by Nicola I Campbell (Author) Kim Lafave (Illustrator)

Reading Level: 2nd − 3rd Grade

Shi-shi-etko just has four days until she will have to leave her family and everything she knows to attend residential school. She spends her last precious days at home treasuring and appreciating the beauty of her world -- the dancing sunlight, the tall grass, each shiny rock, the tadpoles in the creek, her grandfather's paddle song. Her mother, father, and grandmother, each in turn, share valuable teachings that they want her to remember. Shi-shi-etko carefully gathers her memories for safekeeping.

LaFave's richly hued illustrations complement Campbell's gently moving and poetic account of a child who finds solace around her, even though she is on the verge of great loss -- a loss that native people have endured for generations because of Canada's residential schools system.

Kirkus Review - Children

Starred Review

Using a palette of saturated blues and rich autumnal reds and golds, LaFave places a child in modern dress (as the author explains in a foreword, the last Indian boarding school in Canada did not close until 1984) within landscapes whose strong, curving lines evoke subdued but intense feelings underlying this poignant tale of taking leave. Except in the foreword, Campbell never mentions where the child is going—so Shi-shi-etko’s sadness and determination will also resonate with any child who’s had to leave a familiar world behind.

Copyright 2005 Kirkus Reviews, LLC Used with permission

School Library Journal

Gr 2-6 -This is a moving story set in Canada about the practice of removing Native children from their villages and sending them to residential schools to learn the English language and culture. An introduction explains that governments believed Native people were ignorant and made laws to -educate - their children. Shi-shi-etko counts down her last four days before going away. She tries to memorize everything about her home - -tall grass swaying to the rhythm of the breeze, determined mosquitoes, working bumblebees. - There is a family party to say good-bye. Her father takes her out in a canoe and implores her to remember the trees, the water, and the mountains, and her grandmother gives her a small bag made of deer hide in which to keep her memories. The vivid, digital illustrations rely on a red palette, evoking not only the land but also the sorrow of the situation and the hope upon which the story ultimately ends. This contemplative narrative will help children see how Native people have been treated in both Canada and the United States. A good choice to enhance units on Native North American cultures. -Linda M. Kenton, San Rafael Public Library, CA

Copyright 2005 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission

Lexile Measure
Guided Reading Level
Publication date
September 20, 2005

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