Canadian

Fatty Legs

This residential school memoir from Christy Jordan-Fenton and Margaret Pokiak-Fenton's is intended for young readers.

Christy Jordan-Fenton & Margaret Pokiak-Fenton, illustrated by Liz Amini-Holmes

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 artworks from Liz Amini-Holmes, this inspiring first-person account of a plucky girl's determination to confront her tormentor will linger with young readers. (Annick Press)

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From the book

When I was a young girl, outsiders came flitting about the North. They plucked us from our homes on the scattered islands of the Arctic Ocean and carried us back to the nests they called schools, in Aklavik.

Three times I had made the five-day journey to Aklavik with my father, across the open ocean, past Tuktoyaktuk, and through the tangled Mackenzie River delta, to buy supplies. I was mesmerized on each trip by the spectacle of the strange dark-cloaked nuns, whose tongues flickered with French-Canadian accents, and the pale-skinned priests who had traveled across a different ocean from a far-off land called Belgium. They held the key to the greatest of the outsiders' mysteries — reading.


From Fatty Legs by Christy Jordan-Fenton and Margaret Pokiak-Fenton ©2010. Published by Annick Press.

Author interviews

An Inuk grandmother's life has inspired a best-selling series of books about residential school so popular, they're set to become Canadian children's classic. Fatty Legs, the first in the series, is still making Top 10 lists six years after coming out. 6:31

More about this book