Creator Roundup: When We Were Alone Swampy Cree Edition

We spoke with the creators of When We Were Alone, author David A. Robertson and illustrator Julie Flett, about the upcoming release of the When We Were Alone Swampy Cree Edition. This edition includes the text in English, Swampy Cree syllabics, and Swampy Cree Roman orthography.


Read to learn more about the inspiration behind the story, the illustrations, and what the Swampy Cree edition means to them.

A conversation with David A. Robertson: 

  • What inspired you to begin writing books about Indigenous history, especially the award-winning children’s picture book, When We Were Alone

For me, it was always about what I was taught when I was a child, or more specifically, what was available for me to be taught with, the focus of education in the 80s and 90s. There just weren’t the books then that are available now. And there wasn’t a desire or awareness to teach Indigenous history, about Indigenous people, contemporary issues. 

When I became aware of all this, I wanted to tell stories that would teach youth, and frankly everybody, about the things I missed when I was younger. 

For When We Were Alone, I wanted to write a picture book about residential schools that would honour my grandmother, and that would fulfill one of the calls to action of the Truth & Reconciliation Commission’s final report. And that is to teach residential school history to kids as early as kindergarten. There weren’t books like that available even in 2016, and there needed to be.  

  • The Swampy Cree edition of When We Were Alone will be released this summer. What is the connection between this story and Swampy Cree? What does the Swampy Cree edition mean to you?

It means a great deal to me. It’s my father’s first language, which is important. But it contributes to undoing intergenerational trauma, via loss of language for one (among many other traumas), by teaching the language in a book about a system that tried to eradicate it. I think that’s profound and vitally important. 

  • In a recent article with CBC, you spoke about storytelling as healing. In it, you have an amazing line that reads, “Storytelling breaks through intergenerational trauma because it’s an act of intergenerational healing.” Can you talk about how that idea relates to When We Were Alone? 

The book is about a grandmother talking about her history with her grandchild. When we share our truths, it helps us to heal, and it helps others to heal because they can connect their own traumas with ours. 

That connection is community, and it facilitates collective and lasting healing that I think is what reconciliation is. It takes a long time, but that’s the act: healing through sharing truths, through listening and learning. Trauma was passed down through generations, but healing can be achieved through a similar act, by passing down truths.

In the oral tradition, we passed down traditions, values, histories, mythologies, ways of living through stories. We passed these things from one generation to another to ensure they are not lost. Healing happens that way. It’s a beautiful act, and one we should all strive towards. Books play an important role in that process. 

A conversation with Julie Flett:

  • Your colourful and calming illustrations help bring When We Were Alone to life so beautifully. Can you talk about the inspiration behind your illustrations?

I find that when I’m working on pictures for a story, I often start with the landscape. The children in the story When We Were Alone have been separated from family and home, and I thought of the land and landscape as connecting the children to their homes, if only briefly, a sense of autonomy from the confinement of the institution.  

‘When they were alone’ and the ‘teachers weren’t anywhere around the place they were’, they were on the land. From there, I looked at pictures from the places where my dad and David’s father had grown up in Manitoba and drew from the colour systems of those landscapes.

  1. How did you want your illustrations to feel? What was the tone you were aiming for with When We Were Alone?

I remember reading one of the children’s books I’d worked on with a residential school survivor years ago—she ran her finger along the words to follow along. The book wasn’t about residential schools, but when we were finished reading, she shared some of her experiences of residential school.

It was very tender for her to share this. I thought about her and so many of the survivors we know, when I started to work on When We Were Alone, and how to make pictures that honoured their experiences while being sensitive to what they would be looking at, if they encountered When We Were Alone. Similarly, for the children who encounter When We Were Alone, most importantly, the visuals needed to speak to the experience in a sensitive way.

  1. How was this project different from other books you have illustrated?

I had to take my time on some of the more emotionally challenging images. That was not always easy as the story went along. I worked and reworked the image for the page that reads ‘they cut off their hair.’ I remember leaving that one for a time. 

Initially the drawing had several braids that I’d set on the floor below the little girl, who was so vulnerable. Eventually I took the braids out and left just the one. And the picture with ‘they wanted us to look like everyone else’ also took some time. It’s also such a vulnerable image, thinking about the kids over and over and what they were feeling and going through.

All of this said, it’s such an important story and I’m so grateful to have been able to collaborate on it. I know that it honours survivors and all the children and caregivers we’ve shared it with over the years now.

The Swampy Cree Edition of When We Were Alone will be published on August 25, 2020. 

Pre-order it on our website now.

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Siha Tooskin Knows Series: Interview with Authors Charlene Bearhead and Wilson Bearhead

Charlene Bearhead and Wilson Bearhead are the authors of the Siha Tooskin Knows series. Eleven-year-old Siha Tooskin (Paul) is a Nakota boy who is learning about his identity and developing a sense of cultural responsibility in a contemporary, urban setting. The series is illustrated by multi-talented artist Chloe Bluebird Mustooch.

Read our interview with Charlene and Wilson below to learn more about the series, their work, and the inspiration behind the books. 

  1. The Siha Tooskin Knows series uses vivid narratives and illustrations in contemporary settings to share stories about an 11-year-old Nakota boy. Can you touch on what it was like working with illustrator Chloe Bluebird Mustooch?

WB: It is good to have a young Nakota woman who has gone to such great lengths to educate herself, and to become an illustrator, for books like ours. It inspires me to see how far she has come in such a short time.

CB: Working with Bluebird has been such a gift. She is an incredibly gifted artist and graphic designer. She was able to bring Siha Tooskin, his family, and the stories to life in a way that we couldn’t have even dreamed of for so many reasons. Bluebird is a young Nakota woman who grew up with many of the same teachings as Siha Tooskin, Wilson, and our own children. The fact that Bluebird grew up with my children made this especially meaningful for me. Having watched her grow into the amazing woman that she is, to have been her grade-8 teacher, to have shared in so many ceremonies with Bluebird and her family, and to have the honour of working with her on her first book series is beyond anything I could have hoped for. Every time we met to review the illustrations, I was blown out of the water. I have such a deep respect for Bluebird, her talent, and the way that she carries herself in every aspect of her life.

  1. Can you talk about the Nakota language and how you have incorporated it into the story?

WB: Nakota was my first language and most of my teachings came through stories in the Nakota language. For me the words express more meaning with regard to what the story is about. So as a child, it made it easy for me to listen to the storyteller who spoke to me in the Nakota language. Those stories and the storytellers are still with me today. So I hoped that by including some Nakota language in the Siha Tooskin Knows books that the children who are reading them will feel what I felt when I was a child hearing stories in my language. 

CB: For me learning at least the most basic terminology to show respect to the people upon whose territory we live is just something that should be a given. The least we can do is to put forth the effort to learn. It’s an opportunity to acknowledge that there is a way to be with, and relate to, people in their own lands and communities. 

On a personal note I have always been so grateful to the people who took the time to teach me words in their language. Late Ena Gladys Kyme taught me so much… and she had so many good laughs at my pronunciation when I started to learn. My own children were blessed to be taught some basic Nakota by their aunties that cared for them at the daycare at Alexis First Nation when they were very young. They responded in such a different way, a more positive way, when I used the Nakota words that they knew with them. 

I don’t understand the language fluently, or come even close, but I know the feelings of hope and peace and comfort that I get when I hear the language being spoken at gatherings or in ceremony. I believe that the children, and maybe even their parents and teachers, reading the Siha Tooskin Knows stories will feel the caring and connectedness in the Nakota words that we share in the books. 

  1. You have previously mentioned that you created these books in part to teach your own children Nakota values. Can you talk about how your experiences as parents contributed to the development of the series?

WB: What I learned early in life, and the values that were presented in how we should treat each other, are the things that I have tried to incorporate as a parent. We tried to incorporate that approach to teaching our children in Siha Tooskin Knows. We wanted to demonstrate this approach to teaching our children that inspires them to learn in the way that the people in Paul’s life teach him as he learns and wants to continue to learn.

CB: My children were raised in ceremony from the time they were babies. We have been so blessed to have generous, loving, knowledgeable people in our lives who all contributed to teaching and raising my children when they were young. Where the struggles came was in helping them understand why other people, non-Indigenous classmates and community people, didn’t understand them or who they were. The stories started out as happy, positive stories about a little boy named Paul who was like them, and who had teachings like theirs, who was supported and able to keep his teachings and his family connections and to try to help teach others in a good way. 

Now let’s be honest… doing this in a children’s book where you have control of all of the elements and outcomes is much easier than real life ☺ But we tried our best to parent our children in the best way possible… which is what every parent does. We all want our children to feel happy and safe. That guided us in developing the life of Paul and his family. It is what we would hope for our own children and grandchildren… for all children really.

4. Charlene, you started off your career teaching in both Alberta and Manitoba. What inspired the transition from teaching in the physical classroom to becoming an advocate for Indigenous education?

I’d love to say that the transition was something that I thought out thoroughly and was the architect of, but that’s not true. I have come to believe that our path is set for us and if we have the humility, the will, and the courage to be open to what that might be, the path will show itself, and we just need to follow that path.

I think that journey for me began, in part, while I was still in the classroom and it just grew from there. Meeting Indigenous students who didn’t even know who they were. That had been so disenfranchised from themselves that they could only tell me “I’m Native. That’s all I know” or meeting kids who tried to pass themselves off as Asian to dodge the racism. Meeting the Elders and community members who were willing to come to my class and teach all of the students their truth, the age-old science and philosophy and legal systems and so much more… those were all the people who inspired me to step up and do my part.

Then becoming a parent myself and having so many choices and opportunities put in front of me that I could take or turn my back on. I spent some time early on coming up with all of the reasons that I wasn’t the person who had the right or was best-placed to do some of the things asked of me, but I came to realize that the only thing that I have the right to do, or the responsibility to do, is my own part. I leave the rest to others. I’d love to say that I came up with that all on my own but again… not true.

The real turning point for me was in the mid-1990s while I stood waiting to be called up by the Chiefs at a meeting at Maskwacis to make a report on our progress on the First Nations and Inuit Child Care Initiative. I was very nervous and said to late Sherman Jones, “I don’t think this should be me doing this.” He just smiled and said, “Would you just shut up about what you should and shouldn’t be doing and just do what you’re asked to do. You didn’t put yourself here. They asked you to do this, so just do it, and stop talking about who should do this part. You’re wasting time.” That was it for me. Since that day I’ve just tried to do my part when asked to help. 

I believe that every single one of us has a part to play in making our communities and society better for our children and grandchildren now and in the future. I try to stay in my own lane, do what I believe I can do and embrace what other people bring to the path. I may not get it right all the time, but I want to be able to tell my children and grandchildren that I didn’t stand by and watch things that I knew were wrong and that I did all that I could do in the short time I had on this earth. I hope they will feel like I did enough when my time here is done.

5. Along with the Siha Tooskin Knows series, you are also releasing a guide for educators. What can educators expect from the guide? 

WB: I hope that teachers see that not only do Indigenous stories inspire, these stories also give us direction and solutions to some of the challenges that we face in our lives every day.  We have to find the solutions for ourselves, but they are present in the teachings and the stories. We hope that the guide helps teachers and parents seek out those solutions for themselves and to help their children to do the same.

CB:  I hope that the guide will help teachers, but might also support parents, and Sunday school teachers, and youth group leaders and anyone else who wants to learn more with their kids but isn’t really sure how to dive in. The guide starts out by giving the adults some support to prepare for the teaching. Things like tips about how to invite Elders and Indigenous Knowledge Keepers to work with you, basic terminology to use when engaging in learning with and about Indigenous peoples, how to manage difficult discussion, and how to create an ethical space for learning.

There are also lessons for each book. Each lesson will explore some of the words, terms, and concepts used in the book. There are a series of inquiry questions offered for teachers to choose from to engage students in taking the learning beyond the stories, to learn about the Indigenous peoples where they live, and to relate the learning to their own people. There are activities that students will undertake to demonstrate their own learning and give them opportunities to share their learning with others in the school and community.

6. Wilson, as a Nakota Elder, can you explain why it’s important for children to learn these teachings at a young age? What lessons do you hope students take away from the series?

WB: I was taught that young children need to learn many things. About who they are and what they need to learn in life. Early understanding helps them to live in this world. People who present positive, traditional practices will give children confidence and connection within their own spirits. 

Siha Tooskin presents a view that reflects the Nakota teachings that I learned as a child. What I hope children take from this series is that they are a willingness to be open, to share, to be a part of things… I think that Siha Tooskin brings messages of respect and kindness. Those are the most important lessons of all. 

The Siha Tooskin Knows series is available now! Buy together and save here. 

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Interview with Hetxw’ms Gyetxw (Brett D. Huson) – Mothers of Xsan for Earth Day

Brett D. Huson

Growing up in the strong matrilineal society of the Gitxsan, Hetxw’ms Gyetxw (Brett D.Huson) developed a passion for the culture, land, and politics of his people, and a desire to share their knowledge and stories.

In celebration of Earth Day on April 22, we spoke with this award-winning author and educator. In our interview with Brett, he answers questions about the Mothers of Xsan series and its connection to environment, sustainability, and the Gitxsan Nation, as well as his upcoming release The Eagle Mother

The Mothers of Xsan series is an incredible resource for science teachers, touching on important topics like environmentalism and sustainability. What are some of the most important takeaways from the series? 

The Mothers of Xsan series is a part of a larger vision of mine that I’ve been developing for some time. I have always had a deep interest in scientific studies as they have been incredible with regard to bridging the gap between the world and our understanding of the finer moving parts of life. Regardless of where we are with our comprehension of the world, whether it be in microbiology, physics, medicine, or mathematics, scientific study still lacks much of the “bigger picture.” My goal is to connect Indigenous knowledges with science because Indigenous peoples have existed in equilibrium with their ecosystems for thousands of years longer than any sort of modern practice of science has existed. 

I hope that through my work, people can begin to see the importance of preserving knowledges that have kept civilizations healthy and thriving for well over 15,000 years in specific locations that, over time, have gone through climate and ecological change. Studies, like those being done at the University of British Columbia, are proving the validity of Indigenous knowledges in preserving and even creating more biodiverse and healthy environments.

This series of books for children is meant to present the idea of interconnectedness of all life to the land, in a way that hopefully will encourage young minds to approach their world in a different way in the future. To understand that all living things are important and needed for balance in our world.  

You won the 2018 Science Writers and Communicators of Canada Youth Book Award for The Sockeye Mother. At the time, you said it meant a lot to you because of your love for science. Where did your passion and interest for these topics come from?

Many evenings as a child were spent visiting my mom’s parents. From a young age, I was exposed to endless viewings of National Geographic videos, Discovery Channel, and discussions between my ye’eh (grandfather) and my nigwotxw (father) about the land and use of the land. My dad always had a strong passion in discovering how everything worked, biologically, mechanically, mathematically, and physically. I guess a lot of that passion passed along to me.

My people, the Gitxsan, have always had a philosophical approach to life and worked toward understanding everything about our ecosystems because it meant the survival of the land and our people many generations into the future. We were removed from this way of life when the first Christians came to our lands and began to remove us from the land and place us on reserves and the children in residential schools.

You grew up in the Gitxsan Nation of the Northwest Interior of British Columbia. How has being a member of the Gitxsan Nation influenced your work as an author and an educator?

The Gitxsan Nation exists in a land that is unforgiving and very unique. We have lived on our territories since time immemorial and developed language, art, agriculture, aquaculture, and governance. Basically, it is a way of life that allows us to thrive. So being Gitxsan is who I am, and we have always viewed ourselves as Gitxsan first and foremost. We are matrilineal, so our rights, privileges, and names within our culture come from our mothers. So, everything that I am is what my work is. I hope to instill a love for the land in young readers that will stay with them as they grow up. Hopefully, they can see the world the way that I see mine.

In previous interviews, you have said “our language was shaped by the land, our artwork is shaped by the land, and everything we do and everything that we are comes from [the] earth.” Can you elaborate on this statement?

Part of what is disconnecting humanity from seeing how unbalanced our ecosystems are right now is the simple fact that more and more populations of people are moving to urban centres. Urbanism has created a unique pocket of life outside of a working and operating ecosystem, yet those ecosystems are still providing water and oxygen to the urban dwellers. Experiences are the things that lead to greater knowledge of the unknown, but unfortunately, we are continually removing ourselves from the very thing that keeps us alive.

Gitxsan culture comes from thousands of years of experience on the land that is our home. Great moments of change, catastrophe, and wonderment that happened on those lands became moments to commemorate and create new words for. New works of art grew from our growing understanding of what allowed us to live. The whole nature of the words we developed were basic, because they only needed to describe the necessities of life.

Ceremony wasn’t about celebrating “man” or “deities,” but more about asking for life, creating more positive energy to exist in our environment, and helping our energy to stay healthy so our bodies could heal themselves. In our understanding, our energy that came from the sun did a lot to help us. The first Christians who were the ones to translate our language and stories turned them into mystical stories and called our energy “spirit.” But nomenclature doesn’t matter, what matters is that our cultures have an understanding of what made our whole existence. Energy.

Each story in this series gives insight into a different area and/or animal in the Xsan ecosystem. What can readers expect from your upcoming book, The Eagle Mother?

The Eagle Mother is a window into a small part of the world of the eagle, the Gitxsan relation to the Eagle, and a little bit about the role the eagle plays in this environment. I hope that young readers will grow to love and understand this beautiful bird a lot more. My kids absolutely love the story and the beautiful imagery created by my partner in these stories (who I could not do them without), Natasha Donovan.

I’m excited to get more fan mail from the students and people who create their own artwork of The Eagle Mother!

Pre-order The Eagle Mother on our website today!

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Teacher Guides to Help Lead Classroom Discussions

Did you know several of our titles have accompanying teacher guides? You can use these guides to ensure heavier topics are hitting the right mark with your students or simply to help plan your lessons. Some even include curriculum correlation charts! If you’re a little nervous about discussing Indigenous issues in your classroom, these resources are worth checking out.

Each one of our teacher guides makes an excellent companion to its respective book. Best of all, most guides are free to download in a printable format (pdf).

Read about some of our newest guides below!

I Will See You Again Reader’s Guide 

By Allison Crawford with Lisa Boivin
For all teachers

In I Will See You Again, the author learns of the death of her brother overseas and embarks on a journey to bring him home. Through memories and dreams of all they shared and through her Dene traditions, she finds comfort and strength. Lisa Boivin’s story touches on universal themes and experiences related to death, grief, family, and healing from loss. 

The I Will See You Again Reader’s Guide provides support to parents, educators, and communities for sharing and discussing these ideas. Written to support discussions about Dene culture as explored through the author’s art, the guide also introduces a practice that can bring rest and healing: telling and sharing difficult experiences through art.

These subjects are meant to spark reflection and conversations among readers. 

Download the I Will See You Again Reader’s Guide on our website now.

This Place Teacher guide

This Place: 150 Years Retold Teacher Guide 

by Christine M’Lot
for grades 9–12

The groundbreaking graphic novel anthology, This Place: 150 Years Retold, explores the past 150 years through the eyes of Indigenous creators. Beautifully illustrated, these stories are an emotional and enlightening journey through Indigenous wonderworks, Canadian history, and time travel. 

This teacher guide is meant to be a no-prep resource for educators to use for stand-alone lessons or a complete unit plan. Many activities in this guide infuse Indigenous pedagogical practice, such as by having students work collaboratively or take on the role of expert and teacher. 

This graphic novel deals with sensitive topics such as racism, suicide, violence and abuse, the child welfare system, and even cannibalism. This guide aims to help students understand complexities and embrace worldviews that may be different from their own.

Pre-order the guide on our website now. 

Siha Tooskin Knows Education Guide

Siha Tooskin Knows Education Guide 

by Charlene Bearhead
for grades 3–6

The Siha Tooskin Knows Education Guide supports learning about and discussing the teachings, practices, and values of Paul Wahasaypa’s Nakota family. The guide helps readers explore learning through storied experience, visual representations of teachings, values, and relationships.

Both the Siha Tooskin Knows series and the education guide aim to support readers in exploring the cultures of Siha Tooskin and relating his experiences, values, and practices to those of their own families and communities.

Pre-order the guide on our website now. 

Surviving the City Teacher Guide

by Christine M’Lot

for grades 9–12

Tasha Spillet-Sumner’s graphic novel, Surviving the City (Surviving the City, Vol. 1), tells a story of kinship, resilience, cultural resurgence, and the anguish of a missing loved one. 

The Surviving the City Teacher Guide provides support for addressing sensitive topics in the classroom (such as racism, caregiver illness, the child welfare system, residential schools, and Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls and Two-Spirit People) when reading the first volume in the Surviving the City series. 

In this teacher guide:

  • Students will be learning about, exploring, researching, and presenting on essential themes that arise in the graphic novel.
  • The lesson plans are formatted using the Activate, Acquire, Apply, and Assess (AAAA) format for ease-of-use.
  • Activities throughout the lessons infuse Indigenous pedagogical practice.

This teacher guide is best suited for use in grades 9–12 classrooms such as Grades 9–12 English, Grade 12 Global Issues, and Grade 12 Current Topics in First Nations, Métis, and Inuit Studies.

Purchase the guide on our website today.

Teacher Guide for K.C. Adams’s Perception: A Photo Series 

by Reuben Boulette

Grade: for grade 9–12

K.C. Adams’s acclaimed photo series, Perception, came out in book form early last year. The project first gained attention when Adams’s photographs appeared on bus shelters and billboards and projected on buildings in downtown Winnipeg. Each of Adams’s photos is a portrait of an Indigenous person that trades harmful stereotypes for statements of truth. The emotional expressions of her subjects, the stark black-and-white images, and the striking text invited onlookers to “look, then look again” at stereotypes about Indigenous people. Perception: A Photo Series collects a selection of Adams’s photographs into one book.

The Teacher Guide for K.C. Adams’s Perception: A Photo Series was written by Reuben Boulette for high school teachers. You can use the guide to empower teens to question harmful stereotypes about Indigenous people. As a bonus, each module has suggestions for assessing your students’ takeaways from Perception.

While these books and their accompanying guides make great tools, this is only a shortlist of what is available to you. You can find many more titles for teaching Indigenous histories and perspectives in our catalogue. Browse our full collection of teacher guides on our For Teachers page. We’re always developing new educational materialsdon’t forget to bookmark it to check back for new content! 

Purchase the guide on our website today.

Purchase these educational guides and more on our website today!

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Interview with Shelley Moore


Shelley Moore is a groundbreaking and inspirational teacher, speaker, and storyteller. Her book, One Without the Other: Stories of Unity Through Diversity and Inclusion, tackles inclusion as a philosophy and practice, the difference between integration and inclusion, and how inclusion can work with a variety of students and abilities.

Through her work, you can tell how passionate she is about inclusive education, curriculum, and teacher professional development. 

Read our interview with Shelley Moore below to learn more about her accomplishments and about where her passion for inclusion comes from.

You have shown such passion promoting success and inclusion for all learners, where does this dedication stem from?

I could never have imagined that my life’s path would have taken me in this direction. I was very much a student who struggled in school, and the stories and anecdotes that I share were just my way of learning from and helping my own teaching practice. I knew I went into education so that I could work with kids like me and hopefully help make their schooling experience better than mine, but I just cannot believe that so many people are listening and reading these stories and making a change in the lives of their students. The work feeds my soul knowing the possible impact this journey can have on the lives of the kids we work with.

In previous interviews you have said, “We don’t do inclusion. We live it.” Can you elaborate on this message and its importance?

Inclusion lives in two worlds: the philosophical and the practical. Philosophically, most of us agree that inclusion is important, but practically, there are so many versions and definitions of how it should be enacted that it makes it very hard to work towards a common vision. As a result, the practicalities of inclusion become very misunderstood, and we lose track of the why. 

To “live” inclusively is to never lose track of the why, because without it, we can’t do it. Without the why, inclusion becomes about training and programs and less about the people—the students and the families that we are trying to serve. To “live” inclusion means that we advocate for it, no matter what. We commit to doing the best we can with what we have. Even when resources are low, and funding is cut, and people are tired and kids are upset. Resources are not the gatekeeper of inclusion, belief is—which is why “living it” is so critical to the journey.

Your second book, All for One: Designing Individual Education Plans for Inclusive Classrooms will be released in early 2021. What can teachers expect from this book?

In my first book, One without the Other, we dig into the “what” and “why” of inclusion. In All for One, we start to look at the “how.” All for One will tackle Individual Education Plans (IEPS) and take readers through a journey of how teachers in British Columbia came together to evolve the IEP process and make it more inclusive and aligned to 21st century curriculum and learning with aims to guide school teams in how to plan for individuals in inclusive classrooms.

Five Moore Minutes, your YouTube series, has been an incredible resource for educators since you launched it a year ago. What has been the biggest lesson you have learned both personally and professionally since launching the series?

Five Moore Minutes has been such a fun project to work on. Another venture that I didn’t anticipate being so successful. I think what I have learned through the process is the importance of time and that we cannot rush the learning of educators. So often, professional development is provided as a one-time, one-hit wonder in large amounts. It is so hard to implement and reflect and process and learn all at the same time. So creating these little videos has taught me how important the time is for targeting little chunks of learning and reflection over time. This allows for conversations to occur and questions to be asked. It encourages small applications and adjustments to our practice in ways that are fun and light.

I will also add that trying to synthesize my thinking and learning into a five-minute script is quite the process. It has definitely helped to solidify my thinking and my confidence in understanding the concepts we are uncovering.

You often use analogies like bowling and the sweeper van to teach educators about inclusion. Why do you think these analogies resonate with educators?

I love analogies. They are how I learn about big ideas and concepts. I wish I had learned the strategy earlier in my life! The visualization and application of metaphors and how they apply to my life is so critical to my learning process. Through this, I am realizing that more people than I thought might also learn like me.

All for One: Designing Individual Education Plans for Inclusive Classrooms will be available in 2021. You can pre-order your copy now.

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International Women’s Day Author Roundup

At Portage & Main Press/HighWater Press, we are proud to work with incredible, groundbreaking women authors. In honour of Women’s History Month and International Women’s Day, read about some of our incredible women authors and their accomplishments. 

Groundbreaking Educators

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.

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.

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.

Sara Florence Davidson

Sara Florence Davidson is a Haida educator and scholar with a PhD in Literacy Education. Sara works with teacher candidates and is passionate about helping them 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.

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 on 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.

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. She has a way of forming practical analogies that both are powerful and clear. 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. A follow-up book is expected spring 2021. 

Innovative Writers for Children & Young Adults

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. Her latest graphic novel in the A Girl Called Echo series, Northwest Resistance, was published in February 2020. See a full list of her work 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. 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 she also wrote the graphic novel, Fire Starters. To add to the long list of achievements, Jen was a 2017 recipient of CBC Manitoba’s Future 40 under 40.

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. The books use vivid narratives and illustrations in contemporary settings to share stories about an 11-year-old Nakota boy. Look out for the Siha Tooskin Knows series coming in May 2020.

Tasha Spillett-Sumner

Tasha Spillet-Sumner 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 upcoming book, From the Roots Up, is the sequel to Surviving the City and part of The Debwe series. 

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. Because of that, 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.

Inspiring Writers for Adults

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 is currently working on her PhD, and strives to humanize clinical medicine as she situates her art in the Indigenous continuum of passing on knowledge through images. 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. Learn more about her work here.

KC Adams

KC Adams is a Cree/Ojibway/British Winnipeg-based artist and an 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

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

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Hands-On Creator Jennifer Lawson: An Interview

Hands-On, a collection of comprehensive, ready-to-use resources for teachers in Canada was founded and written by series editor, Jennifer Lawson. In addition to writing, she teaches at the University of Manitoba in the Faculty of Education and is a local school board trustee. 

Jennifer Lawson is an innovative educator—she has helped shape the future of education as we know it in Canada. She took on the monumental task of creating this incredible resource in the 80s and 90s, when there were no 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.

Read about where the series started and how it has evolved in our interview with Jennifer below.

  1. The Hands-On collection of books has been a go-to classroom resource for many years. Where did the concept originally come from, and what made you decide to create these books?

Interestingly, the first Hands-On series was a direct result of my Master’s thesis research. I was wanting to look at how children in the early years best learn science and wanted to compare the traditional textbook approach that was being used at the time (even in grades one and two), with a hands-on approach that focused on the development of students’ science process skills.

To test my hypothesis, I needed to pilot this new approach in classrooms, but there were no resources for teachers to use. It was very much the days of the textbook in the 1980s. So, I wrote grades 1, 2, and 3 Hands-On Science, based on the Manitoba Science Curriculum. I piloted it in nine classrooms in the St. James-Assiniboia School Division, and conducted pre- and post-tests with students to determine the development of their science process skills and knowledge. I also included surveys for teachers on the value of the resource and the approach being used.

Shortly thereafter, I was approached by Peguis Publishers, the company that has since become Portage & Main Press. They have been publishing the Hands-On collection since the 1990s.

  1. Your passion for a student-driven inquiry approach shows throughout the entire Hands-On collection. Where did this passion come from and how do you incorporate this approach in Hands-On?

I graduated with a Bachelor of Education majoring in Canadian Literature and Music. I was definitely a humanities person. I had taken one science course in my four-year degree, and only because I had to! Never in my wildest dreams did I expect to love teaching science, let alone writing resources for teachers.

Once I began teaching in 1980 (grade 2 in Souris, Manitoba), I began to dig deep into the science curriculum to ensure my commitment to addressing the expectations. As teachers, we are obligated to teach the curriculum, in each subject area, for our grade level. I vividly recall working on the grade 2 unit on solids, liquids, and gases, and loving it. I learned so much as a teacher about the value of a hands-on, student-centered approach to teaching. And I saw in my students a kind of motivation and engagement that I had not seen when using other approaches. After a few years in the classroom, I decided to go back for my Master’s degree with a focus on science, to explore this area further. 

I believe as learners, both children, and adults, we are more engaged and successful in the learning process when the pedagogy focuses on real-life, activity-based learning. And that is what the Hands-On collection is all about. 

  1. There are many editions of most of the Hands-On books. How would you say the Hands-On collection has changed over the years?

 The main changes have come about by addressing current research in education, and specifically within each subject area. So, for example, the current emphasis on differentiated instruction inspired us to include the activity centres in many series. These activity centres focus specifically on the various ways in which students learn. This allows students to work on tasks using their strengths, but also challenges them to approach tasks that might be outside of their skill set, helping them to develop new skills.

We also make significant changes in each new series based on the current curricular focus and local context. For example, in the newest edition of Hand-On Social Studies for Ontario, there is a strong emphasis on Indigenous knowledge and perspectives, which is a key aspect of the most recent revisions to the curriculum. As another example, the new Hands-On Science for British Columbia includes a focus on multi-age learning environments and student self-assessment, both of which are addressed in the redesigned curriculum for BC. 

  1. As a former classroom teacher yourself, can you describe what makes Hands-On so useful for teachers?

For this one, I asked a practicing classroom teacher, who has also been a contributing author for many of our resources:

  • Curriculum-based content
  • The format makes it easy to plan and implement. Every lesson is laid out step by step.
  • A teacher can open up a HOS book to the unit of their choice and get started right away.
  • Hands-on activities and a variety of research-based teaching strategies
  • Design and inquiry projects

All students can participate in some capacity in each unit.

  1. Hands-On resources are considered by many teachers as the best and the only resource they need to teach in their classrooms. Why is that?

All of the Hands-On resources are developed with a brand-new teacher in mind. That is not to say that they aren’t just as valuable for an experienced teacher, but we include everything that a teacher might need in terms of background information and content, guiding questions, materials, and activities. Since we focus specifically on the curriculum expectations or outcomes, teachers can be sure that they are addressing curricular obligations. Hands-On resources provide the teacher with everything they need to teach an inquiry-based, student-centred program.

  1. You’ve worked on every book in the Hands-On series. Which series has been your favourite and why?

I love different Hands-On books for different reasons. With my background being in science, the most recent Hands-On Science and Technology for Ontario was a fabulous project to work on in terms of infusing inquiry-based learning and differentiated instruction. The Manitoba series for social studies is another favourite because of the local context. Many other resources, not written specifically for an individual province, are unable to address local issues and content. There is such amazing work done in Hands-On Social Studies for Manitoba, especially some of the history of the Métis people, the Red River Settlement, and Louis Riel. Another favourite is the brand-new Hands-On Science for British Columbia. This one challenged me as a writer because it was our first resource for multi-age classrooms. And I always love a challenge!

Order the Hands-On series for your classroom today.



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How Do Graphic Novels Get Made? The Making of “Northwest Resistance”

Northwest Resistance is the third volume in the graphic novel series A Girl Called Echo.

Written by Katherena Vermette, with illustrations by Scott B. Henderson and colours by Donovan Yaciuk, Northwest Resistance follows thirteen-year-old Echo Desjardins, a Métis teen who finds herself slipping back and forth through time. As Echo drifts between the modern day and the year 1885, the reader is drawn into the period’s conflicts alongside her.

Graphic novels are powerful tools for storytelling. Using a combination of illustration and text, graphic novels can highlight details like facial expressions, intensity of reactions, and pauses in conversation to create an immersive experience for the reader.

There’s no “right” way to make a graphic novel, since different publishers do things differently depending on their contributors and audience. HighWater Press has developed our process based on the needs of our readers and to address cultural, personal, and historical sensitivities.

Keep reading to find out how a graphic novel like Northwest Resistance is made!

What’s the difference between comic books and graphic novels?

Many people assume that graphic novels and comic books are worlds apart… but they share more similarities than you may think!

For instance, many graphic novels and comic books share similar art styles, and both vary widely in the topics and genres they cover. As a result, whether a title is a “graphic novel” or a “comic book” often comes down to author and publisher preference. 

The main difference is that graphic novels are typically published by traditional publishers, like HighWater Press, and they tend to contain a complete story arc. Comic books are typically published by companies that only publish comic books, and are often episodic.

Stage One: Concept and Plot Development

This stage is often the longest. On average, there are at least seven people involved with producing one of our graphic novels from beginning to end, which can mean a lot of back-and-forth and collaboration to finalize the concept and develop the plot.

It’s not uncommon for HighWater Press authors to be new to the format, which means close collaboration between the author and editor is often needed to develop the story into panels and to make sure the illustrations will accurately reflect the author’s vision.

At HighWater Press, we also have to consider historical details, personal anecdotes, and cultural sensitivities when we are developing graphic novels. Constant communication between authors, artists, and reviewers is vital to ensure the illustrations capture the author’s vision while being culturally sensitive and accurate.

Stage Two: Script Development

One of the biggest challenges with developing a graphic novel is helping our authors—who might be new to the format— write to the textual constraints of the style. Some aspects writers and editors need to consider when developing a script include:

  • Actions per panel: Illustrations are static, and therefore, only one action per panel is possible. Some movements are very difficult to show in static art, or might take too many panels, so an alternative must be found. 
  • Panels per page. Our books usually have about nine panels per page, but it’s important to mix it up to keep the reader engaged (and to keep the illustrator from having to draw the same thing over and over). 
  • Word count. To keep the text clear, we aim for fewer than 25 words per balloon or caption, averaging out to fewer than 50 words per panel. The art is just as important as the words; if there are too many words, then the illustrations might need to be revised to do that work instead. 
  • Speech balloons per panel. We try to limit each panel to three speech balloons or less, to avoid losing art behind balloons. We might also split up a larger chunk of dialogue into smaller sections, to better fit around the artwork.

We can see examples of how larger pieces of dialogue can be broken down into smaller, connected speech bubbles in this image of Louis Riel speaking in Northwest Resistance:

Stage Three: Character Designs, Cover Concepts, and Storyboard

At this stage, authors and illustrators discuss the story and get on the same page (pun intended) about character designs, layout, and cover concepts. 

To start, the artist will work with the author to create multiple concepts for character designs and covers and submit them to the author and editor, who choose the versions that are the best fit for the target readers. The author may have a specific idea for what a character will look like, or they may leave it up to the artist.

Echo sketch The level of detail in character designs at this stage varies depending on the artist; sometimes they’re fully inked and coloured, and sometimes they’re just sketches.

Below are examples of character designs for Echo, and early versions of inked and coloured character designs from Surviving the City, written by Tasha Spillett-Sumner and illustrated by Natasha Donovan.


We can see another example of how concept art can differ from the final versions by comparing these two covers from Pemmican Wars. On the left is the initial cover concept, and on the right is the final cover:



The artist will then create a storyboard, which consists of quick sketches of each page and panel. Creating these elements at this stage saves time on revisions later because they’re much easier to edit than when a panel has been drawn in detail. Often, the author will provide reference photos for the artist, particularly for details that are key to the story.

Stage Four: Pencils

When the storyboards and character designs are approved, the artist begins working on the “pencils.”

Pencils are the detailed sketches of the panels and pages developed during the storyboarding process. The author and editor review the pencils to identify any inconsistencies, like missing earrings or patches on clothing, to be corrected before the inking stage. 

For HighWater Press, because we’re working with Indigenous and historical content, the pencils and script may be reviewed by Indigenous community members, academics, and/or other subject matter experts.

This stage can take several weeks to complete, since revisions are part of the process. We review the pencils very carefully because revisions become much more difficult in the following stages.

Stage Five: Inks

The inking stage comes after the pencils have been approved by the author, the editor, and the reviewers.

In some cases, a different artist may be contracted to do inks for a graphic novel, but here at Highwater Press, our artists typically handle this process themselves.

Graphic novels often dig deep into a topic or theme, and that attention to detail is reflected in the illustrations. 

Since inks are difficult to change, mistakes or other revisions must be corrected before we move on to colouring.

Stage Six: Colouring

Next up is colouring the finalized inks. 

At this stage, we often work with artists who specialize in colouring. For example, the illustrations and inking for Northwest Resistance were done by Scott B. Henderson, while the colours were completed by Donovan Yaciuk.

Artists who specialize in colouring can use colour to draw the reader’s eye to a particular element. Colours play an important role in how the story is told and can create a mood or feeling that might otherwise be lost. 

We review the coloured panels carefully to ensure characters’ hair colour, eye colour, and other details are consistent from panel to panel. We also keep an eye out for details related to logic. For example, you don’t want sunlight streaming through a window if a scene is taking place at night.

We also pay special attention to the historical and cultural accuracy of colours, based on reference photographs and feedback from our reviewers. 

Stage Seven: Lettering

Lettering may seem simple, but don’t be fooled! This unassuming step matters more than you may realize. This is the stage when speech, thoughts, sound effects, and captions are added to the panels.

Balloon placement and lettering not only set the tone and pace of the text on each page, but must be included in such a way that they don’t obscure the illustrations.

Different balloon styles are used to emphasize differences in speech, like whispering or yelling. For example, we can see in the scene below that several villagers are yelling “no!” with varying volumes and intensities based on the colour and boldness of the text:

Stage Eight: Design

The design stage is the final stage before a graphic novel is approved for print. At this stage, all the pages are collected into one file and page numbers are added. The cover is finalized and then everything is sent off to the printers. The printers will send a printer’s proof to us. We use this proof to check that the colours and pages are correct. Once this proof is approved, printing begins, and there is no turning back. 

Pre-order your copy of Northwest Resistance today.

New to using graphic novels in the classroom? Teaching With Graphic Novels is a great tool to turn student’s enthusiasm for graphic novels into a teaching opportunity. Order your copy today.

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I Will See You Again: A Conversation with Lisa Boivin

Lisa Boivin

Lisa Boivin is a member of the Deninu Kue First Nation, an interdisciplinary artist, and a PhD student at the Rehabilitation Sciences Institute at the University of Toronto Faculty of Medicine. 

While her artistic focus is primarily to use art as a pedagogical tool to bridge gaps between aspects of Indigenous cultures and worldviews and medical ethics, her upcoming title through HighWater Press, I Will See You Again, is an exploration of grief through art and storytelling.

To better understand the connections between her experiences, Dene culture, and art, we talked to Lisa about her creative process and about painting ideas that can’t be expressed through words.

1. You’ve stated that your use of plants and flowers is intended to represent connection with the land. Can you talk about this relationship and its particular importance to Dene people?

I do not speak for all Dene. I understand why a one size fits all answer about Dene land-based culture is desirable but I am not an expert. I only speak from my perspective as a single Dene person. I feel particularly connected to the land-based knowledge my father shared with me before he died, but many of those conversations are private. I think of things he said continually while I am creating images. 

I also make sense of the world I live in by looking to the land around me. For example, if I see an animal or a plant, I think about the stories my father told me. I consider what is their purpose and what can I learn from them? How are they teaching me to be a better human being?

2. In your TEDxUofT talk, you note that “in Dene culture, there are stories which cannot be contained with words.” Can you explain more about how Dene storytelling is enhanced and expanded through art?

Many things I paint cannot be held in print. There are stories to be told in person, and there are also stories I keep to myself, or that I share only with family members. There are elements in my paintings that I place in there just for us. I know they are there, and when my family looks at them, they know what the meanings are.  

3. The images in I Will See You Again feature bright, eye-catching colors. Why did you decide to explore feelings of grief and loss with such vivid palettes?

Initially I thought about how life begins and ends in the sacred dark. It is a peaceful dark that allows us to find ourselves. As we grow into our bodies, we discover the bright colourful world around us. I imagine the colours begin to fade as we leave our bodies, and we see new colors when we enter the spirit world. I also wanted my work to be recognized as Dene. I wanted the bright flowers resting on the black background to reflect the bright beading on rich black velvet.

4. In the book, your brother’s spirit is embodied by flowers and leaves. What significance do these artistic elements have for you?

Flowers represent many things in my illustrations: Medicine, sacred teachings, stories. In a way, I am interacting with the dead. I find that comforting. I am illustrating to understand how I feel about death. I use leaves to represent the cycle of life as they fall all over the pages of my book. Leaves must fall to make room for new leaves. Leaves must fall to remind us that we are alive.

5. You’ve talked about “using paint to create a safe space to heal.” How has creating artwork helped you to understand and share your personal experiences?

Many knowledges unfold in my images; intergenerational, spiritual and ancestral knowledges come to life as I am painting. I was one of those who was taken away. I was not raised with my culture. I learned many things about my culture when I reunited with my father and then he died. 

I am finding my way back in my illustrations. I am literally painting a safe space to heal. I Will See You Again is available on February 25, 2020. Pre-order your copy today.

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Give the Gift of These Great Reads

Looking for an inspiring gift for the readers in your life? This holiday, share amazing adventures and profound ideas that will stay with your loved one long after New Year’s Day. These best-selling titles make thoughtful presents for those who love to read, write, teach, and learn. 

Ensouling Our Schools

by Jennifer Katz, with Kevin Lamoureux and foreword by Ry Moran

Despite our best intentions, the school environment can prove to be stressful and isolating for many learners—and educators. In her career as an inclusive educator, author Jennifer Katz recognized the need for better ways to nurture students’ well-being and foster a sense of meaning and purpose. In Ensouling Our Schools, she provides practical methods for improving students’ mental, spiritual, and emotional health in schools while building critical thinking and analysis skills. The book also contains Indigenous approaches to mental and spiritual health contributed by Kevin Lamoureux, Education Lead at the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation.

Perfect for: Compassionate, innovative, and forward-thinking educators and school administrators


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

by Chelsea Vowel

If you’re a non-Indigenous Canadian, it’s unlikely that you’ve ever received a thorough education in the history of Indigenous peoples in Canada. In Indigenous Writes, author Chelsea Vowel opens a frank dialogue about many of the most misunderstood and under-taught concepts concerning Indigenous peoples. Vowel writes candidly about topics like the Sixties Scoop, Bill C-31, and treaties while addressing myths and commonly-confused terminology. Indigenous Writes should be required reading for anyone who wishes to respectfully teach, write, or speak about the contemporary issues affecting First Nations, Métis, and Inuit peoples.

Perfect for: teachers, journalists, media professionals, politicians, parents, and anyone else who could benefit from a better understanding of what it means to be Indigenous in Canada


This Place: 150 Years Retold

by Kateri Akiwenzie-Damm, Sonny Assu, Brandon Mitchell, Rachel and Sean Qitsualik-Tinsley, David A. Robertson, Niigaanwewidam James Sinclair, Jen Storm, Richard Van Camp, Katherena Vermette, and Chelsea Vowel, illustrated by Tara Audibert, Kyle Charles, GMB Chomichuk, Natasha Donovan, Scott B. Henderson, Ryan Howe, Andrew Lodwick, and Jen Storm, with colour by Scott A. Ford and Donovan Yaciuk

You’ve never read a history book like this before. In this groundbreaking graphic novel anthology, Indigenous writers explore the past, present, and future of First Nations, Métis, and Inuit peoples in Canada. This Place combines unforgettable imagery with emotional storytelling as readers journey through Indigenous wonderworks, psychic battles, and time travel. The anthology illustrates how Indigenous peoples have survived a post-apocalyptic world since Contact.

Perfect for: comic-book lovers, young adult readers, high school and post-secondary teachers, and history buffs


Catch a Fire: Fuelling Inquiry and Passion Through Project-Based Learning

Edited by Matt Handerson

An energizing, highly-digestible read to inspire, challenge, and engage current and future educators. Project-based learning (PBL) is hardly a new concept, but Catch a Fire provides a fresh view into how schools and teams can make it their own. Each chapter is written by a different contributor, each offering valuable insights, actionable ideas, and achievable success stories. Readers will be left enlightened and motivated to find out how PBL can ignite a new passion for learning in their students.

Perfect for: passionate teachers and school administrators, aspiring educators



by David A. Robertson

In Ghosts, the third and final installment of The Reckoner Trilogy, things are looking grim for Wounded Sky First Nation. Cole Harper is dead, Reynold McCabe is at large, and the community is quarantined while Mihko Laboratories is launching full-force into biological war tactics. Meanwhile, people are missing, questions are going unanswered, and time is running out to save Wounded Sky. Who’s left to take up the fight?

Readers who couldn’t put down the Reckoner Trilogy books should know that this is only the end for now. Look for the debut volume of the graphic novel series, The Reckoner Rises: Breakdown in 2020.

Perfect for: young adults who love a great superhero origin story


The Grizzly Mother

by Hetxw’ms Gyetxw (Brett D. Huson), illustrated by Natasha Donovan

Too often, science and storytelling are treated like two sides of a coin. The Mothers of Xsan series perfectly illustrates how scientific concepts are, in fact, a living part of the stories around us. The Grizzly Mother is the second book in the series, in which readers follow a family of grizzly bears through the forests of the Skeena River Valley. Through lyrical language and bold, colorful illustrations, young readers will learn about the Xsan ecosystem and its significance to the Gitxsan people of Northwestern British Columbia.

Look for the third book, The Eagle Mother, coming in April of 2020.

Perfect for: science and elementary teachers, parents, kids from ages 9-12


Grand Conversations, Thoughtful Responses: A Unique Approach to Literature Circles (Second Edition)

The long-anticipated second edition of Grand Conversations, Thoughtful Responses builds on author Faye Brownlie’s acclaimed resource for teaching literacy. Brownlie’s unique approach to literary circles has made the first edition of Grand Conversations a must-have among educators. In the second edition, teachers can expect brand-new content that will challenge and engage students, build critical-thinking and response skills, and improve the confidence and competence of young readers.

Perfect for: elementary and high school teachers, aspiring educators, and reading tutors


Perception: A Photo Series

Artist KC Adams was inspired to create Perception after a racist comment by a local community leader’s wife went viral on Facebook. The images in the photo series critique harmful stereotypes about Indigenous peoples through the use of stark black and white portraits. Perception: A Photo Series contains the portraits, a foreword by Katherena Vermette, and a critical essay by Cathy Matthes in a sleek hardcover. This thought-provoking collection is excellent for guiding classroom conversations around stereotypes and prejudice. 

Perfect for: middle and high school teachers, activists, and lovers of socially conscious art.

Ready to stuff some stockings with some great reads? Find these great books at your local bookseller or order online for the new year.

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