May 10th, 2017 | Posted by etownsend in 2017-2018 | October | Intermediate (Grades 3-5) | 2017-2018 Intermediate

I Am Not a Number by Jenny Kay Dupuis and Kathy Kacer. Illustrated by Gillian Newland. Second Story Press, 2016

Irene Couchie is an eight-year-old Anishinaabe living happily with her family on the Nippissing Reserve in Northern Ontario. But when the Indian agent comes to their home to take her and her two brothers away to attend a residential boarding school, the only thing her parents can do to protect them is to tell them to never forget who they are. Life in the school is terrifying. Irene is separated from her two brothers and has her identity stripped from her—even her name. She is told that from now on she will be number 759. The year passes slowly. Irene faces harsh living conditions and cruel physical punishment for speaking her own language. When summer finally comes, she and her brothers return home, and her parents vow to never send them back after hearing what the children endured, hiding them when the agent returns. Based on the childhood experience of the author’s grandmother, the heart- wrenching story is illustrated with realistic paintings that convey Irene’s fear and sadness. © Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Start some conversation with these discussion prompts:

  1. Pre-read: Why do you think it is it important for people to share their stories/experiences?
  2. What are some of the ways that Irene and the others are being denied their identity?
  3. How do the illustrations help to tell the story? To you think the story would have been the same without the illlustrations?
  4. Is this part of history new to you? Read the afterward. Why is it important to share this history?O


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