The Secret Pocket

Orca. Apr. 2023. 32p. Tr $21.95. ISBN 9781459833722.
Gr 1-3–A first-person viewpoint gives this story an immediacy that captures the sympathy of readers and holds their attention. The author describes her mother’s experiences at a residential school for Indigenous children in Canada and how she used skills learned from her family to survive. Conditions are described in a matter-of-fact tone, which only underscores the appalling way the children were treated. The color palettes change to contrast the setting at school to that at home. Bare walls, wooden floors, and dull uniforms reflect the bleak circumstances the children are trapped in during the school year, while the time at home is shown in green, gold, pink, and red. Descriptions of all the food the family gathers and prepares are jarringly different from the “mush…gray soup” and “meat…often rotten” that make up the meals at school. But the girls use traditional sewing skills to create secret pockets in which they can smuggle food out of the kitchen and share it with others to ensure their survival. A glossary and author’s note support reader comprehension and explain the author’s personal connection to the events portrayed. Pair this with Carole Lindstrom’s uplifting My Powerful Hair, another redemptive family story from this era.
VERDICT An age-appropriate telling by an Indigenous creative team of a tragic historical period.

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