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From the Roots Up

By Tasha Spillett
Illustrated by Natasha Donovan & Donovan Yaciuk
Series: Surviving the City
Imprint: HighWater Press

Categories: Young Adult Fiction, Aboriginal & Indigenous, 2SLGBTQIA+, Coming of Age, Death & Dying
Big Ideas: Aspects of Indigenous Cultures, Worldviews, Teachings, and Protocols, Contemporary Setting, Social Emotional Learning, Death, Grief, and Bereavement, Social Justice, Family Separation, Foster Care and the Child Welfare System, Impacts of Colonization and Colonialism, Powwow, Diverse and Inclusive Representation, 2SLGBTQI+, Identity, Discrimination, Prejudice and Racism
Cultures & Peoples: Anishinaabeg, Cree, Métis
Indigenous Languages: Anishinaabemowin, Words or Phrases, Cree

Interest Age: 12+
Grade: 8–12
Reading Level: Fountas & Pinnell Z, Lexile® Framework for Reading: HL660L
Paperback : 9781553798989, 64 pages, October 2020
Ebook (EPUB) : 9781553798996, 64 pages, October 2020
Ebook (PDF) : 9781553799009, 64 pages, October 2020

Dez and Miikwan’s stories continue in this sequel to Surviving the City.


Dez’s grandmother has passed away. Grieving, and with nowhere else to go, they’re living in a group home. On top of everything else, Dez is navigating a new relationship and coming into their identity as a Two-Spirit person.

Miikwan is crushing on the school’s new kid Riel, but doesn’t really understand what Dez is going through. Will she learn how to be a supportive ally to her best friend?

Elder Geraldine is doing her best to be supportive, but she doesn’t know how to respond when the gendered protocols she’s grown up with are being thrown into question.

Will Dez be comfortable expressing their full identity? And will their community relearn the teachings and overcome prejudice to celebrate them for who they are?


  • Short-listed, Mary Scorer Award for Best Book by a Manitoba Publisher 2021
  • Short-listed, Indigenous Voices Award, Published Graphic Novels, Comics, and Illustrated Books in any Language 2021
  • Short-listed, Carol Shields Winnipeg Book Award 2021
  • Short-listed, McNally Robinson Book for Young People (Older Category) 2021
  • Nominated, MYRCA Northern Lights 2022
  • Short-listed, Forest of Reading Red Maple Award 2022


Among CCBC's Best Books for Kids and Teens list, designated a title of exceptional caliber

The Canadian Children's Book Centre (CCBC)

Moving and heartfelt, readers definitely will want to know what happens next.

Jeffrey Canton, The Globe and Mail

Surviving the City and From the Roots Up are beautiful, poignant, and emotional. I highly recommend you read these graphic novels.

The Tiny Activist

Every single thing about these volumes is important. They are beautifully written, fantastically illustrated, at times heartbreaking, humourous, and rooted in Indigenous strength.

Dani @thunderbirdwomanreads

This story is so important.  The illustrations in this book are gorgeous, and add so much depth to the story. This book is an essential addition to classroom and libraries.

Bit About Books