I Am Not a Number

DUPUIS, Jenny Kay & . illus. by Gillian Newland. 32p. photos. Second Story. Oct. 2016. Tr $18.95. ISBN 9781927583944.
Gr 4–6—A spotlight on the injustice of Canada's residential school program based on Dupuis's grandmother's childhood experience. The story begins in medias res: the front door is open, and a gruff white man is demanding that Irene Couchie's parents hand over their children—now "wards of the government." Couchie and her two brothers are taken from their home on Nipissing First Nation to attend a residential boarding school many miles away. Couchie learns that names are not allowed at this school; she becomes number 759. Subdued illustrations assist in setting the overall serious tone. The facial expressions of Couchie throughout the year bring the raw hopelessness of the situation to light. Many scenes are alarming; for example, Sister Mary is shown cutting a crying Couchie's hair off. After the kids return home for the summer, Couchie's parents vow to hide their children from the government and the "Indian Agent" sent to recollect them. Back matter contains material on Canada's residential school system, which "educated" indigenous peoples, and the final report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission condemning the practice in 2015. Dupuis also provides more information about her grandmother.
VERDICT Pair this recommended selection with Nicola I. Campbell's Shi-shi-etko for students learning about the boarding school system.

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