When We Were Alone
David A. Robertson, illustrated by Julie Flett
When a young girl helps tend to her grandmother's garden, she begins to notice things about her grandmother that make her curious. Why does her grandmother have long braided hair and wear beautifully coloured clothing?
Why does she speak another language and spend so much time with her family? As she asks her grandmother about these things, she is told about life in a residential school a long time ago, where everything was taken away. When We Were Alone is a story about a difficult time in history and, ultimately, a story of empowerment and strength. (From Portage and Main Press)
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- How David Alexander Robertson wrote a picture book about the history of Canada's residential schools
- Why David A. Robertson wanted When We Were Alone to celebrate the Cree language
"I wanted to make sure the history that I was discussing in this book was something that was digestible and appropriate for younger readers. It was also about capturing the right tone and rhythm — this was something that I worked really hard at. A lot of that knowledge comes from myself being the father of five children. I've read them thousands of children's books and I see what they connect with. I've seen the ones that they want to read over and over again.
The book is based on universal experiences of children at these schools — including attempts to change their hair, clothing, language and familial connections — and I felt these were things kids could really empathize with.- David A. Robertson
"I've discussed residential school history with my own children and I felt like I knew how far to go and where not to go in terms of subject matter. Any complicated subject needs to start with a foundation. I looked at the foundational teachings of residential school history and focused on the institutionalized attempts to strip identity away from Indigenous children. The book is based on universal experiences of children at these schools — including attempts to change their hair, clothing, language and familial connections — and I felt these were things kids could really empathize with."