Wiijiwaaganag: More Than Brothers

Makwa Enewed. Jan. 2023. 240p. pap. $29.95. ISBN 9781938065224.
Gr 4-6–Two boys meet at Yardley Indian Boarding School in Minnesota, each from a vastly different background, and learn about each other’s cultures as they form a deep connection. Although this is a work of fiction, Razor details the difficult life Indigenous students endured in government-run residential schools. On March 3, 1891, the U.S. Congress authorized the Commissioner of Indian Affairs to require Native children to attend boarding schools, the intention of which was to strip Indigenous children of their culture and identity so they would better assimilate into American society. Indigenous children were taken from their families and forced to live at these institutions where they were not allowed to speak their own language or participate in their culture. They were subject to forced labor, abuse, and neglect. Writing in straightforward language, Razor details the friendship and adventures between Anishinaabe student Niizh Eshkanag and Roger Poznanski, the principal’s white nephew who is also attending Yardley. After overcoming their differences, the two find themselves on a life-changing rescue mission to find their young schoolmate who runs away when he is abused. The text has dual language features; many of the conversations are written in Ojibwemowin, an Anishinaabe language. There is a helpful glossary at the back of the book to guide readers. Descriptions of life in Indigenous households during the 19th century will appeal to dedicated readers of historical fiction. The novel highlights the impact American culture and government had on Indigenous peoples of this time period.
VERDICT This in-depth, thoughtful novel would be a strong choice for a book report, or for civic and historical projects.

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