaret, who gets red ones. In an instant Margaret is the laughingstock of the entire school. 

In the face of such cruelty, Margaret refuses to be intimidated and bravely gets rid of the stockings. Although a sympathetic nun stands up for Margaret, in the end it is this brave young girl who gives the Raven a lesson in the power of human dignity. 

Complemented by archival photos from Margaret Pokiak-Fenton's collection and striking artwork from Liz Amini-Holmes, this inspiring first-person account of a plucky girl's determination to confront her tormentor will linger with young readers.

Awards

  • First Nation Communities Read recipient, 2011-2012

Reviews
"I highly recommend this book for the discussion it would stir with students...Makes the harrowing residential school stories accessible to youth." — Resource Links, December 2010

"Presents a unique and enlightening glimpse into the residential school experience and, most importantly, one little girl's triumph over her oppressors." — Quill & Quire, November 2010

Educator Information
Fountas and Pinnell T

Themes: biography; Inuit; Indigenous peoples; Indigenous; arctic; school; self-esteem; abuse; community; prejudice; Canadian content; courage/bravery; right vs. wrong; role reversal; secrets; society; history; bullying; memoir; character education.

Additional Information
112 pages | 6.25" x 9.00" | full-color illustrations, archival photographs, map

Authenticity Note
This illustrator of this book is not Indigenous; therefore, her artwork is not considered to be Authentic Indigenous Artwork according to Strong Nations Authenticity Guidelines. The archival photos from Margaret Pokiak-Fenton's personal collection, however, are considered to be authentic, which is why the book is labelled as containing Authentic Indigenous Artwork. It is up to readers to determine whether or not the images in this work are authentic for their purposes.

Authentic Canadian Content
Authentic Indigenous Text
Authentic Indigenous Artwork
$12.95

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Les bas du pensionnat
Artists:
Liz Amini-Holmes
Format: Paperback
Text Content Territories: Inuvialuit; Inuit;

Margaret Pokiak est une jeune Inuit de 8 ans. Son désir le plus cher est d'aller à l'école pour apprendre à lire, même s'il lui faut quitter son village arctique. Sa famille tente de la décourager, mais rien ne peut la faire changer d'avis et c'est à contrecoeur que son père consent enfin à la laisser partir.

Une fois à l'école, Margaret est confrontée à une religieuse cruelle dont le nez ressemble à un bec d'aigle. Dès les premiers jours, celle-ci s'en prend à la jeune fille qu'elle juge têtue et rebelle. Avec l'intention de l'humilier, elle lui confie les tâches les plus ardues et la force même à porter des bas rouges, qui lui font paraître les jambes énormes, alors que toutes les autres pensionnaires portent des bas gris. Margaret travaille dur tout en rêvant au jour où elle pourra enfin quitter le pensionnat pour ne plus jamais y remettre les pieds...

Incluant des photos d'archives de Margaret Pokiak-Fenton et des illustrations éloquentes de l'artiste Liz Amini-Holmes, ce livre est le témoignage émouvant d'une jeune fille déterminée à réussir dans l'adversité.

Additional Information
12 pages | 6.28" x 8.95"

Authenticity Note
This illustrator of this book is not Indigenous; therefore, her artwork is not considered to be Authentic Indigenous Artwork according to Strong Nations Authenticity Guidelines. The archival photos from Margaret Pokiak-Fenton's personal collection, however, are considered to be authentic, which is why the book is labelled as containing Authentic Indigenous Artwork. It is up to readers to determine whether or not the images in this work are authentic for their purposes.

Authentic Canadian Content
Authentic Indigenous Text
Authentic Indigenous Artwork
$16.99

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Not My Girl
Authors:
Christy Jordan-Fenton
Format: Paperback
Text Content Territories: Inuit;
Nothing will stop a strong-minded young Inuit girl from learning how to read.

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.
$9.95

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When I Was Eight
Artists:
Gabrielle Grimard
Format: Paperback
Text Content Territories: Inuit;

Nothing will stop a strong-minded young Inuit girl from learning how to read.

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.

Reviews
"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, April 2013

"Pokiak-Fenton's true story of her experiences at residential school, was originally told in Fatty Legs.... When I Was Eight is an even more powerful read due to its emphasis on concise, affective text coupled with Gabrielle Grimard's quietly unpretentious artwork." — Canlit for Little Canadians

"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, May 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, February 2014

Educator Information
Recommended Ages: 6-9.

Authentic First Peoples Resource K-9.

Grades 10-11 English First Peoples resource for the unit First Steps - Exploring Residential School and Reconciliation through Children's Literature.

Additional Information
32 pages | 9.00" x 9.00" | Colour illustrations throughout.

Authentic Canadian Content
Authentic Indigenous Text
$9.95

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