When Grandpa tells his granddaughter he has lost his Cree words, the 7-year-old asks for an explanation.
The little girl leaves school elated that she has created her own dream catcher and anxious to share it with Grandpa, who meets her. Interested in her Cree culture, she asks if he’d tell her the Cree word for “grandfather.” He tells her the truth: long ago, he lost his Cree language when he was forced to attend a residential school with other children of his village. When the two arrive home, they sit on the porch stairs together so he can answer her many questions about the way in which his first language was stolen from him and his classmates. Distressed, his granddaughter comforts him and later finds the perfect way to help. Florence’s tender text soothes the harsh reality of having Native language stolen while attending one of Canada’s former residential schools for Indigenous children. Grimard’s equally emotive illustrations show the stark realities of the experience in symbolic images, as when a crow that embodies their words is locked in a cage, and literal ones, as in a heartbreaking picture of grieving mothers stretching their arms toward the bus that takes their children away. At the same time the soft colors and nuanced expressions enrich Florence’s text. Images from the past are rendered in sepia tones, while bright blues, greens, and russets suffuse the contemporary tale.
Unforgettable. (Picture book. 4-8)