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Fiction Picture Book
Pages: 24
Themes: residential schools, boarding schools, Indigenous, Aboriginal, prejudice and racism, family, grandfather, Cree
Publisher: Second Story Press
Pub Date: 05/Sep/2017
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The story of the beautiful relationship between a little girl and her grandfather. When she asks her grandfather how to say something in his language – Cree – he admits that his language was stolen from him when he was a boy. The little girl then sets out to help her grandfather find his language again. This sensitive and warmly illustrated picture book explores the intergenerational impact of the residential school system that separated young Indigenous children from their families. The story recognizes the pain of those whose culture and language were taken from them, how that pain is passed down, and how healing can also be shared.

Shelf Awareness, starred review
★ “A sobering ode to [Florence's] heritage, presented through eyes filled with love and hope... Word by word, her story—written in honor of her Cree grandfather—is a significant step toward forever healing.”
Kirkus Reviews
Florence's tender text soothes the harsh reality of having Native language stolen while attending one of Canada's former residential schools for Indigenous children. Grimard's equally emotive illustrations show the stark realities of the experience in symbolic images... Unforgettable. (Starred Review)
Foreword Reviews
... Stolen Words, from Melanie Florence, is one man’s emotional tale of strength, hope, and healing, shedding light on the continued repercussions of the horrific residential schools that separated indigenous children from their families and heritage in the name of cultural assimilation. In color and gray scale, Gabrielle Grimard’s moving watercolors capture the bittersweet journey while looking to the future.
CanLit for Little Canadians
...an emotionally charged series of interactions and memories that are pure Melanie Florence. They will astound readers and sadden them, while encouraging healing and learning without shame or anger.
Anishinabek News
"Stolen Words” would be an asset to any home or school library. It is a very powerful tool to educate both Indigenous and non-indigenous readers about the long lasting effects of the residential school system.
School Library Journal
An emotional read, as the illustrations show mothers waving goodbye to their children and words being lost. As Grandfather revisits his native first language, the words fly back.... Recommended.
Midwest Book Review
This sensitive, beautifully illustrated picture book deftly explores the inter-generational impact of Canada's residential school system... "Stolen Words" is unreservedly and emphatically recommended for family, preschool, elementary school, and community library picture book collections.
CM: Canadian Review of Materials
In this poignant picture book about the devastating legacy of residential schools, author Melanie Florence presents the story of a little girl who re-introduces her grandfather to his first language after he has spent many years without it. A simple text with tremendous emotional impact, the dialogue between child and adult inspires hope for younger generations along with admiration for a resilient and determined man whom we know will succeed in his quest to re-learn what has been lost.... While definitely geared towards young children, Stolen Words is a picture book that older readers will also appreciate for its historical significance, honesty, impactful language, and artful presentation. Highly recommended.
Ottawa Citizen
Quebec artist Gabrielle Grimard matches the author’s poignant but age-appropriate text with illustrations that clearly convey the girl’s concern for her grandfather’s feelings and her joy in finding a way to give him back his language – and learn it herself.
Quill & Quire
To say that Florence’s story has a happy ending is an oversimplification. Her text, combined with illustrator Gabrielle Grimard’s pictures, shows that language reclamation is a process – more complex than a simple case of lost and found.... Readers are left with the message that language has not been destroyed, only rendered dormant by its captivity. (Starred Review)
Canadian Children's Book News
Florence's evocative text is enhanced by Gabrielle Grimard's sensitive watercolour, gouache, oil and pencil illustrations.... The final page, depicting the young girl walking hand in hand with her grandfather, exudes a sense of intergenerational love, resilience and hope.
National Reading Campaign
Gabrielle Grimard’s evocative watercolour illustrations are emotionally powerful.... Stolen Words tells a heartbreakingly honest story that all Canadians must hear.
Resource Links
The simple text in Stolen Words has a powerful impact emotionally on the reader, but also inspires hope and courage as the child and adult embark on a journey of healing, through love, determination, and resiliency... It makes the reader reflect on the importance of culture, family, and one’s own identity… And with seeing this story through the eyes of a child, Stolen Words is highly effective as a powerful and dynamic narrative.
Montreal Review of Books
Melanie Florence's Stolen Words is a modern story, a hopeful exploration of one way the Cree people may begin to reclaim their language and culture.... While the story of how the Canadian government destroyed the lives of First Nations children is harsh, the subject is handled with dignity and love.... The illustrations by Gabrielle Grimard are suffused with warm tones of yellow, green, brown, the lines playful and full of movement.
Dr. Jeanie Burnett, Kutztown Review
As historical fiction, the book relies on strong positive memories of [the author's] grandfather, and researched facts about...residential school[s]. The characters are portrayed with genuine emotions in softly colored, mixed media illustrations.

Awards

Kirkus Reviews' Best Picture Books of 2017 to Give Readers Strength  | 2017 | Commended
Shelf Awareness Best Picture Books of the Year  | 2017 | Commended
The Children's Book Review's Best Picture Books of 2017  | 2017 | Commended
Ontario Library Association's 2018 Best Bets  | 2018 | Commended
Elizabeth Mrazik Cleaver Canadian Picture Book Award  | 2017 | Short-listed
Ruth and Sylvia Schwartz Children’s Book Award  | 2018 | Winner
2018 (Spring) - Canadian Children's Book Centre's Best Books for Kids and Teens   | 2018 | Commended
Marilyn Baillie Picture Book Award - CCBC's TD Canadian Children's Book Awards  | 2018 | Short-listed
Forest of Reading, Forest Kid Committee List  | 2019 | Commended

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