Consider helping Twice Upon A Time – Free Books for Ottawa Kids – support the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) Calls to Action by putting children’s books by and about Canada’s Indigenous peoples – First Nations, Métis and Inuit – into the hands of Ottawa’s youngsters. Here are six favourites selected by Board Members of Twice Upon a Time. We hope you will enjoy them as much as we have!
Suggestions from Alexandra Y:
Fatty Legs: A True Story by Christy Jordan-Fenton and Margaret Pokiak-Fenton
I had the great pleasure of hearing Margaret and Christy speak at the Ottawa Public Library recently, and for all of the pain in this story, and in Margaret’s residential school experience, I was touched by how much the whimsical, funny, and smart child is still so visible in the now-81 year old Margaret! Fatty Legs tells the story of Margaret’s arrival in a 1940s residential school in Aklavik, NWT. There she meets the Raven, a cruel nun who is intent on breaking the spirits of Margaret and her classmates, but also the Swan, another nun who is kind to the children. The story is heartbreaking, but Margaret’s desire to learn to read, her sense of humour, and determination to succeed, along with poignant and at times amusing drawings, make this tale accessible to a wide audience who will come to love Margaret and her curious, determined nature.
At the Heart of It: Dene Dzó T’áré by Raymond Taniton
This very accessible picture book for children 4+ invites readers to explore the land and culture of the Sahtugot’ine, or the “people of Great Bear Lake”. Author Taniton introduces readers to the community elders, music, crafts, the natural world around them, and the stories the community tells. There is lots in this book to discuss with younger and older children, from the details of intricate beading work depicted in the photos and drawings, to the philosophical and spiritual messages in the oral tales re-told.
Suggestions from Marni S:
A Salmon for Simon by Betty Waterton and Ann Blades
Simon is a boy living on the west coast of Canada who has been given his first fishing rod. His greatest wish is to catch a salmon. The story, told in 15 pages with many illustrations, deftly communicates Simon’s experience in being confused when he actually gets what he has been wishing for and his cleverness in solving the ‘problem’ of the fish all by himself. Meanwhile, the family remains just out of view, letting him figure this one out on his own. Suitable for children 5 to 10.
Lesson for the Wolf by Rachel and Sean Qitsualik-Tinsley
With the rhythm and formality of a fable, this book tells the story of a wolf who grows up in Inuit territory, admiring the other animals more than he does the wolves of his own pack. The animals and the land are given magical qualities and the wolf becomes an amalgam of those he admires. He realizes he cannot survive without his pack but it takes the persistence and love of his family and friends to get through to this impetuous wolf who is too embarrassed to ask for help on his own. Lively drawings with the energy of cartoons that would appeal to children 5 to 10.
Suggestions from Kim F:
Hello Humpback by Roy Henry Vickers and Robert Budd
This is a beautifully illustrated board book with rhyming text. It’s a perfect book to introduce west coast first nations art to children. The bright bold colours will attract even young babies and the illustrations of nature by Roy Henry Vickers will inspire artists young and old.
Ava and the Little Folk by Neil Christopher and Alan Neal and illustrated by Jonathan Wright
This book is a northern folktale based on traditional tales of people who could become small in order to survive in the harsh northern climate. They would need less food and could hide from predators more easily. Ava is orphaned and alone when he stumbles across the little folk who give him a home and teach him the necessary skills for survival.