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When We Were Alone Hardcover – Picture Book, 1 December 2016

5.0 out of 5 stars 210 ratings

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Review

A quiet story...of love and resistance.... Flett's collage illustrations, with their simplicity and earthy colors, are soulful and gentle.... All readers will connect with how Nókom lives in celebration of colors, her long hair, her language, and, most of all, her family.--a starred review "The Horn Book Magazine"

Robertson's soft rhythmic text and Julie Flett's simple, yet expressive, illustrations combine to create a beautiful story of strength and resistance. The muted colours used in the pictures of residential school life remind readers of the suffering endured by Indigenous children. The contrast between these pages, and the vibrant greens, reds, and blues of the illustrations depicting residential school students temporarily escaping into nature, is heartbreakingly effective. Robertson never tries to disguise the underlying tragedy of Nókom's experience, but together he and Flett have crafted a book that is still suitable for younger readers, in spite of the intense subject matter.

When We Were Alone is an incredible work of art and is very highly recommended.

--Roseanne Gauthier "National Reading Campaign"

Robertson's text moves between the present and the past, the girl's questions and Nókom's memories, which deepen and intensify the quiet, powerful way she lives out her own culture, day by day, in the present. A beautifully rendered story of resisitance and love, this is made all the more luminous by Flett's art - not just by flashes of fuschsia or scarlet among ochre grasses, but by her precisely observed images of the compact bodies of the uniformed children, bowed beneath the weight of the scissors, or lovingly tending each other's hair. Highly recommended.--Deirdre Baker "Toronto Star"

...Robertson handles a delicate task here admirably well: explaining residential schools, that shameful legacy, and making them understandable to small children. It's a dark history, and the author doesn't disguise that, but he wisely focuses the grandmother's tale on how, season by season, the students use creativity, imagination, and patience to retain their sense of identity. A beautifully quiet, bold strength arises from the continued refrain "When we were alone" and in how the children insisted on being themselves. Flett's gorgeous, skillful illustrations have a flattened, faux naïve feel to them, like construction paper collage, a style that works perfectly with the story. She nicely contrasts the school's dull browns and grays with the riotous colors surrounding Nókom and gets much expression from her simple silhouettes.

Spare, poetic, and moving, this Cree heritage story makes a powerful impression.

-- "Kirkus Reviews"

When We Were Alone
is rare. It is exquisite and stunning, for the power conveyed by the words Robertson wrote, and for the illustrations that Flett created. I highly recommend it.--Debbie Reese "American Indians in Children's Literature"

From the Back Cover

Indigenous, family, Canada, residential schools, love, strength, empowerment

Product details

  • ASIN ‏ : ‎ 155379673X
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Hardcover ‏ : ‎ 32 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 9781553796732
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1553796732
  • Reading age ‏ : ‎ 6 - 8 years
  • Customer reviews:
    5.0 out of 5 stars 210 ratings

Customer reviews

5.0 out of 5 stars
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Top reviews from other countries

Jo
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful, gentle introduction to the history and legacy of Residential Schooling in Canada
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 6 August 2019
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Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars Good book
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 9 April 2020
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Eric D Savage
5.0 out of 5 stars Perfect to teach youngsters
Reviewed in Canada on 19 November 2020
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4 people found this helpful
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Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars A good book for teaching about Residential Schools to primary students
Reviewed in Canada on 17 February 2017
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8 people found this helpful
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Shane
5.0 out of 5 stars Important
Reviewed in Canada on 19 April 2019
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2 people found this helpful
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