CCBC June 2014 Newsletter: National Aboriginal History Month



June Book List
Author Corner: An Interview with David A. Robertson
Classroom Activity Suggestion
Summer Reading Lists
Out Now: Spring 2014 issues of Best Books and Book News
INSPIRE! Toronto International Book Fair Presents Literary Fun for Children, Teachers, and Librarians!
Next Month…

June Book List

by Emma Sakamoto

June is National Aboriginal History Month, the perfect time to read about Aboriginal culture. Here is our list of books, including traditional legends and historical accounts, as well as stories about contemporary Aboriginal life in Canada.

Interest Level (IL) is listed by age; Reading Level (RL) is listed by grade.

Picture Books

Caribou Song Caribou Song
Written by Tomson Highway
Illustrated by John Rombough
Fifth House Publishers, 2013
ISBN: 978-1-89725-261-1
IL: Ages 6-10  RL: Grades 3-4
Written in both English and Cree, this is the story of a family who follow the caribou. One day, the boys are so busy playing that they don’t hear the caribou approach and fill the meadow. When they can’t find their parents, the boys are not afraid but open their hearts to embrace the caribou spirit. Originally published in 2001 by HarperCollins Canada, with illustrations by Brian Deines in the Songs of the North Wind Trilogy.
Amazon | Indigo | Canadian Bookstores | Wholesalers

Powwow Counting in Cree Powwow Counting in Cree
Written by Penny M. Thomas
Illustrated by Melinda Josie
HighWater Press, 2013
ISBN: 978-1-55379-392-2
IL: Ages 1-8  RL: Grade 1
This unique counting book introduces Cree numbers, from one to 10. Featuring powwow imagery that reflects the rich culture and traditions of the Cree people, the rhyme, rhythm and detailed illustrations combine to make language learning a joyful experience for young readers. A pronunciation guide is included.
Amazon | Indigo | Canadian Bookstores | Wholesalers

Rainbow Crow Rainbow Crow
Written by David Bouchard
Illustrated by David Jean
Music by Manantial
Red Deer Press, 2012
ISBN: 978-0-88995-458-8
                          IL: Ages 7-12  RL: Grade 4
Before two-leggeds walked on Mother Earth, there was a great cold. The animals formed a council; someone had to seek help from the Creator. Rainbow Crow, a most colourful bird, was selected because of his beautiful voice that would surely impress the Creator. Rainbow Crow risked everything to bring fire to his friends and in the process lost his splendid colours and magnificent voice. Written in English and Ojibwe. Includes accompanying music on a CD. This title is also available in French as Corneille Arc-en-ciel.
Amazon | Indigo | Canadian Bookstores | Wholesalers

Raven Brings the Light Raven Brings the Light
Written by Roy Henry Vickers and Robert Budd
Illustrated by Roy Henry Vickers
Harbour Publishing, 2013
                                    ISBN: 978-1-55017-593-6
                                    IL: Ages 5-12  RL: Grades 3-4
This Northwest coast legend introduces Weget, born at a time when darkness covers the land. With the gift of a raven’s skin that allows him to fly as well as transform, Weget turns into a bird and journeys from Haida Gwaii into the sky. There, the Chief of the Heavens keeps the light in a box. Weget must outsmart the Chief and escape with the daylight back down to Earth. Readers will also want to check out the recently released Cloudwalker by the same author/illustrator duo.
Amazon | Indigo | Canadian Bookstores | Wholesalers

The Raven and the Loon The Raven and the Loon
Written by Rachel Qitsualik-Tinsley and Sean Qitsualik-Tinsley
Illustrated by Kim Smith
Inhabit Media Inc., 2013
ISBN: 978-1-927095-50-8
                                    IL: Ages 4-10  RL: Grades 2-3
Long ago, Raven and Loon were both white. Their feathers had no colour at all. Raven spent his days swooping through the sky, trying to fight off his incessant boredom, while loon spent her days in her iglu, working away on her sewing. One day, Raven visited Loon and suggested a sewing game that would give their feathers some much-needed colour. The results – not at all what the two birds expected – led to Raven and Loon acquiring their now-familiar coats.
Amazon | Indigo | Canadian Bookstores | Wholesalers

Junior and Intermediate

Bear Walker Bear Walker
(Adventures of Rabbit and Bear Paws, Book 5)
Written by Chad Solomon and Christopher Meyer
Illustrated by Chad Solomon
Little Spirit Bear Productions, 2011
ISBN: 978-0-9739906-7-4
                           IL: Ages 7-12  RL: Grades 3-4
A winter’s day full of fun and excitement takes an unexpected turn when Rabbit and Bear Paws cross paths with a mysterious and powerful healer known as Bear Walker. He seems to be hiding a secret and wants something from the boys, so Rabbit and Bear Paws must outsmart Bear Walker to protect their family secrets.
Amazon | Canadian Bookstores | Wholesalers

Hannah & the Spindle Whorl Hannah & the Spindle Whorl
Written by Carol Anne Shaw
Ronsdale Press, 2010
ISBN: 978-1-55380-103-0
IL: Ages 10-13  RL: Grades 4-6
Hannah finds an ancient Salish spindle whorl in a cave near her home. As she learns about the history of the native people on Canada’s west coast she is mysteriously transported back 150 years where she meets Yisella, a young Cowichan girl. Together they experience the events that came with the arrival of the Europeans and the real reason Hannah was meant to find the spindle whorl.
Amazon | Indigo | Canadian Bookstores | Wholesalers

Outcasts of River Falls Outcasts of River Falls
Written by Jacqueline Guest
Coteau Books, 2012
ISBN: 978-1-55050-480-4
IL: Ages 8-12  RL: Grades 3-5
After Kathryn’s father’s death, she moves to Alberta to live with her Aunt Belle. Having never learned about the struggles of her Métis relations, she begins to learn about them from her aunt. When a mysterious highwayman comes to town and is framed for a crime, Aunt Belle tries to protect him. Is she placing herself in danger, and how will Kathryn be able to help? This is the sequel to Belle of Batoche.
Amazon | Indigo | Canadian Bookstores | Wholesalers

Red River Stallion Red River Stallion
Written by Troon Harrison
Bloomsbury Children’s Books, 2013
ISBN: 978-1-59990-845-8
IL: Ages 10-14  RL: Grades 5-6
When a young orphan named Amelia first sees a red stallion she is sure he is her spirit guide, but the beautiful horse is headed west to the Red River Valley. Amelia discovers a letter from her father, a man she’s never met, asking his family to join him in the Red River Valley. Amelia must decide whether to stay with her mother’s tribe or follow the stallion in the hope that she will find her father. This is the sequel to The Horse Road.
Amazon | Indigo | Canadian Bookstores | Wholesalers

The Mouse Woman Trilogy: 30th Anniversary Edition The Mouse Woman Trilogy: 30th Anniversary Edition
Written by Christie Harris
Illustrated by Douglas Tait
Raincoast Books, 2007
ISBN: 978-1-55192-880-7
IL: Ages 9-13  RL: Grade 4
Mouse Woman is a narnauk: a shape-shifting being from Haida legends. She is determined to maintain order in the world – even if she must sometimes resort to trickery! Contains: Mouse Woman and the Mischief-Makers, Mouse Woman and the Muddleheads and Mouse Woman and the Vanished Princesses. Includes illustrations.
Amazon | Indigo | Canadian Bookstores | Wholesalers

Young Adult

Broken Trail Broken Trail
Written by Jean Rae Baxter
Ronsdale Press, 2011
ISBN: 978-1-55380-109-2
IL: Ages 12 and up  RL: Grades 6-7
In the middle of the American Revolution, 13-year-old Broken Trail is caught between conflicting worlds. Having been born British but raised by the Oneida, Broken Trail is faced with a difficult decision when he finds his long-lost brother. Do his loyalties lie with his brother and the British or with the First Nations people who adopted him? Or can he find a way forward that will benefit both peoples.
Amazon | Indigo | Canadian Bookstores | Wholesalers

Counting on Hope Counting on Hope
Written by Sylvia Olsen
Sono Nis Press, 2009
ISBN: 978-1-55039-173-2
IL: Ages 12 and up  RL: Grades 6-7
Set in 1862, this is the story of two young girls from different backgrounds. Hope Richardson is from England, and Letia is a member of the Lamalcha people. Letia’s people have always had their summer camp on the island that the Crown has deeded to Hope’s family. Can the two groups live peacefully together, or will Letia’s mother’s ominous dream come true?
Amazon | Indigo | Canadian Bookstores | Wholesalers

Dog Tracks Dog Tracks
Written by Ruby Slipperjack
Fifth House Publishers, 2008
ISBN: 978-1-897252-29-1
IL: Ages 12 and up  RL: Grades 7-8
Abby is having trouble fitting in at Bear Creek Reserve. After having lived most of her life with her grandparents in town, it’s definitely a transition moving back to the reserve. When Choom, her grandfather, falls ill, Abby must leave her best friends at school, her supportive grandparents, and her perfect pink bedroom, and adjust to living with her mom. Ruby Slipperjack, a member of the Eabametoong First Nation, writes the story of those who return to the reserve and rediscover their culture.
Amazon | Indigo | Canadian Bookstores | Wholesalers

Nobody Cries at Bingo Nobody Cries at Bingo
Written by Dawn Dumont
Thistledown Press, 2011
ISBN: 978-1-897235-84-3
IL: Ages 13 and up  RL: Grades 6-7
The reader is invited to witness the Dumont family’s life on the Okanese First Nation reserve, as narrated by Dawn herself. As she recounts with wry humour her story of family and school life and off-reserve experiences, the tale of a girl who loves to read begins to unfold. It is her hopes, dreams and incredible humour that reveal to us the beauty and love within her family.
Amazon | Indigo | Canadian Bookstores | Wholesalers

The Night Wanderer: A Graphic Novel The Night Wanderer: A Graphic Novel
Written by Drew Hayden Taylor
Adapted by Alison Kooistra
Illustrated by Michael Wyatt
Annick Press, 2013
ISBN: 978-1-55451-573-8
IL: Ages 12 and up  RL: Grades 7-8
Tiffany is having relationship problems and issues with both her mom and dad. She feels hopeless and alone – until a mysterious stranger, Pierre L’Errant, enters the picture. Little does Tiffany know that Pierre is a vampire who has returned home to die. Her chilling encounter with the dying Pierre, however, helps her come to terms with her own troubles.
Amazon | Indigo | Canadian Bookstores | Wholesalers


A Stranger at Home: A True Story A Stranger at Home: A True Story
Written by Christy Jordan-Fenton and Margaret Pokiak-Fenton
Illustrated by Liz Amini-Holmes
Annick Press, 2011
ISBN: 978-1-5541-362-8
IL: Ages 9-12  RL: Grades 4-6
In this sequel to Fatty Legs, 10-year-old Margaret excitedly returns home after spending two years at a residential school. Margaret does not receive the homecoming she expected as her mother doesn’t recognize her, she’s forgotten her people’s language and she can’t stomach her mother’s food. Margaret begins a painful journey to reclaim her rightful place among her people. Primary readers will want to check out the picture book adaptations of these award-winning titles – When I Was Eight and Not My Girl.
Amazon | Indigo | Canadian Bookstores | Wholesalers

Looks Like Daylight: Voices of Indigenous Kids Looks Like Daylight: Voices of Indigenous Kids
Written by Deborah Ellis
Groundwood Books, 2013
ISBN: 978-1-55498-413-8
IL: Ages 11-16  RL: Grades 5-7
For two years, author Deborah Ellis travelled across the United States and Canada interviewing Native children. The result is a compelling collection of interviews with children aged nine to 18 as they talk about their daily lives, the things that interest them and about how being Native has affected who they are and how they see the world. They come from all over the continent, and their stories run the gamut – some heartbreaking, many others full of pride and hope.
Amazon | Indigo | Canadian Bookstores | Wholesalers

Real Justice: Convicted for Being Mi'kmaq - The Story of Donald Marshall Jr. Real Justice: Convicted for Being Mi’kmaq – The Story of Donald Marshall Jr.
(Real Justice)
Written by Bill Swan
James Lorimer, 2013
ISBN: 978-1-4594-0438-0
IL: Ages 13 and up  RL: Grades 3-5
When a black teen was murdered in a Cape Breton park late one night, Donald Marshall Jr. became a prime suspect. Police coached two teens to testify against Donald, which helped convict him of a murder he did not commit. He was eventually acquitted of the crime and a royal commission inquiry into his wrongful conviction found that racial prejudice contributed to his conviction.
Amazon | Indigo | Canadian Bookstores | Wholesalers

Tecumseh Tecumseh
Written by James Laxer
Illustrated by Richard Rudnicki
Groundwood Books, 2012
ISBN: 978-1-55498-123-6
IL: Ages 9-12  RL: Grades 4-6
Born during turbulent times, Tecumseh realized that unless native peoples came together to form a confederacy they would not hold onto their land. As a great orator, he encouraged other tribes to join forces with his own Shawnee people and sided with the British when the United States declared war on Great Britain. This richly illustrated biography was published as a tribute to Tecumseh on the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812.
Amazon | Indigo | Canadian Bookstores | Wholesalers

The First Flock: Certain Rights Based on Aboriginal Heritage (The Charter for Children) The First Flock: Certain Rights Based on Aboriginal Heritage
(The Charter for Children)
Written by Dustin Milligan
Illustrated by Meredith Luce
DC Canada Education Publishing, 2013
ISBN: 978-1-926776-46-0
                            IL: Ages 10 and up  RL: Grade 5
Thanadel, a Canada goose, and her family have been migrating south from the Northwest Territories for centuries. When a flock of crows move in on the migrators’ resting grounds, the geese are forced off their land and struggle to survive through the winter. Will Thanadel and the flock’s chief be able to make peace with the crows and live in harmony?
Amazon | Canadian Bookstores | Wholesalers

For even more titles, download the CCBC’s list of Aboriginal-themed books for kids and teens here.

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Author Corner: An Interview with David Alexander Robertson

by Kate Abrams

David Alexander Robertson David Alexander Robertson is a graphic novelist and writer. He is the author of several successful graphic novels, including the series 7 Generations, and The Peacemaker: Thanadelthur, the final work in his Tales From Big Spirit series. He has also written for television, and is currently at work on his new novel, The Evolution of Alice. David and his family make their home in Winnipeg, Manitoba.

What is your process when working with illustrators? What have you learned about the collaborative process that you think budding writers need to know?
I have a process that works with most illustrators. I mean, doing a graphic novel, when you’re working with an illustrator, needs to be a collaborative process. What you are doing, essentially, is handing your vision over to somebody else and asking them to bring that vision to life as best they can. That’s a tough thing for a writer to do, and a tough thing for an illustrator to be entrusted with. So, the relationship needs to be symbiotic. Constant communication. For me, I provide a completed script to the illustrator as soon as it’s been edited, and after they’ve created thumbnails we get together and go over them together. We pour through each page and, together, select the best way to render each panel and each page. From there, the illustrator provides me with the completed pages one at a time until all of them have been received. Throughout this process, I am constantly emailing or messaging with the illustrator. Each graphic novel takes about six months to complete. So, my advice to writers who cannot illustrate (of which I am one) is to find an illustrator who you feel can best bring your vision to life, and, once you have found that illustrator, work with them each step of the way. And you have to, in some ways, let go of that vision a little bit for a few reasons. In the end, it’s not just yours alone. You have to accept and appreciate that. Also, the illustrator might have some pretty cool ideas that will improve your vision. Allow that to happen.

What inspired you to start writing graphic novels about Indigenous history—why that medium and that subject in particular?
That’s a loaded question, and a great one. I grew up disconnected from my Indigenous heritage for various reasons, but most applicable here is the fact that I learned nothing about Indigenous culture or history in school. To me, and maybe this is because both of my parents are educators, education is the best way to combat racism and discrimination because all of it stems from a lack of knowledge. About eight years ago, I decided that I was going to do something so that other children going through school today weren’t at a disconnect with Indigenous culture and history. I believe understanding Indigenous culture and Indigenous peoples’ place within Canadian history is imperative for all Canadians.

I decided that I was going to educate youth about Indigenous culture and history through graphic novels. This, again, was based on my own experiences going through school because textbooks never engaged me, regardless of content. Now, graphic novels were really the only thing I would read as a youth, and I always ask this question to students: would you rather learn from a textbook or a graphic novel? The answer is always graphic novels. Now, this is not to say that textbooks aren’t important, but you don’t catch a fish without bait. The graphic novel is the best way to draw students in, and it leads to an interest in expanding knowledge. So, a student reads a graphic novel on the residential school system and then wants to read Shingwauk’s Vision, as an example.

7 Generations by David Alexander Robertson How can graphic novels be effective when teaching history to children? In other words, what are the benefits, as opposed to a novel or textbook?
There are a few things that come to mind. First and foremost, the graphic novel and the comic book offer an illustrated world. The marriage of illustrations and words makes for a better and more effective learning experience. Illustrations are visual cues that add depth and context to words and this leads to better retention. This is something you don’t get with a textbook or a novel. And, as I mentioned previously, the graphic novel or comic book are excellent intermediary tools in education. This means that they assist students in graduating to more complicated educational tools, such as textbooks, for example. A student reads a graphic novel, and it serves as a primer, or introduction, to a more in depth look at a particular topic. And it’s not just for history, by the way, but for any subject: math, science, language arts, and so on. Finally, I think a teacher’s goal is to make history come alive, to make it seem real to their students. The graphic novel, by virtue of its medium, does just that. History comes alive on every page. A student reads about Gabriel Dumont and the Northwest Rebellion, but they can also see it, smell it, hear it. That’s powerful.

Do you have any suggestions for teachers using graphic novels in the classroom for the first time?
My graphic novel series all come with teacher’s guides, which are highly effective and a great resource for teachers. The teacher’s guides provide deeper insight into the work that assist teachers in getting the most out of the graphic novels for their students. They also provide lesson plans and activities that teachers can use in the classroom. Each of these guides are available for free on my publisher’s website ( Of course, not every graphic novel has a teacher’s guide available for it, so I can also give some general advice. I would compile a list of resources that can act as complimentary for the graphic novel’s subject. This kind of supplemental information is exactly what I mentioned previously: resources that the students will ladder into once they’ve absorbed the story as presented in the graphic novel. So, again, for a graphic novel on the residential school system, the teacher might want to have some textbooks available on the residential school system, a video like We Were Children, or even, best of all, consider bringing in a survivor to share their story to a class. Of course, if that is done, ensure the teacher knows the proper protocols for this. You could find this out by contacting a local Indigenous organization. But, in general, I would simply ensure that if a teacher makes the great decision to bring a graphic novel into the classroom, they should ensure they are using the graphic novel to its strengths: as an intermediary tool, for its visual nature, for its connection to popular culture (I haven’t mentioned this previously, but bringing a graphic novel into the classroom instantly makes the learning more relevant because it contextualizes the lesson for students in a way they can appreciate and understand), and for its unique ability to motivate students to read and learn.

What books, among your own and others, would you recommend for students and teachers for National Aboriginal History Month?
Well, clearly, my graphic novels are the ones you want in your classroom if you are a teacher. Next question. Okay, I’m kidding (a bit). So, my graphic novels are great resources: 7 Generations, Sugar Falls, and my new series, Tales From Big Spirit, all deal with Indigenous history and culture in engaging ways, but also connect history to contemporary society. That sort of context is great. I always ask students to think about how history has brought us where we are, and then how what they do now will bring them to tomorrow.

Of course, there are others. My favourites are: April Raintree, Come Walk With Me, Green Grass, Running Water, Medicine River, Keeper ‘N Me, I Heard The Owl Call My Name, Manitowapow: Aboriginal Writings From the Land of Water, North End Love Songs, and Three Day Road.

Find out more about David Alexander Robertson and his books at

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Classroom Activity Suggestion

By Sandra O’Brien

Storytelling is a commonly used art form in Aboriginal cultures used to pass stories from the past along to next generations. Taking an Aboriginal myth, legend or folktale, have students break into groups and learn the story to retell aloud. Each student will learn one section of the story (they do not need to memorize the story and can retell it in their own words, as long as they stay true to the general idea of the story.) Encourage them to incorporate the use of voice, sound effects and props to bring the story to life.

Once the students have had ample time to prepare their stories for telling, have a storytelling session and share the stories with each other, or invite a group of younger students in to entertain. To prepare students for this activity, teachers might want to invite a storyteller in to the classroom to demonstrate the art of storytelling for their students.

Sandra O’Brien, a former teacher, is the Interim Program Coordinator at the Canadian Children’s Book Centre.

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Summer Reading

Amy Mathers of Amy’s Marathon of Books recently wrote a guest blog post for us, and shared her top 10 favourite teen books for summer reading. Click here to read her post and browse her selections!

The CCBC’s library coordinator, Meghan Howe, has also put together a list of 2014 summer reads, with books for kids of all ages. Click here to download the PDF document.

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Out Now: Spring 2014 issues of Canadian Children’s Book News and Best Books for Kids & Teens

Book NewsThe Spring 2014 of Canadian Children’s Book News is out now and features: “Remembering Not to Forget” – why Linda Granfield writes about war; “Finding the Humanity, Telling the Story” – how Sharon McKay explores friendship, loyalty and even laughter in conflict zones; new and classic titles on World War I, Book Week news and much more. Plus three writers who are also editors share how they balance their two roles – and reviews of 40 new books.

Book News The Spring 2014 edition of Best Books for Kids & Teens, the CCBC’s semi-annual selection guide to the best Canadian books for children and young adults, features reviews of 190 titles for readers from toddler to teen. All of the titles in Best Books have been handpicked by expert committees of educators, booksellers, and school and public librarians from across Canada. The reviewed materials include picture books, junior/intermediate fiction, graphic novels, and powerful teen fiction, in addition to a wide array of non-fiction, magazines and audio/video resources.

Check your local newsstand or purchase them on our website.

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INSPIRE! Toronto International Book Fair Presents Literary Fun for Children, Teachers, and Librarians!

The latest celebration of all things literary is fast approaching (November 13-16), and INSPIRE! HQ is buzzing as they continue to pull together a dynamic programming list that will transform the Metro Toronto Convention Centre into a book lover’s paradise.

In addition to readings, Q&As, meet & greets, and signings with local, Canadian, and international authors, INSPIRE! TIBF is proud to present a world-class workshop and seminar series, with sessions for all ages and interests. This series includes professional development workshops for teachers and librarians, and workshops and activities for children of all ages in story-building, illustration, creative writing, and more!

Not only will classes, families, and children have an opportunity to participate in these workshops, but there is an area at the Fair just for them: Reading will come alive at the INSPIRE’s Children’s Courtyard and Activity Zone. Featuring some of Canada and the world’s best children’s authors and illustrators, families will delight in traditional readings and drawing demonstrations. Join them for lively, interactive programming and activities (creative crafts, music, games, multicultural fun, songs, dancing) based on recent children’s books.

A full list of their dynamic workshops and programs will be available in the coming months.

For more information, visit the INSPIRE! TIBF website,, tweet them at @InspireTIBF or contact Maddy Curry at

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Next Month…

We will be taking a break during the month of July, but we’ll be back in August just in time for the return to school. Do you have any suggestions for future newsletters? Email us your ideas!

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