Aboriginal Education teacher-librarian Alison Garneau recommends When We Were Alone by David A. Robertson and Julie Flett.
National Day for Truth and Reconciliation is on September 30th and this is my favourite picture book to read to students about the experiences of Indigenous people in residential schools. I think the simple honesty of David Robertson’s words, combined with the gentle illustrations by Julie Flett, work together to create a heartbreakingly beautiful story that is accessible to all ages. It is available to check out from the Aboriginal Education Library in French and English.
In this story, an Indigenous child is asking her grandmother questions about the colours she wears, the way she wears her hair long, the Cree words she speaks, and the family she spends time with. With each answer, the grandmother contrasts the way she grew up in her community to the way she had to live in residential school. She explains to her granddaughter that she does the things she does now because she couldn’t do them when she was at school.
This is a story that I love to explore deeply with students over several days. The grandmother’s answers for her granddaughter really prompt us to wonder about the ‘why’ when we think about residential schools and our journey for truth and reconciliation.
Please email Alison Garneau (email@example.com) to request items from the Aboriginal Education Library.