Reviewed by Debbie Reese
I picked up Melanie Florence’s Stolen Words with a bit of trepidation because her previous picture book, Missing Nimama, was so troubling. It, and her novel, The Missing, felt off. (Here’s my post about them.)
At the time, I couldn’t put my finger on why her books were unsettling. Some time after reading the two books, there was a writing contest in Canada. Florence supplied the prompt for it. When I read the prompt, I understood why I had so much trouble with those two books. Rather than holding people with care, she seemed to be using people who had been through traumatic loss as subjects for her writing. Some might say that she’s a good writer and that she writes in compelling ways, but rather than moved, I felt manipulated.
With that as background, I am here today with my thoughts on Stolen Words. Continue reading.
kimotinâniwiw itwêwina / Stolen Words by Melanie Florence
Published by Second Story Press on September 10, 2019
Genres: American Indians First Nations Metis Inuit
Reading Level: Grade K, Grades 1-2
Review Source: American Indians in Children's Literature
Publisher's Synopsis: The dual language edition, in Plains Cree and English, of Stolen Words, the award-winning story of the beautiful relationship between a little girl and her grandfather. When she asks her grandfather how to say something in Cree, he tells her 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.