“Stolen Words”, by Melanie Florence, of Cree and Scottish heritage, is a charming picture book to add to your FMNI collection for young children – Kindergarten through Grade 3. As a young girl walks home from school with her grandfather, her probing questions about their Cree language, and her grandfather’s sad answers, open the door for their discussion of, and the young reader’s introduction to, one of the losses experienced by Indigenous students in residential schools.
Gabrielle Grimard’s sensitive illustrations mirror the feelings in the text – bright, colourful two-page spreads speak to the happiness of the present, while dark, black and white illustrations echo the sadness of the past. One particularly sombre illustration is cleverly metaphorical as it shows the words disappearing from students’ mouths and being captured and locked away in a bird cage. Wanting to help, granddaughter, Nosisim, finds a way to give back to her grandfather the words that were stolen and they begin to learn Cree together.
This is a sensitive, age appropriate, introduction to the residential school period in Canadian history for young students, and a well recommended book for your collection on this subject. The story presents a loving, intergenerational bonding, and speaks to the resiliency of Indigenous peoples as they seek to reclaim culture and language.