Indigenous Authors on Discussing Residential School History: Resources and Guidance for K–12 Teachers and Parents

To our Indigenous colleagues and followers, know that our hearts are with you as you grieve. For everyone in Canada, this moment should be one of national grieving.

In May 2021, we were heartbroken to learn that the remains of 215 Indigenous children had been found on the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School in British Columbia. These children died of abuse and neglect, with thousands more still unaccounted for. 

The following interviews and resources were compiled to support teachers looking to discuss this topic. The interviews were originally conducted in preparation for a 2019 post related to Orange Shirt Day, but the authors’ responses are relevant to any discussion of residential school history with students.

There’s no way around it; these conversations are hard. They’re painful, difficult—and necessary. So, where are we to begin?

We spoke to three prominent Indigenous authors about how educators can participate in creating a more equitable future for residential school Survivors and their families.

We are honoured to have published the stories of Survivors, as well as other books about the history of residential schools. If you are not familiar with residential school history, please take the time to educate yourself, but do so without adding to the emotional labour of Indigenous peoples. There are many resources available, including the books listed at the end of this article. 

The national Indian Residential School Crisis Line provides 24/7 support for Survivors and those affected. Access emotional and crisis referral services by calling 1-866-925-4419.

Christine M’Lot on Making Progress Through Discussion

Christine M’Lot (she/her/hers) is an Anishinaabe educator and curriculum developer from Winnipeg, Manitoba. She has experience working with children and youth in multiple capacities including child welfare, children’s disability services, and Indigenous family programming. She currently teaches high school at the University of Winnipeg Collegiate. Christine is also the co-founder of Red Rising Education, and works to create Indigenous education resources for teachers.

PMP/HWP: In many Canadian schools, there are kids in the classroom who have been directly impacted by the intergenerational harms of residential schools. They might be sitting right next to kids who have no knowledge at all about this painful time in history. How can educators gently guide conversations about residential schools in a way that is constructive for everyone, and not harmful? 

CM: This is a very real scenario that most educators face while teaching about Indigenous topics. One thing that I’d like to remind teachers is that it’s important not to make any assumptions about the level of knowledge that Indigenous students may have about their histories or culture. I’ve definitely made the assumption that because a student is Indigenous, they must already know about residential schools or the direct impact that they had on their families and communities, but this has not always been the case.

   In my classroom, I try to ensure that our conversations around Indigenous topics are not always focused on the negative aspects of history. While learning about residential schools is hardly positive, I always make time to recognize the resilience and beauty in our communities. I think it’s important to show students examples of Indigenous resistance and political action that our communities partake in. It’s important to be mindful of not inadvertently showing Indigenous people as victims all the time but rather as people who continue to fight for equal rights in Canada. 

PMP/HWP: What are some discussion questions early years educators and middle/high school educators might ask their classrooms on Orange Shirt Day to keep the focus on healing?

CM: Some questions I like to ask my students include: 

  • How can we honour residential school Survivors as a school and community? 
  • How can we ensure that the legacy of residential schools is never forgotten? 
  • What are some Indigenous theories and practices around wellness and wellbeing that we can utilize in our own lives?
  • How can we ensure that First Nations children get the same level of education and healthcare as the rest of Canadians?

PMP/HWP: Which resources would you recommend to educators to help them facilitate meaningful conversations about residential schools in their classrooms?

CM: I would recommend the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation Canada website as a great resource for teachers to learn about residential schools and gather teaching resources appropriate to their students’ grade level. 

I also recommend Red Rising Education for our authentic Indigenous educational resources. We created a special-edition magazine and accompanying unit plans to teach educators how to include Indigenous topics into their curricula. Our unit plans are centred around the themes of identity, community, land and water, and resistance. 

David A. Robertson on the Origin and Importance of Orange Shirt Day

David A. Robertson (he/him/his) is an award-winning writer and recent recipient of the Writer’s Union of Canada’s Freedom to Read Award. His books include When We Were Alone (winner Governor General’s Literary Award), Will I See?, Betty: The Helen Betty Osborne Story, and the YA trilogy The Reckoner. His most recent works include the graphic novel Breakdown, middle grade novel The Barren Grounds, and his memoir Black Water: Family, Legacy, and Blood Memory. A sought-after speaker and educator, David is a member of Norway House Cree Nation. He lives in Winnipeg.

PMP/HWP: Where does Orange Shirt Day come from?

DAR: Orange Shirt Day originates from an experience of one residential school survivor that is common to many, that is the attempted elimination of cultural identity. 

A student, Phyllis Webstad, on her first day at residential school, had her new orange shirt taken from her by school administration. We know today that Phyllis’s story is representative of the experiences many Indigenous children had while attending residential school, and we recognize it to both remember what happened, and honour Survivors, but also to ensure we do not repeat history. 

I think, as well, we should use it as a day to keep our eyes and hearts open, because it is a history that is still happening, through systems like child welfare. Ultimately, Orange Shirt Day is a day of reflection and awareness.

PMP/HWP: You’ve written several books that address the impact of residential schools on Indigenous peoples. Your children’s book, When We Were Alone, also frames loss of identity through the school’s control over Nokóm’s clothing. Why do you think clothing is such an effective touchpoint for talking to young kids about residential schools?

DAR: You have to find ways for children to relate to Indigenous children who attended residential schools. If children can relate, they can empathize. And empathy is powerful. 

Any child can understand the expression of identity through the way that somebody dresses, or how they wear their hair. Any child, as well, can understand the impact of what it means to not be able to express identity. If I tell a child, in a safe environment, to imagine that the shirt they are wearing, perhaps a team shirt, is not welcome in the room, because in the room, only the shirt for one certain team is allowed, that child can understand the concept of assimilation. 

If I tell a child the same thing about their hair, they can likewise understand the concept of assimilation. It allows me to have a conversation with students about their individuality, the importance of their uniqueness, and how it might have affected children to not be able to express who they are. To have to be the same as everybody else. 

Kids can understand sophisticated concepts if we are able to meet them at their level, in an age-appropriate way.

PMP/HWP: Why do you think Orange Shirt Day is important?

DAR: I think it’s important because it is an entry point to have an important conversation. More than that, it brings people together to have that conversation. That coming together is an important step in the path to reconciliation. We cannot heal a broken relationship in a vacuum. We need to do it together, and we need to do it through listening, and sharing. 

What I don’t want to happen is for this conversation to happen on just one day, so a vital piece of this is to build on this day, by making each day one where we discuss reconciliation, in one form or another. Because that conversation will shape where we go tomorrow. 

Dr. Pamela Rose Toulouse on Leading and Enriching Classroom Conversations About Residential School History

Pamela Rose Toulouse, Ph.D., is a Professor in the Faculty of Education (Concurrent English Language) at Laurentian University. She is a National 3M Teaching Excellence Award Fellow known for her dynamic, engaging and impactful approach to presenting. Originally from the community of Sagamok First Nation, Dr. Pamela Rose Toulouse is a proud Anishinaabe woman from a long line of educators. She has a strong commitment to equity/diversity and passion for education. She chairs various committees, works with a variety of school boards, and is active in her areas of research. Dr. Toulouse continues her life journey in the field of education by representing her Nation and profession in a respectful and meaningful way.

PMP/HWP: Do you have any suggestions for classroom activities teachers can try with their classrooms on Orange Shirt Day that support the message behind the event?

PRT: There are so many classroom activities that can happen on that day, such as KAIROS blanket exercises, Project of Heart events, and learning from local Indigenous Knowledge Keepers and getting out on the land. 

The key is to reach out to the Indigenous community and form a relationship that goes beyond the one day. Orange Shirt Day is an opportunity to fulfill our truthful relationships and responsibilities as caring two-leggeds. 

One of the primary activities is to engage in truth and reconciliation by finding out “who you are.” Being Canadian will be so much more meaningful when you can connect to your own ancestral stories of challenge and hope. This exploration of the past from a personal stance will give students and educators a greater appreciation for “why” Indigenous peoples are so connected to traditions, ceremonies, and the land.

PMP/HWP: You suggest inviting an Elder or Knowledge Keeper from a local Indigenous community to visit the classroom as an extension of learning. If an educator wished to do this but isn’t acquainted with an Indigenous Elder, what can educators do to respectfully make contact with a community?

PRT: Nearly every school board in Canada has an Indigenous Lead who has been entrusted with many roles in K to 12. These Indigenous Leads are the connection between educators and Elders, Metis Senators, and other Knowledge Keepers. 

There is so much diversity across the country in terms of the protocols in how to approach Indigenous resource peoples— the Indigenous Lead can assist educators with this. In the absence of an Indigenous Lead, contacting a local Friendship Centre or a local First Nation or a Métis organization is the best approach.

The gifts and the experiences shared by Indigenous Elders and Metis Senators with classrooms will leave a head to heart impact on the students—and this is something that cannot be replicated anywhere else.

PMP/HWP: How can educators continue to help young people understand the scope of residential schools beyond September 30th?

PRT: Orange Shirt Day is acknowledged once per year, but residential school Survivors and their families live with the effects daily. This is why it is so critical to continue to implement the Calls to Action from the TRC and do so in relationships with Indigenous communities.

For me, Call to Action #63, “Building student capacity for intercultural understanding, empathy, and mutual respect” is foundational here. It’s one thing to offer classroom lessons on the history and effects of residential schools and quite another to truly feel the depth of these impacts.

The most respectful outcome is for school communities to take that additional step and do something about it. There needs to be action beyond acknowledgments.

HighWater Press Books About Residential School History for Grades K–12

When We Were Alone
Ispík kákí péyakoyak/When We Were Alone
for grades K–4

Written by David A. Robertson
Illustrated by Julie Flett
Translated by Alderick Leask (bilingual Swampy Cree/English edition)

An empowering story of resistance that gently introduces children to the history of residential schools in Canada.

When a young girl helps tend to her grandmother’s garden, she begins to notice things that make her curious. Why does her grandmother have long, braided hair and beautifully coloured clothing? Why does she speak another language and spend so much time with her family? As she asks her grandmother about these things, she is told about life in a residential school a long time ago, where all of these things were taken away. When We Were Alone is a story about a difficult time in history, and, ultimately, one of empowerment and strength.

 

Amik Loves School: A Story of Wisdom
The Seven Teachings Stories series
for grades K–3

Written by Katherena Vermette
Illustrated by Irene Kuziw

Amik tells Moshoom about his wonderful school. Then his grandfather tells him about the residential school he went to, so different from Amik’s school, so Amik has an idea… 

The Seven Teaching of the Anishinaabe—love, wisdom, humility, courage, respect, honesty, and truth—are revealed in these seven stories for children. Set in an urban landscape with Indigenous children as the central characters, these stories about home and family will look familiar to all young readers.

Sugar Falls: A Residential School Story
10th Anniversary Edition
for grades 9–12

Written by David A. Robertson
Illustrated by Scott B. Henderson
Colour by Donovan Yaciuk
Foreword by Hon. Murray Sinclair

Inspired by true events, this story of strength, family, and culture shares the awe-inspiring resilience of Elder Betty Ross.

Abandoned as a young child, Betsy is adopted into a loving family. A few short years later, at the age of 8, everything changes. Betsy is taken away to a residential school. There she is forced to endure abuse and indignity, but Betsy recalls the words her father spoke to her at Sugar Falls—words that give her the resilience, strength, and determination to survive.

Sugar Falls is based on the true story of Betty Ross, Elder from Cross Lake First Nation. We wish to acknowledge, with the utmost gratitude, Betty’s generosity in sharing her story. A portion of the proceeds from the sale of Sugar Falls goes to support the bursary program for The Helen Betty Osborne Memorial Foundation.

7 Generations: A Plains Cree Saga
for grades 9–12

Written by David A. Robertson
Illustrated by Scott B. Henderson

7 Generations: A Plains Cree Saga is an epic, four-part graphic novel. Illustrated in vivid colour, the story follows one Indigenous family over three centuries and seven generations. This compiled edition was originally published as a series of four graphic novels: Stone, Scars, Ends/Begins, and The Pact.

Stone introduces Edwin, a young man who must discover his family’s past if he is to have any future. Edwin learns of his ancestor Stone, a young Plains Cree man, who came of age in the early 19th century. When his older brother is tragically killed during a Blackfoot raid, Stone, the best shot and rider in his encampment, must overcome his grief to avenge his brother’s death.

In Scars, the story of White Cloud, Edwin’s ancestor, is set against the smallpox epidemic of 1870-1871. After witnessing the death of his family one by one, White Cloud must summon the strength to find a new home and deliver himself from the terrible disease.

In Ends/Begins, readers learn about the story of Edwin’s father, and his experiences in a residential school. In 1964, two brothers are taken from the warm and loving care of their grandparents, and spirited away to a residential school. When older brother James discovers the anguish that his brother is living under, it leads to unspeakable tragedy.

In The Pact, the guilt and loss of James’s residential school experiences follow him into adulthood, and his life spirals out of control. Edwin, mired in his own pain, tries to navigate past the desolation of his fatherless childhood. As James tries to heal himself he begins to realize that, somehow, he must save his son’s life—as well as his own. 

Resources to Help Teach Residential School History 

Parent/Teacher Guide for When We Were Alone
for grades K–4

Written by Susy Komishin

The Parent/Teacher Guide for When We Were Alone provides ideas for parents and teachers sharing and discussing themes—sometimes difficult ones—that are presented in the story When We Were Alone. With this story, parents and educators can discuss diverse perspectives, experiences, and traditions with young readers that foster a deeper understanding of ourselves as human beings and of our relationships with others.

This guide presents:

  • key concepts of residential schools and Indigenous perspectives
  • ideas to guide student learning
  • approaches and suggestions that guide the reading
  • discussion topics and activities to deepen readers’ understanding of the abstract concepts addressed in the story
  • a Cree word list

Teacher’s Guide for Seven Teachings Stories
for grades K–4

Written by Katya Adamov Ferguson

Designed to help teachers in early years classrooms use The Seven Teachings Stories series, by Katherena Vermette, this guide provides the framework and key ideas educators need to become participants in a culturally responsive classroom community and to deepen their understanding of the Seven Teachings. With these stories, educators can create a space to discuss diverse perspectives, experiences, and traditions with young readers, and to foster a deeper understanding of ourselves as human beings and of our relationships with others.

This guide is presented in three sections and includes:

  • key information about the Seven Teachings, Anishinaabe vocabulary, and the characters in each story
  • ideas to guide student learning
  • approaches and suggestions that teachers can apply to any of the seven stories.
  • strategies and activities to deepen readers’ understanding of the abstract concepts addressed in the stories.
  • an appendix of reproducible classroom materials

Teacher’s Guide for 7 Generations: A Plains Cree Saga
for grades 9–12

Written by Niigaanwewidam James Sinclair

The Teacher’s Guide for 7 Generations series is a free resource. The guide includes instruction and activities for each title in the 7 Generations series.

In the guide, you will find ideas for using the books in the classroom including

  • activities for reading and responding
  • questions for discussion
  • culminating activities
  • related websites

Ensouling Our Schools: A Universally Designed Framework for Mental Health, Well-Being, and Reconciliation
for all teachers

Written by Jennifer Katz
With Kevin Lamoureux

In an educational milieu in which standards and accountability hold sway, schools can become places of stress, marginalization, and isolation instead of learning communities that nurture a sense of meaning and purpose. In Ensouling Our Schools, author Jennifer Katz weaves together methods of creating schools that engender mental, spiritual, and emotional health while developing intellectual thought and critical analysis.

Kevin Lamoureux contributes his expertise regarding Indigenous approaches to mental and spiritual health that benefit all students and address the TRC Calls to Action.

Indigenous Writes: A Guide to First Nations, Métis & Inuit Issues in Canada
for all teachers

Written by Chelsea Vowel

Delgamuukw. Sixties Scoop. Bill C-31. Blood quantum. Appropriation. Two-Spirit. Tsilhqot’in. Status. TRC. RCAP. FNPOA. Pass and permit. Numbered Treaties. Terra nullius. The Great Peace…

Are you familiar with the terms listed above? In Indigenous Writes, Chelsea Vowel, legal scholar, teacher, and intellectual, opens an important dialogue about these (and more) concepts and the wider social beliefs associated with the relationship between Indigenous peoples and Canada. In 31 essays, Chelsea explores the Indigenous experience from the time of contact to the present, through five categories—Terminology of Relationships; Culture and Identity; Myth-Busting; State Violence; and Land, Learning, Law, and Treaties. She answers the questions that many people have on these topics to spark further conversations at home, in the classroom, and in the larger community.

See Chapter 20 for a discussion of the history and legacy of residential schools.

Truth and Reconciliation in Canadian Schools
for all teachers

Written by Pamela Rose Toulouse

In this book, author Pamela Rose Toulouse provides current information, personal insights, authentic resources, interactive strategies and lesson plans that support Indigenous and non-Indigenous learners in the classroom. This book is for all teachers that are looking for ways to respectfully infuse residential school history, treaty education, Indigenous contributions, First Nation/Métis/Inuit perspectives and sacred circle teachings into their subjects and courses. The author presents a culturally relevant and holistic approach that facilitates relationship building and promotes ways to engage in reconciliation activities.

Books, education, and knowledge are not enough. For those looking to take meaningful action with their students, visit https://oncanadaproject.ca/settlerstakeaction

Connecting With Readers Through Marketing and Publicity: How Does Publishing Work?, Part Six

Every book passes through many hands before arriving at your local bookstore or library. We’ve developed a six-part series, How Does Publishing Work?, to shed light on a book’s journey to publication. From developing stories and characters, to editing and illustration, through to the publishing and marketing stage, this series takes a look at all the different people and processes involved in bringing your favourite stories to life.

In part five of our How Does Publishing Work? series, we broke down the moving pieces that bring a book from the printing press to your shopping basket. In our sixth and final installment, we’ll give you a glimpse at the creative efforts that generate awareness and excitement about a brand-new book.

What Goes Into Book Marketing and Publicity?

Marketing is all about getting the word out, and you might be surprised by how difficult that can be for any new product or service—including books! In fact, marketing a new title can take as long or longer than editing and printing the actual book. Early in a book’s development, the marketing team begins their planning and research. They find the best ways to get the book in front of interested readers. This includes coordinating promotions across many platforms, from social media posts to live events.

Promotion That Sparks Emotion

When promoting a new title, spreading awareness alone doesn’t quite cut it. The marketing team’s biggest challenge is capturing the attention of the book’s intended audience and getting them excited about the story before they’ve read the first page. The average person sees 4,000 to 10,000 advertisements per day, so breaking through the information overload is tough! 

We spoke to Kirsten Phillips, Director of Marketing at Portage & Main Press/HighWater Press, to find out how the marketing team makes it happen.

Planning Starts During Production
Strategic planning is absolutely critical to the success of a marketing campaign. It takes time, resources, and the coordination of many people for these promotions to be successful, so the publisher’s marketing team starts as early as possible.

“As soon as the manuscript is in and the marketing and promotion team has had a chance to review it, the planning begins,” says Kirsten.

Once the team has a good sense of the book, they work on short- and long-term planning, working backward from the publication date. The team pinpoints important benchmarks at various stages before, during, and after publication: one year prior, six months prior, three months prior, at the time of publication, and post-release. For example, one benchmark is finalizing the book cover (an important promotional asset!) one year before publication.

Connecting With the Right Audience
For promotions to be successful, they need to resonate with the right readers. Before a marketer can decide how best to market a book, they need to identify those readers. Naturally, genre can tell them a little about readers’ interests, but the team digs deeper for more specific information. 

“The audience that will read or buy the books within a genre is what makes the biggest difference in our decision making,” Kirsten explains. “For example, a children’s title isn’t necessarily marketed to children but to the grandparent, parent, or another adult that would be buying books for a child.”

Similarly, marketers are looking at who exactly the title appeals to. What specifics about the reader make them the ideal fit to purchase this book? Kirsten offers a great example.

“A book for educators may have a target audience of grade 4 teachers, not just all teachers,” she says. “And a graphic novel may be promoted to teachers because of its historical content that fits nicely into the social studies curriculum.”

Each book’s marketing campaign is designed to appeal to readers based on these unique factors, along with other efforts that are standard for every publication.

“There are important steps taken for all books, regardless of genre,” Kirsten says. “For example, we release metadata for every book to help readers find it in bookstores or from online retailers.”

Creating a Campaign

A marketing campaign includes all the organized actions to promote a particular product or service—in this case, our brand-new book.

“Probably the most recognized marketing activity for a new book is a book launch held at a bookstore.” ” Kirsten says. “Although it’s a nice opportunity, it is just one option in a long list of possible activities that are used for marketing a book..”

The marketing team at Portage & Main Press/HighWater Press uses a combination of of the following strategies as part of their campaign, depending on the book’s audience:

  • Posting on Social media (e.g., cover reveals and giveaways)
  • Buying paid advertising (e.g., Facebook ads, ads in local newspapers or the audience’s favourite publications)
  • Sending out advanced reading copies (ARCs) to reviewers and media outlets for written reviews and other special coverage
  • Encouraging the book’s creators to spread the word through their own social media, interviews, and live appearances
  • Submitting to literary awards 
  • Pitching authors to events, like writers’ festivals and comic conventions, to participate in panel discussions and other appearances
  • Sending out press releases
  • Looking for cross-promotional opportunities with people or companies that share the same audience
  • Creating digital content like videos and GIFs
  • Developing content for the publisher’s e-newsletter
  • Updating websites, including special promotional pages or news items
  • Creating blog posts (like this one!)

Once the team has settled on the right campaign strategies, they outline specifics of how each action is best used to reach readers.

“For example, in the marketing plan for our graphic novel This Place: 150 Years Retold, we applied for and encouraged creators to be on panel discussions at their local book festivals,  comic conventions, and art festivals,” says Kirsten. “Another example, a press release to a media outlet might be customized to include that the author is local to the area, making the book more meaningful to their readership.”

Publishing and Publicity

How can you get the attention of thousands of people at the same time? Contact the media! Publicity is all about media coverage—including print, TV, or digital news outlets, as well as niche media like magazines and podcasts. We chatted with publicist Sarah Dunn at ZG Stories to understand how publicity influences the success of a new release. 

PMP/HWP: What are the different roles involved in generating publicity for a new release?

SD: There are many tasks that a publicist will undertake in order to obtain coverage of a book. Several months before the book is released, we like to talk to the author to get their thoughts and ideas about who will be interested in reading this book and how to reach them. 

We will also put together a press release that grabs the attention of the media by clearly outlining what is unique, timely, and newsworthy about this particular title, and also includes relevant details such as the publication date, ISBN, and author bio. 

We come up with a list of media contacts that are most likely to be interested in the book based on our previous interactions with them, as well as research, and send them pitches and review copies. Throughout our correspondence, we try to continually think of new reasons why they should write about the book or interview the author.

PMP/HWP: What role is the author expected to play in publicizing their book?

SD: An author’s involvement in the publicity varies depending on the author and the type of book. For some titles, the author is a big part of the media’s interest. If an author has written a book on a subject that is currently a hot topic, we’re more likely to get radio and TV interviews for that release than for a beautifully written and illustrated picture book. But there are outlets devoted to book reviews, which don’t require much effort on the part of the author.

Regardless of the type of book, it’s always helpful when an author alerts their contacts about a release. Obviously, one of the easiest ways to do so is by using social media. Many authors will do a cover reveal, link to online retailers where people can pre-order the title, remind their contacts of the publication date, and share a bit of news about reviews, interviews, and events.

PMP/HWP: How do publishers attract media attention for a book or author?

SD: Publishers will do whatever they can to attract attention for a book. We know that there are limited slots for coverage and media outlets are disappearing, so we have to make the media’s job as easy as possible. This can mean including sample interview questions in press kits or pitches, connecting the themes and content of the book to current events or important anniversaries, and providing “evidence” that the book or author is worthy of the attention by highlighting awards and accolades and including review quotes or links to previous interviews.

For each release, promotions and publicity typically ramp up during the late stages of production and peak when the book finally hits bookstore shelves. Of course, the hype doesn’t end there! Successful books stay in print for a long time, and many books are even re-released with new editions featuring bonuses, like new cover art or updated content. With this in mind, a publisher’s marketing team will continue to think about creative ways to promote their titles on an ongoing basis.

That concludes our How Does Publishing Work? series! We hope these six parts have brought you some new insights on the many steps—and jobs!—behind every title on your bookshelves. Make sure to follow us on Twitter or Facebook to stay up to date on the newest releases to make it through each stage of the publishing journey.

Read the other posts in the How Does Publishing Work? series for a detailed look into the people and processes that bring your favourite books to life:

How to Write a Book: How Does Publishing Work?, Part One 

I Wrote a Book. Now What?: How Does Publishing Work?, Part Two

What Does an Editor Do?: How Does Publishing Work?, Part Three

Captivating Through Artwork: How Does Publishing Work?, Part Four

Selling the Story: How Does Publishing Work?, Part Five

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Language, Land, and Sustainability: An interview with Nicola I. Campbell and Carrielynn Victor


Described by
The Globe and Mail as an “evocative book that poetically explores how important it is for us to see ourselves as part of the land,” Stand Like a Cedar takes readers on a journey in the natural landscapes of British Columbia. Through their work, author Nicola I. Campbell and illustrator Carrielynn Victor share lessons about environmental stewardship and Indigenous worldviews, weaving together lyrical prose and breathtaking art to bring the land to life.

In the interview below, Nicola and Carrielynn discuss what it means to “stand like a cedar,” and how this book connects to sustainability, activism through retreating to nature, and the importance of Indigenous languages. 

 

Nicola I. Campbell is the author of Shi-shi-etkoShin-chi’s CanoeGrandpa’s Girls, and A Day with Yayah. Nłeʔkepmx, Syilx, and Métis, from British Columbia, her stories weave cultural and land-based teachings that focus on respect, endurance, healing, and reciprocity.

A finalist for numerous children’s literary awards, Nicola’s book Shin-chi’s Canoe won the 2009 TD Canadian Children’s Literature Award and the 2008 Governor General’s Literary Award for illustration.

 

  • What do you hope young readers will take away from reading Stand Like a Cedar?

Nicola: There are multiple elements within this story. A reciprocal, reverential respect for all things. It touches on the importance of fitness and overall well-being, family, time on the land, and traditional food sources, as well as the timeless relationship Indigenous people have with stewardship and traditional forms of resource management involving waterways, lands, and resources. 

For example, traditional Indigenous stewardship practices monitored waterways and ensured that Indigenous people in British Columbia never went hungry; they always had access to the salmon run. They had many ways of harvesting and preservation and this shows. The saddest truth to this story is that poor management of the Fraser River and salmon waterways that were always plentiful has left salmon stocks destroyed. It is important to pause and reflect on this fact because of how many hundreds of generations of Indigenous people have always lived on and still rely on salmon to provide for their families and children. Salmon was the first food for both my children.

  • What does it mean to you to “stand like a cedar”?

Nicola: It means, O’ siyam. Hands raised to the sky, to give thanks, to have heartfelt love, honour, respect, and reverence for all living things: the ones that walk, the ones that fly, and the ones that swim, as well as trees and plants. 

  • The natural world is beautifully illustrated in Stand Like a Cedar. What is your favourite part of Carrielynn’s representation of your story?

Nicola: Carrielynn’s creative work represents a deep, intricate and dynamic relationship with the land, the ancestors, that spans generations. It is not just what you see, a physical line or image on a page, it is a connection to the spirit of our ancestors. 

  • Why was it important for you to weave the Nłe7kepmxcín and Halq’emeylem (Interior and Coastal Salish) languages into Stand Like a Cedar?  

Nicola: If I could have, I would have included a lot more. I would have had both languages on the page. I would challenge all publishers. I would challenge this publisher, to push harder, to use more Indigenous languages. To push the parameters. To challenge the colonial paradigm that english and french always have overarching control of our voices. Especially as Indigenous people. 

We are in a collective state of grief about the loss of our languages and the more we continue to fit with the oppressive box that these colonial languages and society has placed on our work, the less focus and life we breathe into our own languages. It is so frustrating to always be limited by what english-speaking society will accept as legitimate work by Indigenous people. For too many years, our creative work has been minimized, our languages devalued. We have to find ways to turn more to our languages and less to english control of our use of our languages within our creative work. 


Carrielynn Victor is fueled by the passion to tell stories through her art. Her ancestors come from around the world, descending from bloodlines in Scotland, Ireland, and Wales that arrived in the Americas in the 1600s, and Coast Salish ancestors that have been sustained by S’olh Temexw (our land) since time immemorial. Carrielynn was born and raised in S’olh Temexw and nurtured by many parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles.

Along with a thriving art practice, Carrielynn maintains a communal role as a plant practitioner. The responsibilities for traditional plant practitioners range from protection and preservation of lands, networking and trade, and harvest and preparation methods.

  • In an interview for your first solo exhibition Poison, Pattern, and Paradigm, you spoke of your art being a form of activism. How do you feel that Stand Like a Cedar relates to activism?

Carrielynn: Images in Stand Like a Cedar feature people in relationship with the natural world. When our bare feet are on the ground, and our head is in the clouds, we are healing. 

In a world that demands we keep up with the latest trends and technology, activism can be retreating to nature. Activism is more than using our words, or standing up on the front lines; activism is continuance of culture, cleaning up and restoring waterways, and teaching children about land-based values as well.

  • Going forward, what other mediums would you like to explore?

Carrielynn: I would love to explore sculpture, in bronze, glass, and wood. 

  • How have you connected your role as a plant practitioner with this project?

Carrielynn: This project allowed me to bring the colours of each season alive, picturing the landscape around myself from memories of moments on the land, while harvesting. Imagining grandchildren and grandparents together, and the many teachable moments that came through in Nicola’s writing; we worked together to ensure those moments were representative of life experiences we’ve had.

Stand Like a Cedar is available for purchase here.

Pre-order a copy of the teacher’s guide here.

Also by the author
Spílǝxm: A Weaving of Recovery, Resilience, and Resurgence

Through vivid short stories and rich poetry, Nicola I. Campbell deftly weaves an extraordinary memoir about what it means to be an intergenerational survivor of Indian Residential Schools. 

Pre-order a copy here.

Selling the Story: How Does Publishing Work?, Part Five

Every book passes through many hands before arriving at your local bookstore or library. We’ve developed a six-part series, How Does Publishing Work?, to shed light on a book’s journey to publication. From developing stories and characters, to editing and illustration, through to the publishing and marketing stage, this series takes a look at all the different people and processes involved in bringing your favourite stories to life.

In part four of our How Does Publishing Work? series, we broke down the stages and creative decisions behind every graphic novel or children’s book illustration. Today, in part five, we’ll examine the sales process and learn how books travel from the publisher to your bookshelf.

Sales in a Publishing Context

Many authors, editors, and artists are motivated by a love of stories, but to ensure a story gets told, it needs to find its way to readers. This is where the sales aspect of publishing comes in. As a book nears its final stages of development, the sales and marketing teams begin working to get the book into readers’ hands. Selling a book is a complex process with many moving parts that involves publishers, authors, distributors, retailers, and the media. We spoke to Synora Van Drine, Sales Manager at Portage & Main Press/HighWater Press, to find out what goes into selling a book.

Putting the ‘Data’ in Database

The first stage of selling a book takes place long before a book is published and available in bookstores. Information about the book, from basics like the title, author, and ISBN (International Standard Book Number) to more complex information like age ranges, reading level, and BISAC codes are added to metadata software. In turn, the software distributes that metadata to retailers, including online stores like Amazon as well as your local independent bookstore.

“Soon after a book is added to the production schedule, the process kicks off with the preparation, collection, and distribution of the book’s metadata,” says Synora. “This is so that information about a book is available for everyone to find as soon as we start talking about it.”

Selling Is Strategy

A significant part of Synora’s role is designing and implementing strategic plans to sell the title. These strategies consider sales channels, which include retailers like McNally Robinson or library wholesalers, as well as promotions and campaigns.

“In addition to developing and cultivating sales channels and creating sales campaigns, I have a role to play in planning trade and customer events, and of course pitching every new title [to retailers],” says Synora.

An important aspect of strategic planning for a book release also involves how to overcome foreseeable challenges. For example, some stories are so unique, they can be hard to describe or put into a particular genre category—and that can pose a real challenge for selling the story to retailers and readers. 

“[When] a book doesn’t exactly fit a category, the challenge is making a case for the book,” Synora elaborates. “The invisible pieces—like logistics and metadata—all have a role to play in discoverability and getting a book into a reader’s hands.”

Constant Conversations

Relationship building is just as essential to a sales role as the strategic measures used to spread the word about new releases. Not surprisingly, establishing a strong relationship with booksellers and libraries is key, and it’s a highly nuanced part of the job.

“It’s important to understand what the book buyer is interested in,” Synora explains. “Analyzing what they’ve bought in the past, [current] trends, and finding that connection for your list. Also important is making sure they have all the necessary information at the right time in their selection process.”

“Selling is an ongoing conversation that happens on different levels,” she says. “Whether you’re talking to a journalist, an influencer, or the book buyer for a beloved bookstore, you’re not just conveying information about the book, but also what makes the title stand out.”

A Job in People and Publishing

Unlike many roles in publishing, which tend to be well-suited to introverts, a career in sales is driven by strong people skills, suggests Synora. It’s an ideal career for those who don’t shy away from interpersonal communication and aren’t afraid of the word ‘no.’

A Bookstore’s Perspective

We connected with Kai Bergen of McNally Robinson Booksellers to discuss the decisions a retailer makes when acquiring and distributing a new title.

PMP/HWP: How does a book buyer decide which titles their store will have in stock, and how are the quantities determined?

KB: This depends on many factors, and does vary from store to store. For me, I prefer to buy “wide and low”—that is, take many titles but few copies, and then see what sells. But we do choose some titles to feature which we will order many more copies of up-front. For those, I like to think about: 

  • Is the book considered a lead title* at the publisher?
  • What is our history of sales with this author?
  • Can I put it on a themed display, such as for a holiday? Does it “match” with other big books that are coming out? 
  • Have I or my coworkers been hearing any buzz about it on social media?
  • Has someone read an ARC (Advance Reading Copy) and loved it? 

If I know someone will hand-sell** a book, I will order more copies.

*Lead title: A book that the publisher expects will be a big hit.

**Hand selling: When a bookstore staff member offers a personalized recommendation to a customer based on a conversation about the reader’s interests. 

PMP/HWP: What are some of the internal processes that decide how a book will be featured in-store once a title has been released? 

KB: I’m lucky in that I am both a buyer and a display person, so in a way that makes both of my jobs easier. We decide on a list of books to feature each month, based on what we think will sell, and then I build displays around those titles. 

I like to make themes if I can, and I will also make displays seasonally (winter, seasonal holidays, etc.) and for events like I Love To Read Month (which is February). 

We also try to “listen” to what kinds of topics are being discussed in the world at large, so we have an idea of what kinds of books our customers are looking for. For example, in the lead-up to the U.S. election, many people were reading books on democracy, and we had a display of these kinds of books in our adult sections. 

PMP/HWP: How might an author or publisher support the book once it’s in your store? 

KB: Social media is a real force when it comes to spreading the word about books. Post about it! Engage with readers! It’s always fun as well when publishers send us fun little extras we can use to build hype around a book, such as enamel pins or even bookmarks that we can give for free with the book. 

Also, we always love it when authors come in and sign copies of their books for us (though, sadly, that has been less possible lately). In “normal times,” we hosted many book launches, and those gave a big boost to book sales. But, alas, we are unable to do those at the moment due to the pandemic. Hopefully we’ll be back at it soon enough.

PMP/HWP: Once a book has hit the shelves, what does the sales life cycle look like from the bookstore’s perspective?

KB: We run a sales sort each week to determine how many copies of each book have sold and how many we need to reorder. We also generate a bestseller list for both kids and adult titles each week. Sometimes, when a book has had a lot of buzz (Dog Man, for example), we see a lot of sales right in its first week. But often, the sales will build up gradually as people notice it and word spreads. 

Bookstores can keep books on the shelf for up to a year and still return them to the publisher—this arrangement allows us to take chances on books we might otherwise not have. 

We will return a hardcover when the paperback version is released, and we run return sorts every three months or so; if a book has not sold any copies in a three-month period, we are likely to return it. Sometimes we will return books, and then suddenly they will win a prize, or get a great review, and demand for them will renew, so we will reorder them. It’s all about watching the sales patterns and reacting to them.

In our next and final installment, we’ll look at the marketing and publicity around each new book—the driving force that helps a new release become a bestseller! Make sure to check back, or follow us on Twitter or Facebook to read part six of the How Does Publishing Work? series!

Read the other posts in the How Does Publishing Work? series for a detailed look into the people and processes that bring your favourite books to life:

How to Write a Book: How Does Publishing Work?, Part One 

I Wrote a Book. Now What?: How Does Publishing Work?, Part Two

What Does an Editor Do?: How Does Publishing Work?, Part Three

Captivating Through Artwork: How Does Publishing Work?, Part Four

EDUCATION AND ACTION. INDIGENOUS TEACHINGS FOR STUDENTS ON EARTH DAY

Written by Serge Desrosiers

Earth Day is April 22 and many educators like you will be celebrating by engaging with their students on the importance of environmental protection. To help you celebrate Earth Day, we have put together a selection of titles that share traditional knowledge from Indigenous communities across North America. By celebrating Indigenous knowledge and perspectives through beautifully illustrated images and poetic prose, these titles will inspire the next generation to environmental action.

Mothers of Xsan series
for grades 5 to 7

With five books in the series so far, the Mothers of Xsan series introduces readers to the Gitxsan people and the animals within the River of Mist (Skeena River valley) in Northwestern British Columbia. Each animal mother of Xsan and their young tell a story of the interconnection of animals, people, and ecosystems.

Written by the award-winning author Hetxw’ms Gyetxw (Brett D. Huson) and illustrated by Natasha Donovan, you can purchase the series here.

Stand Like a Cedar
for grades 1 to 4

 

Take a walk through the forest and explore not just the teachings from nature but learn words from the Nłe7kepmxcín and Halq’emeylem languages as well! A great book for building literacy and multilingualism, environmental appreciation, and stronger community.

Written by Nicola I. Campbell and illustrated by Carrielynn Victor, you can purchase the book here.

Watch for the teacher guide coming soon! Sign up for our eNewsletter to receive up-to-date information about this resource.

The Gift Is in the Making
for grades 5 to 9

Discover Anishinaabe language, values, and teachings and immerse your students in a wondrous world where all genders are respected, the tiniest being has influence, and unconditional love binds families and communities to each other and to their homeland. 

Written by Leanne Betasamosake Simpson and illustrated by Amanda Strong, you can purchase the book and audiobook here.

Siha Tooskin Knows the Nature of Life
Siha Tooskin Knows series
for grades 3 to 6

 

Learn with 11-year-old Siha Tooskin (Paul Wahasaypa), as his family and community share lessons from their Nakota heritage. Explore the interconnectedness of community and environment, the roots of modern conveniences, the teachings of nature, and much more in this eight-book series!

Written by Charlene Bearhead and Wilson Bearhead, illustrated by Chloe Bluebird Mustooch, these books can be purchased individually, or as a set here. An accompanying education guide is available here.

We Dream Medicine Dreams
For grades K to 3

 

Drawing on her knowledge of Dene teachings, Lisa Boivin shares this healing story of hope, dreams, and the special bond between grandfather and granddaughter. Bear, Hawk, Caribou, and Wolf all have teachings to share to help us live a good life.

Written and illustrated by Lisa Boivin, this book will be released April 20, 2021. You can pre-order the book here.

NEW Hands-On Social Studies for Ontario
for grades 4 to 6

These great educational resources explore communities at local, national, and global levels, past and present and build understanding of Indigenous knowledge and perspectives.

Custom-written for the Ontario social studies curriculum (2018), you can find them here.

Hands-On Science for British Columbia
For grades K to 2 and for grades 3 to 5

 

This series focuses on scientific and technological approaches, balanced with Indigenous knowledge and perspective and is custom-written for the BC science curriculum (2016).

Browse the resources for your grade level here.

Use this selection of stories and resources to find valuable lessons of nature and community in our world to inspire you and your students on Earth Day.

You can find more books at https://www.portageandmainpress.com/

Learn more about how to get involved with Earth Day at https://www.earthday.org/

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IMMERSIVE HISTORY: BRINGING THE PAST TO THE PRESENT WITH AUTHOR KATHERENA VERMETTE AND ARTIST SCOTT B. HENDERSON

Written by Serge Desrosiers

We spoke with author Katherena Vermette and illustrator Scott B. Henderson about what it takes to bring history alive in a book like Road Allowance Era. Coming out at the end of April, the fourth and final entry in the A Girl Called Echo series follows a Métis teenager gifted with the power to travel through time, and witness firsthand the events that shaped her people.


Katherena Vermette
is a Métis writer from Treaty 1 territory, the heart of the Métis Nation, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. Her first book, North End Love Songs (The Muses Company) won the Governor General’s Literary Award for Poetry. Her National Film Board documentary, this river, won the 2017 Canadian Screen Award for Best Short, and her novel, The Break (House of Anansi), won the 2017 Amazon.ca First Novel Award. She holds a Master of Fine Arts from the University of British Columbia, and lives in Winnipeg, Manitoba.

 

  • Why was Road Allowance Era an important story to add to the A Girl Called Echo series?

Katherena: I really wanted to bring the story home to the present day. We started in Volume 1 with the Pemmican Wars (1812-1817) which is regarded as the beginning of Métis nationhood. I wanted to make sure and take all these historical events and connect them to the present, to show how we have been, and still very much are, affected by them.

  • What methods did you use for your research of the Road Allowance period?

Katherena: Lots of texts. Recorded stories. Some threads of family stories. One of the benefits of getting closer to the present day is an ever-increasing amount of documented testimony and recorded memories. I loved being able to know these stories from lived experiences and not just from historical data. Also, Jean Teillet’s phenomenal book, The North-West Is Our Mother, came out at just the right time for me and the Echo series. I have used it so much over the last two books.

  • What did you enjoy most about writing Echo as a character?

Katherena: I liked being able to write a shy girl, a quiet girl. Echo doesn’t have that much to say, but she is still such a thinking, feeling, active person. I loved that she was shown this way. That she was drawn so beautifully by Scott. 

  • Without revealing too much of the story, how has Echo’s journey through the four volumes prepared her for the end of the series?

Katherena: Everything is learning. Everything she’s seen is going with her into the future. [The A Girl Called Echo series is] a pretty traditional quest narrative. I like to think of it as an origin story. Echo is becoming a superhero.

Scott B henderson


Scott B. Henderson
(he/him/his) is author/illustrator of the sci-fi/fantasy comic, The Chronicles of Era and has illustrated select titles in the Tales From Big Spirit series, the graphic novel series The Reckoner Rises, A Girl Called Echo, and 7 Generations, select stories in This Place: 150 Years Retold, Fire Starters (an AIYLA Honor Book), and Eisner-award nominee, A Blanket of Butterflies. In 2016, he was the recipient of the C4 Central Canada Comic Con Storyteller Award.

 

  • Your illustrations in Road Allowance Era are so immersive; it truly feels like you’re stepping back through time. What elements of your illustrations create that effect and how are they produced?

Scott: I think it’s a combination of using as much reference as possible and my less stylized art style, but also a big part is Donovan Yaciuk’s colours. Without that, the monotonous, muted feeling in the present day for Echo, and the vibrancy and connection she gets travelling backwards through her history wouldn’t have been as effective.

  • What challenges did you overcome in adjusting to the various eras throughout the A Girl Called Echo series?

Scott: Some challenges had a lot to do with available references. As we travelled through time, there were often more and more resources for landscape, wardrobe, architecture and so on. That being said, sometimes there is reference for the time period–say end of 18th century fashion–but, was that relevant for the Canadian Prairies?

Another challenge throughout the four volumes was that, while I knew generally what each book was about historically, I didn’t always know what that would mean for Echo in the present day. What or how was her relationship with her mother going to evolve? What of her teachers or friends like Micah? For consistency, I tried to keep her look the same–those distinctive shirts, or her jean jacket, but it wasn’t always practical when she was transported into winter climates. I had to be flexible to adjust to those changes from book to book.

  • How did you approach the research for Road Allowance Era?

Scott: Road Allowance Era was a bit different [from the rest of the series], as COVID-19 restrictions made it difficult to do research, or go to libraries to find books. I had to work with more “remote reference” than usual. Luckily, the era allowed for a lot of available references despite the lockdowns.

    • How do you feel your work or process has changed as a result of illustrating the A Girl Called Echo series?

Scott: I’ve tried to use as much reference as possible for people and anatomy. Characters look more natural when referring to photos (a LOT of selfies in most cases) for angles, gestures, and anatomy. For A Girl Called Echo, I also opted to do less rendering of the art–less hatching or cross hatching and that sort of shading. This allowed Donovan (the colourist) to really make the colours jump out. My art is really incomplete without his stunning work.

To hear more from Katherena Vermette on the series, listen to her CBC interview here.

You can pre-order Road Allowance Era, and purchase the entire A Girl Called Echo series here.

 

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International Women’s Day Author Roundup

At Portage & Main Press/HighWater Press, not only are we proud to collaborate with incredible, groundbreaking women authors, but we are honoured to share their incredible work. In recognition of Women’s History Month and International Women’s Day, keep reading to learn about some incredible women authors and their accomplishments.

Sara Florence Davidson

Sara Florence Davidson is a Haida educator and scholar with a PhD in Literacy Education. Sara is an assistant professor at Simon Fraser Universityand is passionate about helping teachers incorporate Indigenous content, perspectives, and pedagogies into their classrooms—particularly in the area of English Language Arts. She is very engaged in exploring ways to merge the strengths of Indigenous and non-Indigenous pedagogical practices. You can learn more in her book, Potlatch as Pedagogy: Learning Through Ceremony. Her most recent project, The Sk’ad’a Stories Series, features beautiful books for children that bring the Haida Sk’ad’a Principles to life through the art of Janine Gibbons.

Find Jigging for Halibut With Tsinii here.
Find Learning to Carve Argillite here

Pamela Rose Toulouse

Pamela Rose Toulouse, PhD, is originally from the community of Sagamok First Nation and is a proud Ojibwe/Odawa woman that comes from a long line of educators. She is currently a professor in the Faculty of Education at Laurentian University and was among the first university-level Indigenous educators. Dr. Pamela Rose Toulouse is known for her dynamic teaching, advocacy, and commitment as an educator. Her latest book with us, Truth and Reconciliation in Canadian Schools, is one of over 50 resources she has published.

“[The author’s] background and teaching experience provide the insight, knowledge, and expertise to make [Truth and Reconciliation in Canadian Schools] a valuable text for both the novice and experienced teacher.”—Canadian Teacher Magazine

Jennifer Lawson

Jennifer Lawson, PhD, helped shape the future of education as we know it in Canada. She took on the monumental task of creating the Hands-On series when there were no other curriculum resources of this kind. Jennifer has created something that stands the test of time, and Hands-On continues to evolve to respond to the needs of today’s classrooms. Jennifer currently teaches at the University of Manitoba and is a local School Board Trustee.

Read an interview with Jennifer here.

Jennifer Katz

Jennifer Katz, PhD, is the groundbreaking author of Teaching to Diversity: The Three-Block Model of Universal Design for Learning and winner of the MCEC Outstanding Achievement Award for Leadership (2016). Dr. Jennifer Katz developed this practical Three-Block Model after teaching in diverse classrooms from K to 12 in Winnipeg and Vancouver for over 16 years. Her model is the “how-to” piece we need for creating socially and academically inclusive classrooms and has been implemented in elementary and high schools across multiple provinces and states. Her most recent title, Ensouling Our Schools[link], weaves together methods of creating schools that engender mental, spiritual, and emotional health while developing intellectual thought and critical analysis.

“At this time in Canadian history, [Ensouling Our Schools] is an important theoretical and practical book that deepens our understanding of the interconnectedness of SEL, UDL, Trauma-Informed Practice, Mental Health, and Inclusion under the umbrella of responding to the TRC. This is a tall order, but Katz and Lamoureux do it masterfully and leave the reader with incredible hope for education, youth, and the future of this Land and country.”—Exceptionality Education International

Faye Brownlie

Faye Brownlie is one of BC’s most sought-after learning and literacy experts. Faye believes that all educators—classroom teachers, specialist teachers, administrators, and district staff—should be leaders of learning. She’s the author and co-author of many books for teachers. She believes it is our common goal to work together to support the best learning possible for all learners. Faye is the creator of the successful Say Something strategy which she outlines in her book Grand Conversations, Thoughtful Responses: A Unique Approach to Literature Circles, now in its second edition. She also contributed to the It’s All About Thinking series with Portage & Main Press.

Connect with Faye here.

Shelley Moore

Shelley Moore is a groundbreaking and inspirational teacher, researcher, speaker, and storyteller that has worked with school districts and community organizations across Canada and the United States. Shelley is passionate about inclusive education, curriculum, and teacher professional development. Shelley’s YouTube Series, Five Moore Minutes is an incredible resource where she creates videos dedicated to empowering schools and classrooms to support all learners. Her book, One Without the Other: Stories of Unity Through Diversity and Inclusion tackles such things as inclusion as a philosophy and practice, the difference between integration and inclusion, and how inclusion can work with a variety of students and abilities. Most recently, Shelley narrated the One Without the Other audiobook coming soon from your favourite audiobook retailer.

Christine M’Lot

Christine M’Lot is an Anishinaabe educator and curriculum developer from Winnipeg, Manitoba. She has experience working with children and youth in multiple capacities including child welfare, children’s disability services and Indigenous family programming. She is currently teaching high school at the University of Winnipeg Collegiate. Christine is also the co-founder of Red Rising Education, and works to create Indigenous education resources for teachers. She is the author of two teacher guides for Portage & Main Press.

Find the Surviving the City Teacher Guide here.
Find the This Place: 150 Years Retold Teacher Guide here.

Katherena Vermette

Katherena Vermette is a Métis writer from Treaty 1 territory, the heart of the Métis Nation, Winnipeg, Manitoba. Katherena is a versatile writer who has worked in numerous mediums, including novels, poetry, film, and graphic novels. Her first book, North End Love Songs won the Governor General’s Literary Award for Poetry and her first novel The Break was a Governor General’s Award finalist. The final installment in her graphic novel series, A Girl Called Echo, is coming in April 2021. See a full list of her work here.

Find Road Allowance Era, Volume 4 of A Girl Called Echo, here

Listen to The Next Chapter as Katherena Vermette talks about her A Girl Called Echo graphic novel series here

Jen Storm

Jen Storm is an Ojibway writer from the Couchiching First Nation in Northwestern Ontario. Jen completed her first novel, Deadly Loyalties at the young age of 14, and also wrote the graphic novel, Fire Starters. However, her talents aren’t restricted to writing; they also rest in art. She was a contributing writer and illustrator for This Place: 150 Years Retold, and is currently illustrating book two in The Six Seasons of the Asiniskaw Īthiniwak series. To add to the long list of achievements, Jen was a 2017 recipient of CBC Manitoba’s Future 40 under 40.

In her own words, Jen Storm explains how she wrote Fire Starters here.

Charlene Bearhead

Charlene Bearhead is a dedicated advocate for Indigenous education, and has served as the education lead for the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls as well as the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation. Her latest work with her husband, Wilson Bearhead, has produced the Siha Tooskin Knows series. According to The Globe and Mail, the books “will inspire and enlighten” with their vivid illustrations and narratives in contemporary settings. The stories about an 11-year-old Nakota boy were listed among CCBC’s Best Books for Kids & Teens and identified as a selection of exceptional caliber. Find the Siha Tooskin Knows series here.

Listen to Charlene and Wilson talk about the Siha Tooskin Knows series with Alan Neal on All in a Day here.

Tasha Spillett

Tasha Spillett is a celebrated educator, poet, and emerging scholar who draws her strength from both her Nehiyaw and Trinidadian bloodlines. She is currently working on her PhD in Education through the University of Saskatchewan, where she holds a Vanier Canada Award. Tasha is most heart-tied to contributing to community-led work that centres on land and water defence, and the protection of Indigenous women and girls. Her most recent book, From the Roots Up, is the sequel to the bestselling Surviving the City.

Read Tasha’s interview with American Libraries about diversity and change in graphic novels here.

Beatrice Mosionier

Beatrice Mosionier is a Métis author most notably recognized for her groundbreaking novel, In Search of April Raintree. When Beatrice wrote In Search of April Raintree in the early 80s, there were few Indigenous authors writing about their experiences. She continues to be a leader and an inspiration for many Indigenous writers across Canada. First published in 1983, In Search of April Raintree has become a Canadian classic, has been adapted for schools, and launched the Manitoba literacy initiative On the Same Page in 2008.

Listen to Unreserved as Beatrice Mosionier talks about In Search of April Raintree here.

Lisa Boivin

Lisa Boivin, a member of the Deninu Kue First Nation, uses her images as a tool to bridge gaps between medical ethics and aspects of Indigenous cultures and worldviews. Look for her lyrical art and storytelling in her debut book, I Will See You Again, which follows the loss of Lisa’s brother and her journey overseas to bring him home. Lisa, a PhD student, strives to humanize clinical medicine as she situates her art in the Indigenous continuum of passing on knowledge through images. Her upcoming book, We Dream Medicine Dreams [link], explores connecting with ancestors through dreams through a story about life and death. 

Watch her TEDx Talk on Painting the Path of Indigenous Resilience here.

Kateri Akiwenzie-Damm

Kateri Akiwenzie-Damm is a writer, poet, spoken-word performer, librettist, and activist from the Saugeen Ojibway Nation. Kateri is the founder and Managing Editor of Kegedonce Press, which is one of only three established Indigenous-owned publishing companies in Canada. Kateri is an incredible writer and speaker whose work has been heard and read around the world. 

Listen to The Next Chapter as Kateri Akiwenzie-Damm talks about The Stone Collection here.

KC Adams

KC Adams is a Cree/Ojibway/British Winnipeg-based artist and a former instructor in Visual and Aboriginal Art at Brandon University. KC is a tireless advocate for Indigenous communities and she shows her advocacy through her art. She has participated in both solo and group exhibitions and was included in the PHOTOQUAI: Biennale des images du monde in Paris, France. Her work is in many permanent collections both nationally and internationally. Locally, KC was the set designer for the Royal Winnipeg Ballet’s Going Home Star: Truth and Reconciliation ballet and she has also designed public-art sculptures around Winnipeg. Browse her work here.

Chelsea Vowel

Chelsea Vowel is Métis from manitow-sâkahikan (Lac Ste. Anne), Alberta. Mother to six girls, she has a BEd and LLB, and she is currently a graduate student and Cree language curriculum developer. Her collection of essays, Indigenous Writes: A Guide to First Nations, Métis & Inuit Issues in Canada, is a national bestseller and has been since the day it was released. The book opens an important dialogue about Indigenous concepts and the wider social beliefs about the relationship between Indigenous peoples and Canada. Along with Molly Swain, she co-hosts an Indigenous feminist sci-fi podcast called Métis in Space.

Most recently Chelsea joined actor Dan Levy for an episode of Indigenous Canada. Find it here. 

Find and purchase books by these women and other great authors on our website.

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Learn About Métis History and Louis Riel With the A Girl Called Echo Series

If you live in Manitoba, Louis Riel Day is the third Monday in February. Louis Riel is a name that may be familiar to you for one reason or another, even if you live elsewhere in Canada. An important figure in both Métis and Manitoba history, Louis Riel features heavily in the A Girl Called Echo series, written by award-winning Winnipeg author Katherena Vermette.

Particularly relevant to classrooms in Manitoba or Saskatchewan, the A Girl Called Echo series can help you teach your students about Louis Riel and Métis history, or to learn about the topic yourself. Keep reading to find what the series is about and how you can use it with your students.

What is the A Girl Called Echo series about?

Métis teenager Echo Desjardins is struggling to adjust to a new school and a new home while in foster care. When an ordinary day in history class turns extraordinary, Echo’s life will never be the same. Follow Echo as she experiences pivotal events from Métis history, gains new perspectives about where she came from, and imagines what the future might hold.

 

During Mr. Bee’s lecture, Echo finds herself transported to another time and place—a bison hunt on the Saskatchewan prairie—and back again to the present. In the following weeks, Echo slips back and forth in time. She visits a Métis camp, travels the old fur-trade routes, and experiences the perilous and bygone era of the Pemmican Wars.

 

 

Echo finds herself transported to the banks of the Red River in the summer of 1869. Canadian surveyors have arrived, and Métis families, who have lived there for generations, are losing access to their land. As the Resistance takes hold, Echo fears for her friends and the future of her people in the Red River Valley.

 

 

In Northwest Resistance, Echo travels to 1885. The bison are gone, settlers from the East are arriving daily, and the Métis face hunger and uncertainty as their traditional way of life is threatened. The Canadian government has ignored their petitions, but hope rises when Louis Riel returns to help. 

 

Echo returns to 1885 to find the Manitoba Act’s promise of land for the Métis has gone unfulfilled. In the fallout from the Northwest Resistance, Louis Riel is executed. As new legislation corrodes Métis land rights, and the unscrupulous take advantage, many Métis settle on road allowances and railway land, often on the fringes of urban centres.

Burnt out of their home in Ste. Madeleine, Echo’s family makes their way to Rooster Town, settling on the southwest edges of Winnipeg. In this final installment of Echo’s story, she is reminded of the strength and resilience of her people, forged through the loss and pain of the past, as she faces a triumphant future.

This Own Voices series of graphic novels explores issues around identity, isolation, and the contemporary foster care system. Ideal for readers aged 13–15 and in grades 7–9. Order your copies here. 

How can I use the A Girl Called Echo series with my students?

Studying Louis Riel and Métis history offers a great opportunity to introduce your students to Indigenous authors and books that offer an Own Voices perspective to historical events. 

Here are some ideas for using A Girl Called Echo with your students for Louis Riel Day and beyond.

Confederation

Louis Riel and the Red River Resistance played a significant role in the creation of Manitoba as a province—so much so, Louis Riel is often referred to as the Father of Manitoba. After reading Red River Resistance and/or Northwest Resistance, have students review the timeline in the back of the book. Based on this foundation, students can do further research, write opinion pieces, or hold a debate about the factors leading to these resistances, as well as the creation of Manitoba as a province.

Contemporary Issues in Canada

In their research for the above activity, students are also likely to come across “Red River Rebellion,” an older term for the Red River Resistance. As a class, discuss the difference between these two terms, and the connotations of each. 

Another topic for research and discussion based on the A Girl Called Echo series is that of child welfare. Echo is a foster kid who is disconnected from her Métis heritage. Students can research issues related to  foster care and child welfare in Canada, and use this as a starting place for opinion writing, discussions, or debate.

Creative Expression and Graphic Storytelling

Graphic storytelling is an art form that has been used for thousands of years. The article, “Graphic examples of the art of storytelling” by Niigaan Sinclair, can be used as a starting place for discussion with your students. Students can explore other styles of graphic novels and compare them to the A Girl Called Echo series, then write and illustrate their own graphic novels. Blambot is a great resource with articles on topics such as writing graphic novel and comic scripts or comic book grammar and lettering styles that students can use as a reference when creating their own comics or graphic novels.

Exploration of Identity and Heritage

Throughout A Girl Called Echo, Echo learns about the history of the Métis people. Echo is a girl who lives in a foster home and doesn’t know very much about her roots. Like all kids, she expresses herself through her clothes, hobbies, and the music she listens to. As she discovers more about her Métis heritage and settles into her new school, Echo becomes more confident and involved with her fellow students. Use the series as a starting place for students to explore their own identities, heritage, or experiences in unfamiliar environments, such as when they started at a new school themselves.

Connection With Local History

If your students attend school in Manitoba or Saskatchewan, help them connect with Métis history and experience rich learning opportunities by visiting local historical sites and events. 

Before accessing resources from historical sites and museums, be sure to ask if information about Indigenous peoples was created in collaboration with local Elders, Knowledge Keepers, or Métis Senators. This will help ensure that colonial myths are not perpetuated when visiting these sites or using their educational resources. 

Manitoba

Saskatchewan

Is there a teacher guide to help me plan my lessons?

The Teacher Guide for A Girl Called Echo is coming soon! Stay in the know and get notified when the guide is available for pre-order by subscribing to The Exchange enewsletter.

Captivating Through Artwork: How Does Publishing Work?, Part Four

Every book passes through many hands before arriving at your local bookstore or library. We’ve developed a six-part series, How Does Publishing Work?, to shed light on a book’s journey to publication. From developing stories and characters, to editing and illustration, through to the publishing and marketing stage, this series takes a look at all the different people and processes involved in bringing your favourite stories to life.

In part three of our How Does Publishing Work? series, we explained the crucial role of editors in the publishing process. Now that we’ve reached part four, we’ll examine how the visual aspects of a book come together, whether it’s the cover art of your favourite novel or the dynamic art of a graphic novel!


Creating a Children’s Book

Children’s books rely on beautiful artwork to keep young readers (or not-yet-readers!) immersed in the story. To bring these stories to life, illustrators work in a two-part process: roughs and full artwork. We spoke to Natasha Donovan, who has created artwork for the Mothers of Xsan series as well as popular graphic novels like the Surviving the City series and This Place: 150 Years Retold, to find out what it’s like to illustrate books for kids.


Roughs
The ‘roughs’ stage allows the illustrator to plan the art for each page, but even this early stage requires a fair amount of planning and research.

Before I start working on roughs, I try to compile as many reference images as I can think of—for the environment, poses, faces, buildings, et cetera.” says Natasha.

By creating sketches or digital outlines, the illustrator can confirm that they’ve conveyed all the important events and details of the story. Ideally, the reader should be able to understand what’s happening throughout the story without reading the text, just by looking at the illustrations.

Once the project starts, I’ll go through many stages of rough drafts, review, and revisions,” Natasha explains. “Usually, I start with character sketches and super-sketchy versions called thumbnails, and move on to a second draft simply called roughs.”

The editor and author review these roughs and suggest changes for the illustrator to incorporate in the full-colour artwork.


Final Artwork

Next step is the fun part, in my opinion—inks, and finally, colour!” says Natasha.

Once the roughs are complete and approved, the illustrator creates the full-colour version. In this final stage, the illustrator brings the artwork to life. Many children’s books are illustrated through physical mediums, such as watercolours, coloured pencils, or oil pastels, which can add a sense of texture and whimsy to the story. Others use digital illustration methods—it just depends on what suits the story and the author’s style.

“[When I was working on The Sockeye Mother], I had a lot more time on my hands, so I was able to ink traditionally,” Natasha recalls. “My work schedule now requires me to work digitally (which I honestly do love), but when I think about The Sockeye Mother, I can still feel my brush sliding across the paper, tracing the outline of a salmon or dotting hundreds of tiny leaves.”

Once the full-colour version of the artwork is finished, the editor and author review it one last time, and then it is ready for the designer. 

Creating a Graphic Novel

While graphic novels and children’s books share some similarities, graphic novels undergo many more stages of development before reaching the reader. We spoke to PMP/HWP editor Sasha Bouché to get a sense of the development process, starting from the moment the manuscript, or “script,” is finalized.

  • Character Design and Storyboard

Once the manuscript is ready for illustration, the artist will plan out the elements that will create scaffolding for the story: the characters, the  depiction of different events, and the overall layout of each page. During character design, the artist will think about who each character is and how to represent them visually. For example, what kinds of clothing do they wear? How do they carry themselves? How might they wear their hair? All of these attributes communicate valuable information to the reader about who each character is.

Storyboarding (also called thumbnails) is the process of planning out each page and panel, and it’s similar to the blueprint of a house. The artist creates quick sketches to plan and communicate how the events of the story will be shown, which makes it easy to make changes before the more detailed work begins. Storyboards are often created at a much smaller size than the final artwork, as they only need to give a rough idea as to what each page will look like. The editor and author review the storyboards and suggest revisions before the artwork moves to the next stage.

  • Roughs/Pencils

After the character sketches and storyboards have been completed, the artist creates “roughs” or “pencils,” in which the events, characters, and panels are sketched out in more detail and at the appropriate size for the final artwork. This allows the artist, author, and editor to discuss the direction for the artwork and make any changes early in the process.

“The editor will ensure that these sketches properly reflect the events of the story and the author’s vision of how things will generally look,” Sasha says. “Once the author and editor approve the pencils, then the artist will get to work on the inks.”

  • Inks

The “inks” phase is when the artist adapts the pencils or roughs into the outlines of the final artwork, which is sometimes referred to as the line art. When an editor or author reviews inks, the art  looks a bit like a colouring book that has yet to be filled in. This draft gives the author and editor a better sense of how the final art will look, and is the last stage before the colour is added. 

“When the editor reviews the inks, their main task is to ensure that there are no continuity errors and that all necessary world-building elements are included,” says Sasha. “They’re also ensuring that there are no logical errors in the artwork, like a character accidentally being drawn with two right hands.”

The colours in a graphic novel are often added by a different artist, so the artwork may need to be revised a bit before it moves to the colouring stage.

  • Colours
    Colours are an art form in their own right! Some artists, like Donovan Yaciuk, specialize in colours for graphic novels. Not only do colours bring the illustrations to life, but they convey energy, mood, and other emotional aspects of each scene. 

Colour is also a powerful tool for drawing the reader’s eye to important elements of the page, while separating them from the background art. For instance, an object in a bright colour that stands out in the frame is likely something the reader is intended to notice and recall later.

Another extremely important aspect of colour is consistency. “This means ensuring characters’ skin tones are correct, clothes are consistently the same colour, shadows are in the right place, et cetera,” says Sasha.

Even the overall tones and colour palette must be consistent throughout the graphic novel to create the “world” where the story takes place. Take, for example, the gritty, grungy tones used throughout The Reckoner Rises series, which transport us to the dreary streets of Winnipeg, where the evil goons from Mihko Laboratories lurk in the shadows.

  • Lettering

Once the artwork is complete, it’s passed on to a letterer. Letterers, as their name suggests, add the speech balloons and text captions to the page. There’s an art to lettering just as there is to colour; the letterer needs to format the captions to set the tone and pace of each frame while ensuring that the captions don’t conceal any important parts of the artwork. The size, shape, and even colours used in the captions all convey something important, from the volume of the speaker’s voice to how they’re feeling at that moment. In terms of the editing at this stage, “The author and editor will then review the final version to ensure that the speech balloons are attached to the correct characters and are spaced out in a readable way, as well as perform a typical copyedit of the dialogue,” adds Sasha.

Finally, after all the artwork and lettering is complete, the illustrations are passed on to the book designer where the final book is assembled and prepared for print.

What About a Book’s Cover Art?


Cover art is incredibly important! A book’s cover art serves as its first impression to the public; it needs to represent the contents of the book while appealing to the intended reader. To create cover art, the publisher commissions an artist to create multiple options, including different fonts, layouts, and colour schemes. For graphic novels and children’s books, this is typically the same artist who has created the illustrations inside, but for standard novels it’s generally an artist whose style complements the tone of the book.

“At Portage & Main Press/HighWater Press, cover art selection involves everyone in the office, not just our marketing and editorial teams. We all discuss what we like best and why, what the artwork reminds us of, if it makes us feel nostalgic for something—it’s pretty fun!” Sasha says. “We want artwork that not only reflects the overall feel of the story, but something that takes hold of the reader’s gaze, something that makes them think, ‘Hmm, this looks interesting!’”

Visual Editing as a Career

Visual editing is often one of the many responsibilities of an editor at a publishing company. However, the process of visual editing requires a different kind of literacy than copy editing!

“Imagery is a language, and visual editing requires a certain level of fluency in that language.” says Sasha.

To become an effective visual editor, it’s key to have a very keen eye for details combined with professional training and development.

Meet the Contributors

Natasha Donovan

Natasha Donovan (she/her/hers) is a Métis illustrator originally from Vancouver, British Columbia. Her sequential work has been published in This Place: 150 Years Retold, and the Wonder Women of History anthology. She is the illustrator of the award-winning graphic novel series Surviving the City, as well as the award-winning Mothers of Xsan children’s book series, and the forthcoming picture book biography Classified: The Secret Career of Mary Golda Ross, Cherokee Aerospace Engineer. She lives by the Nooksack River in Washington State.

PMP/HWP: From your perspective, how does a graphic novel project compare to a children’s book project?
ND: In my experience, they’re pretty similar! The editorial process is basically the same—rough drafts, review, revisions, more drafts, final art. But for me, picture books feel like poetry—they’re sparse, words selected with great care. So compared to comics, picture books feel like a very contemplative process. I get to spend a lot more time with each page, trying to create something that will bring another dimension to the author’s words. 

PMP/HWP: What was your favourite illustrated project to work on, and why?

ND: I still have a soft spot for my first picture book, The Sockeye Mother, written by the inimitable Hetxw’ms Gyetxw (Brett D. Huson). I had daydreamed about illustrating picture books for years at that point, and not only was that dream becoming a reality, but I could tell that I was going to get to work with someone who shared my passion for the connection between storytelling and science.

Sasha Bouché

Sasha Bouché (he/him, they/them) has been an editor for Portage & Main Press since January 2019. Sasha is Métis from Treaty 1 Territory (Winnipeg, Manitoba). They hold a Bachelor of Arts (Hons.) in English from the University of Winnipeg. Their interests include comics studies and Indigenous literature.

PMP/HWP: What kinds of skills and/or qualifications should someone have in order to

become a visual editor?

SB: I think that in terms of qualifications, visual editing requires all the necessary training for any other kind of editing. I would also say that a background in comics studies, which is my wheelhouse, and/or a background in young people’s literature is especially pertinent. As far as skills, the most important thing I think is an attention to detail, or rather a fixation on detail, because that’s where the magic lies in any graphic or illustrated text.

PMP/HWP: Before someone seeks the necessary education and experience, what kinds of traits are good hints that one could excel at visual editing?

SB: Visual editing is more than just assessing the quality of the artwork; that’s mostly subjective anyway. Being skilled at visual editing requires an understanding of how imagery can be an extension of human experience, especially in the realm of graphic novels. The goal of visual editing is to make sure that each panel or sequence makes a lasting impression on the reader. You are a kind of conduit for the audience, and in that sense, it’s your responsibility to communicate to the author/illustrator what effect their work will have on the minds and hearts of that audience. That, and making sure the characters’ eyebrows don’t disappear.

In our next installment, we’ll find out how a book arrives at your local bookstore or library. Make sure to check back, or follow us on Twitter or Facebook to read part four of the How Does Publishing Work? series!

New Own Voices Indigenous Books Coming Spring 2021

Nearly a month into 2021, we are looking forward to many things: the return of warmer temperatures, longer sunny days, and new book releases! Here is a preview of our upcoming Own Voices Indigenous books for kids and teens that we will be releasing this spring. 

Whether you are looking for great books to share with your students or someone at home, these new books are certain to engage the kids and teens in your life. 

Indigenous Books for Kids 


Stand Like A Cedar
for ages 6-9
By Nicola I. Campbell
Illustrated by Carrielynn Victor

When you go for a walk in nature, who do you see? What do you hear?

Award-winning storyteller Nicola I. Campbell shows what it means “to stand like a cedar” on this beautiful journey of discovery through the wilderness. Learn the names of animals in the Nłe7kepmxcín or Halq’emeylem languages as well as the teachings they have for us. Experience a celebration of sustainability and connection to the land through lyrical storytelling and Carrielynn Victor’s breathtaking art in this children’s illustrated book.

Discover new sights and sounds with every read.

Coming Feb. 23, 2021
Pre-order Now:
HighWater Press


We Dream Medicine Dreams
for ages 5-8
By Lisa Boivin

From Dene artist and bioethicist Lisa Boivin comes this healing story of hope, dreams, and the special bond between grandfather and granddaughter.

When a little girl dreams about a bear, her grandfather explains how we connect with the knowledge of our ancestors through dreams. Bear, Hawk, Caribou, and Wolf all have teachings to share to help us live a good life. But when Grampa gets sick and falls into a coma, the little girl must lean on his teachings as she learns to say goodbye.

Masterful prose and stunning collage weave a gentle story about life and death that will touch the hearts of children and adults alike.

Coming Apr 27, 2021
Pre-order Now:
HighWater Press


The Frog Mother(Mothers of Xsan, Book 4)
for ages 9-11
By Hetxw’ms Gyetxw (Brett D. Huson)
Illustrated by Natasha Donovan

To the Gitxsan of Northwestern British Columbia, Nox Ga’naaw is a storyteller, speaking truths of the universe. After Nox Ga’naaw, the frog mother, releases her eggs among the aquatic plants of a pond, the tiny tadpoles are left to fend for themselves. As they hatch, grow legs, and transform into their adult selves, they must avoid the mouths of hungry predators. Will the young frogs survive to lay their own eggs, continuing a cycle 200 million years in the making?

book four of the Mothers of Xsan series follows the life cycle of the Columbia Spotted Frog. Learn about why this species is of special significance to the Gitxsan, and how Nox Ga’naaw and her offspring are essential to the balance that is life.

Coming Apr 27, 2021
Pre-order Now:
HighWater Press

Indigenous Books for Teens


Road Allowance Era (A Girl Called Echo series, Vol. 4)
for ages 13-15
By Katherena Vermette
Illustrated by Scott B. Henderson
Colour by Donovan Yaciuk

The Manitoba Act’s promise of land for the Métis has gone unfulfilled, and many Métis flee to the Northwest. As part of the fallout from the Northwest Resistance, their advocate and champion Louis Riel is executed. As new legislation corrodes Métis land rights, and unscrupulous land speculators and swindlers take advantage, many Métis begin to settle on road allowances and railway land, often on the fringes of urban centres.

For Echo, the plight of her family is apparent. Burnt out of their home in Ste. Madeleine when their land is cleared for pasture, they make their way to Rooster Town, squatting on the southwest edges of Winnipeg. In this final instalment of Echo’s story,  she is reminded of the strength and resilience of her people, forged through the loss and pain of the past, as she faces a triumphant future.

Coming Apr 27, 2021
Pre-order Now:
HighWater Press


Sugar Falls: A Residential School Story (10th Anniversary Edition)
for ages 15+
By David A. Robertson
Illustrated by Scott B. Henderson
Colour by Donovan Yaciuk

From Governor-General’s Award-winning writer David A. Robertson comes this special edition of the timeless graphic novel that introduced the world to the awe-inspiring resilience of Betty Ross, and shared her story of strength, family, and culture.

A school assignment to interview a residential school survivor leads Daniel to Betsy, who tells him her story. Abandoned as a young child, Betsy was soon adopted into a loving family. A few short years later, at the age of 8, everything changed. Betsy was taken away to a residential school. There she was forced to endure abuse and indignity, but Betsy recalled the words her father spoke to her at Sugar Falls—words that gave her the resilience, strength, and determination to survive.

Sugar Falls is based on the true story of Betty Ross, Elder from Cross Lake First Nation. This 10th-anniversary edition brings David A. Robertson’s national bestseller to life in full colour, with a foreword by Senator Murrary Sinclair, Chairman of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, and a touching afterword from Elder Betty Ross herself.

Coming May 25, 2021
Pre-order Now:
HighWater Press

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