Tag Archives: Margaret Pokiak-Fenton

Back to School Nightmares

6 Sep

I haven’t had a back to school nightmare yet, but there are still two sleeps until the first day of school.

Last night I had a weird dream that was more like a YA mystery novel set in a school called Saint Kellare’s. Other than the school’s name, the only other details I remember are vague images of long-haired girls in tweed skirts and dark blazers skulking along ivy-covered walls.

For some kids, school really is a nightmare. Christy Jordan-Fenton and Margaret Pokiak-Fenton have made a literary career out of writing about Margaret’s experiences at residential schools for Native Canadians in the high arctic.

Although Fatty Legs  was published in 2010, I just got around to it now because I was considering it for a read aloud.


I won’t use it as a read aloud, but I will use it for our first unit of writer’s workshop: personal narratives

Goodreads Summary: The moving memoir of an Inuit girl who emerges from a residential school with her spirit intact.

Eight-year-old Margaret Pokiak has set her sights on learning to read, even though it means leaving her village in the high Arctic. Faced with unceasing pressure, her father finally agrees to let her make the five-day journey to attend school, but he warns Margaret of the terrors of residential schools.

At school Margaret soon encounters the Raven, a black-cloaked nun with a hooked nose and bony fingers that resemble claws. She immediately dislikes the strong-willed young Margaret. Intending to humiliate her, the heartless Raven gives gray stockings to all the girls — all except Margaret, who gets red ones. In an instant Margaret is the laughingstock of the entire school.

In the face of such cruelty, Margaret refuses to be intimidated and bravely gets rid of the stockings. Although a sympathetic nun stands up for Margaret, in the end it is this brave young girl who gives the Raven a lesson in the power of human dignity.

Complemented by archival photos from Margaret Pokiak-Fenton’s collection and striking artwork from Liz Amini-Holmes, this inspiring first-person account of a plucky girl’s determination to confront her tormentor will linger with young readers.

The duo continues Margaret’s story in A Stranger at Home, which tells of Margaret’s return to her  family after two years at school.


They then rewrote them for a younger audience and created two picture books

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I hope everyone has a great start to the 2015-16 school year.

Coming Home

12 Jan

A homecoming should be a wonderful celebration, but it isn’t when Margaret returns after 2 years away at a residential school.


Margaret was sent away from her Arctic home at age 8 to go to school  and was not allowed to speak her language, eat her food, or learn her people’s traditions. So, when she returns home in Not My Girl by Christy Jordan-Fenton and Margaret Pokiak-Fenton, she is unrecognizable, “not my girl”. As the story unfolds, slowly, Margaret relearns all she had lost during her two years away. She regains her family’s trust and finally feels that she has found her home again.

From the publisher: Based on the true story of Margaret Pokiak-Fenton, and complemented by evocative illustrations, “Not My Girl” makes the original, award-winning memoir, “A Stranger at Home,” accessible to younger children. It is also a sequel to the picture book “When I Was Eight.” A poignant story of a determined young girl’s struggle to belong, it will both move and inspire readers everywhere.

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