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When We Were Alone

by David A. Robertson
Illustrated by Julie Flett

Published by Highwater Press, 2016
32 pages
ISBN: 978-1-55379-673-2

5-8

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


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