Children’s Book Reviews
Children's Book Reviews: Stolen Words
Publish December 12, 2017
Stolen Words by Melanie Florence, an award-winning writer of Cree and Scottish heritage, is a moving and eloquent story about the pain caused by losing language and the importance of reclamation. A little girl curiously asks her Grandpa how to say “grandfather” in Cree. He sadly replies, “I lost my words a long time ago.” Sitting close together on their front porch, the elder has a candid and open conversation with his granddaughter about his residential school experiences. As he shares troubling memories of “harsh sharp words” and “raised hands”, the child tenderly touches his face and tries to “wipe the sadness away” with her small hands. At school the next day, the little girl finds an “Introduction to Cree” in the library and she presents her grandfather with his words, along with the poignant greeting of “Tânisi, nimosôm.”
Gabrielle Grimard’s evocative watercolour illustrations are emotionally powerful. The residential school scene memories are presented in stark, black and white sketches. One particularly haunting image shows a group of boarding school boys with their mouths open, as their words and voices dissolve into the air and take the shape of a black bird that is locked in a cage. This bird is finally freed when nimosôm’s “gnarled hand” turns the pages of the dictionary. Stolen Words tells a heartbreakingly honest story that all Canadians must hear.
Linda Ludke is a librarian at London Public Library. Her reviews have appeared in Quill and Quire, School Library Journal and CM: Canadian Review of Materials. When she’s not reading and writing she also loves searching for vintage treasures.
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