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May 9th, 2017 | Posted by etownsend in 2017-2018 | Primary (Grades K-2) | October | 2017-2018 Primary

When We Were Alone by David A. Robertson. Illustrated by Julie Flett. Highwater Press, 2016

A young Cree girl gardening with her kókom asks about certain habits she has observed: Her kókum always wears bright color and a long braid. She often speaks in Cree and enjoys spending time with her brother. There is a story behind each that is connected to kókum’s years in Indian Boarding School. The students were not allowed to wear bright colors, for example. “But sometimes,” Kókom says, “in the fall when we were alone, and the leaves had turned to their warm autumn hues, we would all roll around on the ground. We would pile the leaves over the clothes they had given us, and we would be colorful again. And this made us happy.” Each question and answer follows this same pattern, with Kókom describing small acts of resistance that helped her and her classmates survive emotionally. The beautiful, affecting narrative is accompanied by Julie Flett’s striking, culturally authentic illustrations that show the connection between the child and her elders. (Ages 5–8)  © Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Start some conversation with these discussion prompts:

  1. What is your favorite story from your grandparent or from an older community member?
  2. The grandmother in the story has kept many of her cultural traditions. What are some of your favorite family traditions?
  3. How do you think the illustrations in the book reflect the feelings of the grandmother?

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