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Melanie Florence

Melanie Florence is a proud Cree and an Aboriginal writer living in Toronto. She has published several documentary youth books, including Righting Canada's Wrongs: Native Residential Schools. Melanie Florence is also the co-recipient of the first ever Aboriginal Writing Award from Second Story Press.

Rez Rebel
Format: Paperback
Text Content Territories: Indigenous Canadian;
Grade Levels: 8; 9; 10; 11; 12;

Floyd Twofeathers has always trusted his mom, a traditional healer, and his dad, hereditary chief of their band, to take care of the people on their reserve. But a lack of educational and career opportunities, medical support and counselling has left young people feeling that they have no future. As suicides pile up, Floyd finds that his friends and kids he knows are taking their own lives because they feel that they have no future — but his father refuses to listen to Floyd's attempts to find a realistic solution. When Floyd's father is overwhelmed by the situation and succumbs to alcohol and depression, it is up to Floyd to turn around his community's descent into crisis before it's too late.

Set in a situation of suicide contagion among young people in Aboriginal communities, this novel follows one teenager's determined efforts to help his friends and his community find solutions.

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Missing Nimama
Artists:
Francois Thisdale
Format: Hardcover
Text Content Territories: Indigenous Canadian; First Nations; Cree (Nehiyawak);
Grade Levels: 7; 8; 9; 10; 11; 12; University/College;

A young mother, one of the many missing indigenous women, watches over her small daughter as she grows up without her nimama, experiencing important milestones - her first day of school, first dance, first date, wedding, first child - from afar.

A free verse story of love, loss, and acceptance told in alternating voices. Missing Nimama shows the human side of a tragic set of circumstances.

An afterword by the author provides a simple, age-appropriate context for young readers. Includes a glossary of Cree terms.

Reviews
"A free-verse intergenerational story of separation, loss, and daughter-mother connection amid the ongoing crisis of missing First Nations girls and women. . . On each page, Cree author Florence presents two narratives: Kateri's and her missing nimâmâ's. By juxtaposing the daughter's and mother's thoughts and feelings in complementary verse, Florence provides them the opportunity to experience life together from their respective points of view and to talk to each other from a distance. Thisdale's soft-edged, wistful artwork enriches the heartfelt story, strongly capturing the passage of time and Kateri's emotional journey. An afterword is appended, offering simple and relevant information as well as statistics of missing and murdered indigenous girls and women; together with the story, it should help to begin a conversation with young readers. A solid debut picture book that works as a record of voices that are usually unheard, ignored, and forgotten." — Kirkus Reviews

"A touching story related from the point of view of a missing indigenous woman as she watches her daughter grow up without her."— Quill and Quire

Educator Information
This is a picture book best suited for more mature readers (teenagers), as it deals with mature themes and subject matter.

Additional Information
32 pages | 8.50" x 11.00"

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One Night
Format: Paperback
Text Content Territories: Indigenous Canadian;
Grade Levels: 9; 10; 11; 12;

Luna Begay is as studious and serious about her Aboriginal heritage as her sister, Issy, is outgoing and fun. When Issy convinces Luna to go with her to a party full of rich kids, Luna is surprised to end up talking with Jon, who is charming, sophisticated, and very good-looking. But the night turns bad when Jon drugs and rapes Luna.

Feeling guilty and ashamed that she will be perceived as an "Indian slut," Luna doesn't tell anyone and remains in denial until Issy figures out that Luna is pregnant. Knowing that her decisions will affect her parents and Issy as much as her own future, Luna has to work out how to deal with the consequences of that one night, and she has to do it fast.

Reviews
"A hi-lo title that reads like a Lifetime made-for-TV movie. An adequate choice for struggling readers."— Tamara Saarinen, School Library Journal

"Melanie Florence's young adult novel One Night is a powerful read for all readers. Written for reluctant readers it will be read by readers at all levels... The author explores many issues — sexual abuse, bullying, teenage pregnancy, adoption, and rape. Melanie Florence's well-written and compassionate novel does not disappoint." — Keep Calm and Novel On, Educator and NetGalley Reviewer, 

"I adore Luna... She never begins to act out of character but she does grow throughout the novel ... Parents and other adults [are exactly as I would expect them to be. Realistically portrayed, they are at first shocked, then incredibly supportive of Luna. Her principal and teachers are understanding and concerned with her safety. I heaved a sigh of relief at this portrayal. I work at a public high school ... and I absolutely KNOW this is how it goes down there rather than the usual judgmental way portrayed in novels. (Although the students on the other hand can be brutal - also written in the novel.) Luna's parents were so fantastic. Concern for their daughter, getting her immediate medical care, discussing realistic options for after the baby is born, and supporting Luna the whole way are exactly how a parent SHOULD react. Writing adults as they are here could encourage girls to come forward about rape or pregnancy. THANK YOU MELANIE FLORENCE! ... The inclusion of so many contemporary issues (alcoholism, stereotyping, negative branding, rape, drinking, abortion, adoption, being roofied) makes it interesting and thought-provoking the whole way through." — Mandy Peterson, Librarian

"This book deals with some serious topics that are timely and are issues teens are facing. One Night touches on aspects of racism, stereotyping, bullying, drugs, rape, and Aboriginal heritage. It would be well-paired with some recent news articles or other non-fiction pieces on any of these topics."— Chasity Findlay,, CM Magazine

Educator & Series Information
This book is part of the SideStreets series. SideStreets are edgy, fast-paced novels that combine real-world themes and believable characters to make for short, heart-stopping books — sure to engage the most reluctant reader.

Interest age: From 14 To 18
Fry Reading Level [grade]: 2.9
Lexile Reading Level: HL560L

Additional Information
192 pages | 4.25" x 7.00"

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Rez Runaway
Format: Paperback
Text Content Territories: Indigenous Canadian;
Grade Levels: 8; 9; 10; 11; 12;

Raised on a reserve in northern Ontario, seventeen-year-old Joe Littlechief tries to be like the other guys. But Joe knows he's different -- he's more interested in guys than in any of the girls he knows. One night Joe makes a drunken pass at his best friend Benjy and, by the next morning, everyone on the rez is talking about Joe. His mother, a devout Christian, is horrified, and the kids who are supposed to be his friends make it clear there's no place for him in their circle, or even on the rez. Joe thinks about killing himself, but instead runs away to the city.

Alone and penniless on the streets of Toronto, Joe comes to identify with the Aboriginal idea of having two spirits, or combining both feminine and masculine identities in one person. He also begins to understand more about how his parents have been affected by their own experiences as children in residential schools -- something never discussed on the rez. And he realizes he has to come to terms with his two-spiritedness and find people who accept him for who he is.

This is a novel that reflects the complex realities faced by young LGBTQ and aboriginal youth today.

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Righting Canada's Wrongs: Residential Schools
Format: Hardcover
Text Content Territories: Indigenous Canadian; First Nations; Inuit; Métis;

Canada's residential school system for aboriginal young people is now recognized as a grievous historic wrong committed against First Nations, Metis, and Inuit peoples. This book documents this subject in a format that will give all young people access to this painful part of Canadian history.

In 1857, the Gradual Civilization Act was passed by the Legislature of the Province of Canada with the aim of assimilating First Nations people. In 1879, Prime Minister Sir John A. Macdonald commissioned the "Report on Industrial Schools for Indians and Half-Breeds." This report led to native residential schools across Canada. First Nations and Inuit children aged seven to fifteen years old were taken from their families, sometimes by force, and sent to residential schools where they were made to abandon their culture. They were dressed in uniforms, their hair was cut, they were forbidden to speak their native language, and they were often subjected to physical and psychological abuse. The schools were run by the churches and funded by the federal government.

About 150,000 aboriginal children went to 130 residential schools across Canada.

The last federally funded residential school closed in 1996 in Saskatchewan. The horrors that many children endured at residential schools did not go away. It took decades for people to speak out, but with the support of the Assembly of First Nations and Inuit organizations, former residential school students took the federal government and the churches to court. Their cases led to the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement, the largest class-action settlement in Canadian history. In 2008, Prime Minister Harper formally apologized to former native residential school students for the atrocities they suffered and the role the government played in setting up the school system. The agreement included the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which has since worked to document this experience and toward reconciliation.

Through historical photographs, documents, and first-person narratives from First Nations, Inuit, and Metis people who survived residential schools, this book offers an account of the injustice of this period in Canadian history. It documents how this official racism was confronted and finally acknowledged.

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Sans Nimâmâ
Artists:
Francois Thisdale
Format: Paperback
Text Content Territories: Indigenous Canadian; First Nations; Cree (Nehiyawak);
Grade Levels: 4; 5; 6; 7; 8; 9; 10; 11; 12;

Tân’tê Nimâmâ? je demande à Nôhkom. Où est Maman?
— Elle fait partie des femmes disparues, Kamâmakos. Elle m’appelle « petit papillon ». Comme le faisait Nimâmâ. Avant qu’elle disparaisse.

Une jeune femme — une Autochtone parmi tant d’autres portées disparues au Canada — veille sur son enfant qui doit grandir sans sa nimâmâ. La mère observe de loin les étapes importantes de la vie de sa lle — sa première journée d’école, sa première soirée dansante, la rencontre de son premier ami de coeur, le jour de son mariage, la naissance de son enfant. Sans Nimâmâ est une histoire riche d’amour, mais aussi remplie de perte, racontée à tour de rôle par une mère et son enfant.

Educator Information
This is a picture book best suited for more mature readers (teenagers), as it deals with mature themes and subject matter.

In this story, a young woman — one of the many missing indigenous woman in Canada — watches over her child who must grow up without her. The mother observes from afar the important stages in the life of her daughter, including her first day of school, the meeting of her first best friend, the day of her marriage, and the birth of her child. Sans Nimâmâ is a story rich in love, but also filled with loss, told in turn by a mother and child.

Recommended for Grades 4-7 for these subject areas: Francais langue premiere, French Immersion Language Arts, Sciences humaines. Caution: This book is best used for a read-aloud because of its subject matter and theme of loss.  It is not recommended as an independent read for younger ages.

Additional Information
34 pages | 8.25" x 11.00"

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He Who Dreams
Format: Paperback
Text Content Territories: Indigenous Canadian; First Nations; Cree (Nehiyawak);
Grade Levels: 5; 6; 7; 8; 9;

Juggling soccer, school, friends and family leaves John with little time for anything else. But one day at the local community center, following the sound of drums, he stumbles into an Indigenous dance class. Before he knows what's happening, John finds himself stumbling through beginner classes with a bunch of little girls, skipping soccer practice and letting his other responsibilities slide. When he attends a pow wow and witnesses a powerful performance, he realizes that he wants to be a dancer more than anything. But the nearest class for boys is at the Native Cultural Center in the city, and he still hasn't told his family or friends about his new passion. If he wants to dance, he will have to stop hiding. Between the mocking of his teammates and the hostility of the boys in his dance class, John must find a way to balance and embrace both the Irish and Cree sides of his heritage.

Reviews
"Florence effortlessly creates a very real and loving biracial family for her thoroughly modern protagonist. John's fast-paced tale twines universal teen concerns with specific cultural issues. This novel allows young readers to embrace their own heritages and realize they stand on the shoulders of all their ancestors." — Kirkus Reviews, December 2016

"The author...reinforces that she is capable of writing engaging stories about Indigenous subjects in any genre...John is an appealing character...Scenes between him and his parents and energetic younger sister, Jen, are especially well drawn...He Who Dreams offers readers a fast-paced story with realistic Indigenous content connecting the book to contemporary discussions about Indigenous issues in Canada." — Quill & Quire, January 2017

"Through realistic dialogue and concise, yet entertaining, chapters, He Who Dreams takes readers from a soccer field to the Grand Entry of a powwow with ease…Powerful and smart, He Who Dreams brims with valuable lessons, allowing young readers to access important issues in a highly engaging way. " — Canadian Children's Book News, April 2017

Additional Information
144 pages | 4.75" x 7.25"

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$9.95

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Les mots voles
Artists:
Gabrielle Grimard
Format: Paperback
Text Content Territories: Indigenous Canadian; First Nations; Cree (Nehiyawak);
Grade Levels: 1; 2; 3;

Curieuse d'en savoir davantage sur ses origines, une petite fille demande à son grand-père de prononcer un mot en langue crie. Celui-ci est attristé lorsqu'il réalise qu'il l'a oublié, conséquence de nombreuses années passées en école résidentielle. Il lui dit qu'il a « perdu les mots » lors de son passage là-bas, et elle décide donc de l'aider à les retrouver. 

Un récit touchant sur les relations intergénérationnelles et une initiation tout en délicatesse à la découverte d'un épisode plutôt sombre de l'histoire du Canada. 

Educator Information
This book is also available in English as Stolen Words.

Recommended for ages 6+.

Additional Information
32 pages | 8.54" x 8.52"

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$11.95

Quantity:
Stolen Words
Artists:
Gabrielle Grimard
Format: Hardcover
Text Content Territories: Indigenous Canadian; First Nations; Cree (Nehiyawak);
Grade Levels: 1; 2; 3;

A little girl helps her grandfather regain the language taken from him as a child.

The story of the beautiful relationship between a little girl and her grandfather. When she asks her grandfather how to say something in his language – Cree – he admits that his language was stolen from him when he was a boy. The little girl then sets out to help her grandfather find his language again. This sensitive and warmly illustrated picture book explores the intergenerational impact of the residential school system that separated young Indigenous children from their families. The story recognizes the pain of those whose culture and language were taken from them, how that pain is passed down, and how healing can also be shared.

24 Pages
8.5 x 8.5
Picture Book
Ages 6-9 / Grades 1-3

Awards

  • 2018 Ruth and Sylvia Schwartz Children's Book Winner
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$17.95

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