Logo Title Quebec Reading Connection

Sugar Falls: A Residential School Story

Henderson, Scott B. (Illustrator)
Portage & Main Press 2011. 40 pages
First published: 2011
ISBN: 9781553793342 (paperback)
9781553793397 (e-book)
Original language: English
Book type: Graphic Text
Book genre: Historical

Text Elements:

characterization, conflict, dialogue, evocative language, layout, multimodal, panel arrangement, point of view, setting

Reading Range

 
Cycle
Elementary
Secondary
 
1
2
3
1
2
ELA
K
1
2
3
4
5
6
1
2
3
4
5
ESL
1
2
3
4
5
6
1
2
3
4
5
ESL Intensive & Enriched
5
6
1
2
3
4
5

Description:

Based on the true experiences of Elder Betty Ross (Cree, Cross Lake First Nation), this short story in comic book form offers insight into Indigenous culture and history, and the systemic racism endured by Indigenous children.

The tale begins with leading questions that direct Daniel’s high school homework assignment, while also serving as discussion points for readers. Daniel’s stressed response to his new assignment (“Great. Seems like I just finished the essay on Helen Betty Osborne, now this?”) quickly changes when he learns his friend April will arrange a meeting with her kokum (grandmother), Betty. Elements of Betty’s culture provide a safe space for her to share her story for the first time: “I am wearing traditional attire—and always in bright colours, because of the bland clothing we were made to wear at the school. I am holding the eagle feather … to honour the past and move forward with courage, honesty and truth.”

High-contrast, black-and-white artwork depicts delicately rendered natural settings of Betty’s early childhood and the harsh school-world alike. In one image, the nun’s black robes bisect the cold white of the school bathroom: “Get in the tub, girl.” In another, long shadows are cast, as the school’s sexual predator leads young Betty—head bowed—from the dorm.

Balancing abuse and injustice are Betty’s memories of her loving adoptive family and her determination to retain her language. In the end, the story’s message is constructively passed between generations—in contrast to the legacy passed down by Canada’s Residential School system: “My father once told me there was an ember in me that would one day ignite to burn as bright as a sacred fire. I believe that ember is in all of us.”

  •  

    Review the conventions of graphic texts and discuss the different crafting choices used by this author.

  •  

    Focus on the way crafting choices are used to construct the big idea(s). In small groups, discuss which ones you notice and their effects.

  •  

    Following reading and discussion, use the text and an inquiry process to explore representations of residential schools and reconciliation in literature for children and young adults. Share findings with peers and adults.

  •  

    Do some research on the residential school system in Canada. In small groups, answer and discuss the teacher’s four questions from the first page.

  •  Look carefully at the characters’ facial expressions throughout. Do they accurately reflect the emotions the characters are experiencing?
  •  

    With a partner, prepare a short presentation on what you believe should be done to “repair” the damage done by residential schools and make amends with First Nations people.

  • To adopt effective work methods
  • To communicate appropriately
  • Citizenship and Community Life
  • Social Sciences