________________ CM . . . . Volume XXIII Number 16. . . .December 23, 2016


When We Were Alone.

David A. Robertson. Illustrated by Julie Flett.
Winnipeg, MB: Highwater Press/Portage & Main Press, 2016.
24 pp., hardcover, $18.95.
ISBN 978-1-55379-673-2.

Subject Heading:
Graphic novels.

Preschool-grade 4 / Ages 4-9.

Review by Kristen Ferguson.

**** /4



“Nókom, why do you wear so many colours?” I asked.

Nókom said, “Well, Nósisim…”

When I was your age, at my home community, my friends and I wore many different colours. But at the school I went to, far away from home, they gave us different clothes to wear. All the children were dressed the same, and our clothes weren’t colourful at all. We all mixed together like storm clouds.


David A. Roberston’s When We Were Alone, illustrated by Julie Flett, is a picture book for young children that captures a conversation between grandparent and grandchild about the grandmother’s residential school experience. Nókom explains to Nósisim how her hair was cut, how she was forced to wear plain clothes, and how she was separated from her brother and not allowed to speak her language. Nókom’s story, however, is also one of survival and resilience, and she now proudly wears colorful clothes and has her hair in a long braid, speaks her language, and spends time with her family.

     The questioning format of a young child asking her grandmother simple questions adds a sense of innocence to the story. The reader almost feels like he or she is eavesdropping on an intimate conversation between grandparent and grandchild. Nókom’s repetition throughout the book of phrases such as “when we were alone” and “like everybody else” provides a sense of soothing rhythm to the narrative.

     Julie’s Flett’s illustrations are impeccable. The contrast between the colourful and bleak illustrations perfectly match the narrative. The relatively small size of the book makes it perfect for sharing with younger children.

     When We Were Alone addresses the topic of residential schools and, just as importantly, aspects of Cree culture and language. There is such gentleness about When We Were Alone that makes it an appropriate book for the even youngest of readers. Simply put, this is a much-needed book.

Highly Recommended.

Dr. Kristen Ferguson teaches literacy education at the Schulich School of Education at Nipissing University in North Bay.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.
Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364
Hosted by the University of Manitoba.

Next Review | Table of Contents For This Issue - December 23, 2016
CM Home
| Back Issues | Search | CM Archive | Profiles Archive