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Full Text Reviews:
Booklist - 09/15/2016 *Starred Review* While chapter books about Indian boarding schools are available, if not plentiful, few picture books deal with the issue. Dupuis and Kacer’s story, based on Anishinaabe-Ojibway Dupuis’ family experience, is a welcome addition and should be particularly useful when teaching the history of the wrongs done to Native Americans—in this case, the First Nations of Canada. In the 1930s, eight-year-old Irene is forcibly removed from her life on Nipissing First Nation to attend a Catholic boarding school. The experience is harrowing: her hair is cut, use of her native tongue results in gruesome punishments, and she is not allowed to communicate with her family. Finally, her name is taken away, and she is known merely by a dehumanizing number. Her joy at returning home for the summer is palpable, and her father vows his children will not go back, despite the demands of the government’s Indian agent. An afterword explains the residential school system and Dupuis’ personal history. Newland’s illustrations zero in on the details that will stick with young readers: the scissors about to clip Irene’s hair, the meager food, Irene’s face after her hideous punishment. When home, her world is brighter, as symbolized by her yellow dress, white laundry on a clothesline, and the golden fields around her house. This well-done, empathetic historical book is highly recommended for all collections. - Copyright 2016 Booklist.
School Library Journal - 10/01/2016 Gr 4–6—A spotlight on the injustice of Canada's residential school program based on Dupuis's grandmother's childhood experience. The story begins in medias res: the front door is open, and a gruff white man is demanding that Irene Couchie's parents hand over their children—now "wards of the government." Couchie and her two brothers are taken from their home on Nipissing First Nation to attend a residential boarding school many miles away. Couchie learns that names are not allowed at this school; she becomes number 759. Subdued illustrations assist in setting the overall serious tone. The facial expressions of Couchie throughout the year bring the raw hopelessness of the situation to light. Many scenes are alarming; for example, Sister Mary is shown cutting a crying Couchie's hair off. After the kids return home for the summer, Couchie's parents vow to hide their children from the government and the "Indian Agent" sent to recollect them. Back matter contains material on Canada's residential school system, which "educated" indigenous peoples, and the final report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission condemning the practice in 2015. Dupuis also provides more information about her grandmother. VERDICT Pair this recommended selection with Nicola I. Campbell's Shi-shi-etko for students learning about the boarding school system.—Amy Zembroski, Indian Community School, Franklin, WI - Copyright 2016 Publishers Weekly, Library Journal and/or School Library Journal used with permission.