skip to Main Content

Sticks and Stones

Author Christy Jordan-Fenton got the inspiration for her true stories When I Was Eight ($9.95, Annick Press, Ages 6-9) and Fatty Legs: A True Story ($12.95, Annick Press, Ages 9 and up) from her mother-in-law, Margaret Pokiak-Fenton. Both books are based upon the story of Margaret’s experience at a residential school as a child – When I Was Eight is a picture book, while Fatty Legs is a chapter book.

images8images

The Story

Margaret is a tall, curious Inuit girl from Banks Island, situated high above the Arctic Circle. After her older sister, Rosie, returns from a year at a residential school far from home in the Inuvik Region of the Northwest Territories, Canada, Margaret begs her parents to let her attend school, too. She so desperately wants to learn to read, but Rosie warns Margaret of the cruel nuns who cut her hair and made her do chores relentlessly. Yet still, Margaret eventually talks her parents into letting her attend the school after her eighth birthday.

On her first day there, Margaret quickly learns her sister was right, as the nuns make her cut off her braids and do chores. She misses her family desperately, hates the food and wonders why she ever wanted to attend in the first place. One witch-like nun in particular, named the Raven, singles strong-willed Margaret out and makes her do more chores than the others girls and is very unfair and cruel to her. Part of the girls’ uniform requires that they wear thick stockings to keep their legs warm. But one day, the Raven passes out grey stockings to all the girls in the school except for Margaret, who is forced to wear bulky, bright red stockings. The other girls laugh and torment Margaret, calling her, “Fatty Legs.” But rather than suffer any longer, Margaret does something unusually brave to stand up for herself.

When I Was Eight

88images

The picture book offers younger readers a simpler, less detailed version of the story, yet depicts Margaret’s fears and challenges at the school incredibly well. I like that the book introduces different cultures and places to young readers and shares the universal theme that we all experience both as children and adults – fitting in.  It also delves deep into the importance of being able to read well. The illustrations by Gabrielle Grimard are excellent and original in style, adding great dimension to the story.

Fatty Legs

55199

The more I read the chapter book, the more hooked I got on the story. Without sugar-coating the truth about Margaret’s emotional abuse by the Raven, the author tells the story in a way that’s easy to understand, so real, yet not too terrifying for the targeted age of the readers. Margaret’s courage and determination to learn will make readers feel extra close to this likable protagonist and will be able to relate their own personal challenges to hers in some way.

It would be extra special to buy both of these affordable books for your child so he or she could read the picture book in early elementary school and the chapter book when a bit older. The fact that these wonderful, culturally rich books are based upon a true story make them treasures worth keeping.

– Reviewed by Debbie Glade

Share this:

Summer Reading Never Looked so Good!

What do gorillas, weird sea creatures, matchboxes, Inuits, puddles and elephants all have in common? They’re all topics of books we’re getting ready to  review as part of our summer roundup. There’s something for every age! Here’s a sneak peak:

One Gorilla: A Counting Book

OneGOrilla

Phenomenal illustrations of primates and simple prose teach little ones how to count.

Weird Sea Creatures

weirdseacreatures

Spectacular photographs of uncommon sea animals along with descriptions will make you wish you could live the life of Jacques Cousteau!

The Matchbox Diary

matchboxdiary

A little girl sits with her grandfather as he tells the story of his life with matchboxes he saved as mementos in this picture book.

Fatty Legs

FL book cover printed copy

Based on a true story, an eight-year-old Inuit girl faces brutal ridicule while she sets out to learn how to read in this chapter book.

The Deep, Deep Puddle

deep puddle

The strangest things can be found in this giant puddle of a picture book, with awesome illustrations.

Queenie: One Elephant’s Story

queenie

The sad but true story of one of the most famous elephants that ever lived.

Share this:
Back To Top
%d bloggers like this: