Logo Title Quebec Reading Connection

When We Were Alone

Flett, Julie (Illustrator)
Portage & Main Press 2016. 28 pages
First published: 2016
ISBN: 9781553796732 (hardcover)
9781553797012 (e-book)
Original language: English
Book type: Picture Book

Text Elements:

recurring patterns, structures and features

Awards

Governor General’s Literary Award – 2017
TD Canadian Children’s Literature Award – Finalist – 2017

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:

This is a beautiful account of a terrible time in Canada’s history. A young girl visits her kókom, or grandmother, and asks questions about her way of life. This leads her grandmother to recall how her time in a residential school shaped her.

Rich with texture, collage-like images of Nókom and her granddaughter are bright and colourful, while Nókom’s recollections of the residential school veer into a bland and dark pallet.

Sparse language conveys the pain of the residential schools: “‘Why were you and Nókomis separated?’ I asked. ‘They didn’t like when we were with family,’ Nókom said, ‘because when we were together we thought too much of home.’”

Although the tale tells the negative assimilation story of First Nations children forced into residential schools, it’s also a celebration of the First Nations’ way of life. Grandmother’s house is a happy place with a garden, bright clothes and visits over bannock and sweet tea.

Readers also learn how the children in the residential schools found their own small ways to be themselves: “We would whisper to each other in Cree. We would say all the words we weren’t allowed to say so that we wouldn’t forget them. And this made us happy.”

  •  Discuss what kids do when they are alone that is different from when adults are with them.
  •  

    At multiple points, the author changes the colour of the written text. How does this change impact your reading?

  •  

    Why do you think the author felt it was important to include Cree words in the story?

  •  

    Describe how the girls' lives were torn apart by being forced to go to a residential school. Explain why it was so important to the girls to have time alone.

  •  

    As you go for a picture walk, make predictions about the story. Adjust your ideas as the story is read aloud.

  •  Use a graphic organizer to sort how things were different at home, at school and when the children were alone.
  •  

    With the additional help of the companion books, learn about the residential schools. How were they similar to or different from your school?

  • To construct his/her identity
  • To exercise critical judgment
  • Health and Well-Being
  • Media Literacy
  • Ethics and Religious Culture
  • Geography, History and Citizenship