Four Books by Christy Jordan Fenton and Margaret Pokiak-Fenton

two picture books and two companion chapter books share the true story of a girl caught in the tension of change when traditions meet modernization

lots to think about for elementary, middle grade and adult readers – a important story to know

162768598585187What do you do when something that you have wanted so badly is nothing like what you thought it would be?  How can something like school and the people who run it be so thoughtless and cruel?  Those are things you will wonder when you read When I Was Eight and the chapter book version of the same story, Fatty Legs, about the Inuit girl who left her village to go to the outsiders’ school.  At first Oleman was excited to be there because she so wanted to learn to read.  Quickly her excitement turned to dread and fear.   Everything she loved was taken from her.  They cut her hair.  They changed her name.  They put her in scratchy, thin, uncomfortable clothes.  They made her speak only French and English and forced her to do endless chores with little food.  The sisters who ran the school took everything Inuit away from the girls in their charge.  When I Was Eight tells the first part of Margaret Pokiak-Fenton’s story.  Not My Girl and A Stranger At Home tell the second part. 

1870657111482930Eventually the ice melted in the bay and the rivers and the summer was long enough for a boat to travel up the Mackenzie River to bring Margaret home.  After two years at the school, Margaret couldn’t wait to be with her family again in Tuktoyaktuk.  When she arrived, however, everything had changed.  She no longer knew the Inuit words she needed to talk to her family.  Her uniform and canvas shoes were impractical from Artic life – even in the summer, and her stomach was now unaccustomed to the rich and fatty foods she had once so well loved.   Though she was home, she felt like an outsider. 

Now Margaret/Oleman was afraid she didn’t fit anywhere.  She was neither part of the Outsiders’ world, nor part of her family.  Fortunately, family is just that – always a place to come home to and eventually Oleman finds her place.  She comes to feel at home again with her sisters and her parents and her dogs.  But, once change happens it stays.  Not My Girl and A Stranger At Home helps us think about change; how we learn and grow to understand more about other people and ourselves through our experiences.   We all have choices.  We can see differences as weird and bad – something to get rid of so we are all the same.  Or we can see differences as interesting and wonderful – something to celebrate so we are richer because we are unique.   These are great books to read as a family.  There is so much to wonder about and consider – even the questions left unanswered are important.



Leon’s Story

Leon's Story101 page autobiography

by Leon Walter Tillage

When Matt and I moved together from second grade to third, I decided that if I was going to ask my class to record their reading, I should do it too. And I should do it in a thorough enough way that I would feel comfortable sharing it as a model of reading records and what you can learn from them with my class.

I began recording my reading in earnest that year.  I have ever since.  It is fun to look back at the summary and consider a “reading year.” I sort by genre – adult and children’s.  The first year I noticed I was I was missing poetry.  I set a goal to fill that hole, but I didn’t.  I don’t read books of poetry.  Maybe I don’t know how – more likely I haven’t taken the time.

For four years I’ve been recording every book, choosing favorites for each year and considering how reading added and changed my life.  I felt fairly balanced as a reader until last year.   I read 78% fantasy combining both the children’s and adult books I’d read.   Fantasy?!?  I decided that I needed to focus on other genre, slow down and think.  My first move was to read Yes Chef a memoir by Marcus Samuelson.  Next I read The Art Forger by B. A. Shapiro.  These books challenged me to think in new ways about my world – chasing flavors, creating rich exotic combinations to satisfy every palate; building layer upon layer upon layer of paint until the light and luminosity of the color radiates from the canvass.

I read to know myself better, differently and to understand our world more fully.  So my goal is to be more aware of what I read and why…

I read Leon’s Story, a collection of memories from his life growing up as a sharecropper’s son in the 1940’s.  Everyone should read this book. Can you imagine seeing your parents run down on the road?  Can you imagine seeing them run over and the only thing that happens to the driver is that his daddy forces him apologize the next day?  That’s it because the driver is white and Leon, black.  “Boys will be boys.”  Can you imagine walking home from school always listening for the sound of the bus, always ready to run, always ready to shield the little kids? Always feeling fearful because the bus driver of the white kids’ bus might drive by so they could throw stones at you or even stop so they could chase and  beat you.  I knew things were not good, but I never could imagine those things.  Leon’s stories add depth to my understanding in a way that only someone’s real story can.  Racism is a terrible thing – made worse without real understanding.   Leon’s Story reveals this with gentle grace that will fill you full of wonder and determination to make kindness and appreciation of people a priority.

Going Solo

224 page fun read!

When I was younger, I saw my brother reading Boy, and all that appealed to me was the front cover illustrations. Then, a few years later, I was sifting through the bookshelf when I noticed the book Boy. The cover art still caught my eye, which made me start it, and for a few days, I couldn’t the book down. After I was finished with that, I asked my brother what the next one was called. “No idea,” I remember he said. I eventually found it and it may be even better than the first book!

In this sequel to Boy, Roald Dahl writes about his adult life and his experiences. As a World War II fighter pilot, he travels all over the world and meets tons of different people. From servants to snake charmers, from East Africa to Libya, he does it all. Funny, Adventure, Action, I don’t know what to call this book! His irresistible writing technique and wry sense of humor bring you straight into the action packed adult life of Roald Dahl. I promise, you will not be disappointed when you finish this book!

Click here to buy the book on!

Here is’s take on Going Solo.

Click here for the Roald Dahl website.


Wow! Did this all happen? Well, according to Boy: Tales of Childhood by Roald Dahl it did! This amazing 176 page book is an autobiography about all the adventures and mischief little Roald Dahl got into when he was a boy. From friendships to fantasies, Dahl covers it all. He helpfully splits the book up into sections of age, important points in his life and when those things happened. My favorite part of the book is when he and his friends dropped a mouse into the candy jar to pull a prank on the mean old lady who sold candy. It was my favorite part of the book because when the shop is closed the next day and they go to school, the mean old candy seller, Mrs. Pratchett is there and she accuses them of stealing and they get the cane.

 “’Arder!” shrieked a voice from over in the corner. Now it was our turn to jump.  We looked round and there, sitting in one of Mr Coombes’s big leather armchairs, was the tiny loathsome figure of Mrs Pratchett!” That is a excerpt from the book in the chapter entitled Mrs Pratchett’s Revenge. This effectively showcases the spectacular vocabulary, laugh-out-loud humor and wonderful writing that is in this fantastic book. If you are a boy or girl, who likes humor, real life adventures and learning new words in your stories then this is the book for you.