When I Was Eight

Average Rating: 4 stars out of 5.
When I Was Eight
Baker & Taylor
Looks at the experiences of a strong-willed young Inuit girl who receives permission from her father to travel to a residential religious school run by non-Inuit outsiders, where she struggles to adapt to the new way of living.

Firefly Books Ltd

Nothing will stop a strong-minded young Inuit girl from learning how to read.

Olemaun is eight and knows a lot of things. But she does not know how to read. She must travel to the outsiders' school to learn, ignoring her father's warning of what will happen there.

The nuns at the school take her Inuit name and call her Margaret. They cut off her long hair and force her to do chores. She has only one thing left -- a book about a girl named Alice, who falls down a rabbit hole.

Margaret's tenacious character draws the attention of a black-cloaked nun who tries to break her spirit at every turn. But she is more determined than ever to read.

By the end, Margaret knows that, like Alice, she has traveled to a faraway land and stood against a tyrant, proving herself to be brave and clever.

Based on the true story of Margaret Pokiak-Fenton, and complemented by stunning illustrations, When I Was Eight makes the bestselling Fatty Legs accessible to young children. Now they, too, can meet this remarkable girl who reminds us what power we hold when we can read.

Publisher: Toronto : Annick Press, c2013
ISBN: 9781554514915
Branch Call Number: J PIC J
Characteristics: 1 v. (unpaged) : col. ill. ; 24 cm.
Alternate Title: Fatty legs


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May 14, 2013

When Olemaun was eight, she decided that she wanted to learn how to read. To do so, she had to attend a mission school far from her Arctic home on Banks Island. She begged her father to send her to the “outsiders’ school”. He was reluctant, but he finally agreed to let her go.

She soon discovered why her father had misgivings.

The nuns at the school cut off her lovely long hair. They took away her warm parka and other clothes, replacing them with a thin school tunic and scratchy underwear. They ignored her Inuit name, calling her “Margaret” instead, and they gave her endless chores as if she were a servant.

They were not interested in teaching Olemaun how to read, or even how to speak and understand English.

One nun in particular humiliated Olemaun regularly, and one dreadful night, she locked Olemaun in a cold, dark cellar alone for many hours.

The nuns’ callous and sometimes cruel treatment made her even more determined to read – and she did. Little by little, with persistence and determination, Olemaun learned how, and she was able to experience the power that we hold when we can read.

When I was Eight is the picture book version of Margaret Pokiak-Fenton’s true account of her experiences at residential school in her memoir, Fatty Legs. (A sequel, A Stranger at Home, tells of Margaret’s experiences when she returned to her home.)

Olemaun’s story is powerful and disturbing, and readers will admire her for her incredible spirit and courage.

Co-author Christy Jordan-Fenton is the daughter-in-law of Margaret Pokiak-Fenton.


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May 14, 2013

SPL_Childrens thinks this title is suitable for between the ages of 6 and 9


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When I Was Eight
Jordan-Fenton, Christy
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