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Additional Literature Resources

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Fatty Legs: A True Story
Liz Amini-Holmes
Format: Paperback
Grade Levels: 4; 5; 6; 7; 8; 9;

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.


  • First Nation Communities Read recipient, 2011-2012

"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

My Name is Seepeetza
Format: Paperback
Grade Levels: 5; 6; 7; 8; 9;

At six years old, Seepeetza is taken from her happy family life on Joyaska Ranch to live as a boarder at the Kalamak Indian Residential School. Life at the school is not easy, but Seepeetza still manages to find some bright spots. Always, thoughts of home make her school life bearable. 

An honest, inside look at life in an Indian residential school in the 1950s, and how one indomitable young spirit survived it.

Educator Information
Curriculum Connections: Language Arts, History, Social Studies, Science


Authentic Canadian Content
Authentic Indigenous Text

In Re-Print
When I Was Eight
Gabrielle Grimard
Format: Paperback
Grade Levels: 2; 3; 4; 5; 6; 7; 10; 11;

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.

"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

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