By Margaret Pokiak-Fenton
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.
Fatty Legs may not be on the ‘Indigenous Reads’ radar when compared to the heavyweights like Joseph Boyden and Gordon Downie, but the enduringness of this light book is prolific. This is not a story devised of imagination, but the true tale of a young girl who was drawn to the allure of residential schools. Much like the adventures of Alice in Wonderland, which she learns to read and falls in love with: Pokiak, too, finds herself swept in a topsy-turvy world.
In what proves to be a heart-wrenching narrative, we are guided along this journey with her. We grieve with her over the loss of identity, the challenges she endures being in the residential school and the ultimate acceptance of her Inuit traditions.
By far, this is one of the best books for your readers that I have read this year. It is profound.