When We Were Alone

by David A. Robertson | illustrated by Julie Flett

Grade: for grades K–3
(1 customer review)
SKU: 978-1-55379-673-2 Category:


  • Hardcover
  • eBook

A National Bestseller

When a young girl helps tend to her grandmother’s garden, she begins to notice things about her grandmother that make her curious. Why does her grandmother have long braided hair and wear 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 everything was taken away. When We Were Alone is a story about a difficult time in history and, ultimately, a story of empowerment and strength.

Also available in a bilingual Swampy Cree/English edition.

Great ideas for using this book with young children can be found in the Parent/Teacher Guide for When We Were Alone.  A FREE copy of the guide is available for downloading.

Lexile 600L

Each spread is compelling in its own way, offering remarkable depictions of resilience and the strong emotional ties within this family. An empowering and important story.
—Booklist, a starred review

A quiet story…of love and resistance.… Flett’s collage illustrations, with their simplicity and earthy colors, are soulful and gentle….  All readers will connect with how Nókom lives in celebration of colors, her long hair, her language, and, most of all, her family.
The Horn Book Magazine, a starred review

When We Were Alone is exquisite and stunning, for the power conveyed by the words Robertson wrote, and for the illustrations that Flett created. I highly recommend it.
—Debbie Reese, American Indians in Children’s Literature

Wow! Beautiful, painful, and shining with truth and dignity. Bravo!
—Richard Van Camp, Author

Spare, poetic, and moving, this Cree heritage story makes a powerful impression.
—Kirkus Reviews

When We Were Alone is one of our favourite picture books.
—CCBC’s Author’s Corner

Among White Plains Library’s Recommended Reading for Native American Heritage Month

Winner of the Governor General’s Literary Awards – Illustrated Books

Finalist for the TD Canadian Children’s Literature Award

Chosen for One Book, One Philadelphia 2020 (Youth Companion)
—Free Library of Philadelphia

Chosen for Horn Book’s Fanfare a list of best picture books of the year, 2017

Selected as the Book of the Month (Nov 2017) by the Anti-Defamation League

Winner of the McNally Robinson Book for Young People Award

A Shining Willow finalist, 2018

Received Honourable Mention for the Alcuin Society Children’s Award

Chosen for CCBC Choices 2017 annual best-of-the-year list by the Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Selected by The Canadian Children’s Book Centre for Best Books for Kids & Teens and signified as a title of exceptional caliber

ERAC Evaluated and Approved

When We Were Alone is available as an ebook in .epub and .pdf formats. Select a format using the drop-down menu to the left and checkout as usual. You will be sent an email with instructions to download the file.


1 review for When We Were Alone

  1. Renuka

    A beautifully written book with a powerful message about Residential Schools. Explained so that young children can relate to and discuss. I am so glad there are resources like this to share with our students.

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