A Stranger at Home

A Stranger at Home

by Christy Jordan-Fenton and Margaret Pokiak-Fenton
illustrated by Liz Amini-Holmes
Annick Press, 2011
ISBN 978-1-55451-361-1
$12.95, 124 pp, ages 8+

As a sequel to Fatty Legs, this memoir is quite able to stand alone. A Stranger at Home is a rich description of Olemaun Pokiak’s childhood—her return to her family and her struggles to overcome culture shock after two years of study at a residential school. Without being graphic or overwhelming, the Fentons recreate a tragic moment in Canadian history through the innocent reflections of a child. Olemaun (also known as Margaret) is resilient, however, and she painstakingly rebuilds her relationships with her mother, father and sisters. Besides the language barrier, Margaret’s body is no longer accustomed to eating traditional food, she is unsure of where she fits in her family group, she cannot reconcile her knowledge of Christianity with her Native culture, and she is without friends in her small town. Liz Amini-Holmes’s rich artwork brings the reader into the story through use of colour and value: bright skies entrance the reader, while dark images increase suspense. These are complemented by a collection of thumbnail images in the margins from Olemaun’s scrapbook (full size images found on pages 110 – 120).

Curriculum Connections: The artistry and photographs support the reader’s visualization, and the Fentons’ descriptive language helps the reader enter the story to learn the struggles of First Nations children who were sent away to residential schools. A glossary in the form of footnotes support the reader’s understanding of traditional, cultural and historical words like kamik, bannock and Eaton’s. A Stranger at Home is a must for any classroom library; it lends itself well to a novel or artwork study, and supports the Social Studies curriculum on First Nations cultures.

Review by Amanda Forbes.

This review is from Canadian Teacher Magazine’s May/June 2012 issue.

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