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Children's Nonfiction Native Canadian

Fatty Legs

10th anniversary edition

by (author) Margaret-Olemaun Pokiak-Fenton & Christy Jordan-Fenton

foreword by Debbie Reese

read by Lisa Nasson

Annick Press
Initial publish date
Mar 2021
Native Canadian, Cultural Heritage, Women
  • Downloadable audio file

    Publish Date
    Mar 2021
    List Price

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Where to buy it

Recommended Age, Grade, and Reading Levels

  • Age: 9 to 12
  • Grade: 4 to 7
  • Reading age: 9 to 11


The beloved story of an Inuvialuit girl standing up to the bullies of residential school, now available as an audiobook for a new generation of readers.

Margaret Olemaun Pokiak-Fenton’s powerful story of residential school in the far North has been reissued to commemorate the memoir’s 10th anniversary with updates to the text, reflections on the book’s impact, and a bonus chapter from the acclaimed follow-up, A Stranger at Home. New content includes a foreword from Dr. Debbie Reese, noted Indigenous scholar and founder of American Indians in Children’s Literature, while Christy Jordan-Fenton, mother of Margaret’s grandchildren and a key player in helping Margaret share her stories, discusses the impact of the book in a new preface.

With important updates since it first hit the shelves a decade ago, this audiobook edition of Fatty Legs will continue to resonate with readers young and old.

New and updated content includes

  • a note on the right to silence. This piece asks readers to be mindful that not all survivors of residential school will wish to talk about their experiences, and that their silence should be respected.
  • audiobook features original song “Say Your Name” by acclaimed artist Keith Secola, a song inspired by Olemaun's story. See the video at
  • a table of contents to ensure all the added materials are easy to find.
  • a foreword by noted Indigenous scholar Debbie Reese (Nambé Pueblo), founder of American Indians in Children’s Literature. The foreword discusses the biased portrayal of Indigenous people in children’s literature throughout history and the exclusion of Indigenous people from the ability to tell their own stories.
  • a preface by Christy Jordan-Fenton sharing the way she first heard Margaret-Olemaun’s story of going away to residential school. It also covers the impact of the book and how much has changed in the past ten years.
  • a note on language. This piece reviews the universal changes in language that have been made to the book since the original edition and also establishes the language choices made in the new material.
  • a note on the writing process. This piece by Christy explores how she works with Margaret-Olemaun to get Olemaun’s stories down on paper.
  • a revised and updated afterword by Christy Jordan-Fenton.

About the authors

Margaret-Olemaun Pokiak-Fenton is an Inuvialuk elder and artisan who spent her early years on Banks Island in the high Arctic. She now lives in Fort St. John, British Columbia.


Margaret-Olemaun Pokiak-Fenton's profile page


Christy Jordan-Fenton vit à Fort St. John, en Colombie-Britannique, Margaret Pokiak-Fenton est sa belle-mère.


Christy Jordan-Fenton
has been an infantry soldier, a pipeline laborer, a survival instructor,
and a bare back bronco rider. Christy has also worked with street children.
She was born just outside Rimbey, Alberta, and has lived in Australia,
South Africa, and the United States. She now lives near Fort St. John,
British Columbia. Christy works with her mother in law, Margaret
Pokiak-Fenton, to write stories.


Christy Jordan-Fenton's profile page

Dr. Debbie Reese (Nambe Pueblo) is the renowned educator, critic, and founder of American Indians in Children's Literature blog.

Debbie Reese's profile page

Lisa Nasson is a Mi’kmaq actor, director and storyteller from Millbrook First Nation, Nova Scotia. She studied acting at George Brown College in Toronto, and studied Classical Theatre with the Birmingham Conservatory  at the Stratford Festival. Lisa has taught at the Neptune Theatre School in Halifax, and the Young Peoples Theatre in Toronto. Lisa was also the Associate Artistic Director at Native Earth Performing Arts in Toronto. She began her journey with Fatty Legs as Maragret-Olemaun’s voice with Xara Choral Theatre in 2012, and has played the role many times since then. Oleamaun’s voice has echoed in all of Lisa’s work since her first run of the theatre production, and is forever grateful for her courage, strength, and resilience.

Lisa Nasson's profile page

Librarian Reviews

Fatty Legs

A feisty 8-year-old Native girl overcomes the humiliation she experiences in a residential school.

This is essential reading to provide young people with insights into residential schools. Fatty Legs is a true story of a girl whose resilient spirit helps her to overcome the cruel torment she receives from both students and adults at a residential school. I would share this as a good example of biographical writing. The rich visual images enhance the impact of Margaret Poliak’s harrowing story.

Teacher’s guide available (

Source: Association of Canadian Publishers. Top Grade Selection 2016.

Fatty Legs: A True Story

This autobiography follows a young Inuit girl, Margaret (Olemaun) Pokiak, in her quest to learn to read. To get an education she must leave her family, community and culture on Banks Island to attend a Catholic residential school in Aklavik. Despite the misgivings of her parents Margaret gets her wish and goes to school. There she encounters a nun who takes an immediate and vindictive dislike to her. Margaret doesn’t let this get her down, on the contrary she teaches “the rave” a lesson about human dignity. Margaret emerges from the school with her spirit intact, and with the ability to read. Family photographs add to the authenticity of the story.

Caution: Some younger readers may find the illustrations disturbing. The religious order is portrayed in an unflattering light.

Source: The Association of Book Publishers of BC. Canadian Aboriginal Books for Schools. 2010-2011.

Fatty Legs: A True Story

For over 60 years, Olemaun (Margaret) Pokiak kept a secret. Now, in this vivid memoir, aided by her daughter-in-law, she tells a story of courage and determination. Intent on learning to read, the eight-year-old Inuvialuit (Western Inuit) girl persuades her father to let her attend a residential school in 1944 in Aklavik, Northwest Territories. Her father worries that her spirit will be worn down, but Olemaun knows herself to be proud and resilient. Her strength is tested at the school by a nun (whom she privately nicknames the Raven) who targets her right from the start, forcing her to wear red stockings that draw the other girls’ taunts. Readers will cheer for Olemaun / Margaret and delight in the solution she finds to thwart her tormentor.

The young girl’s quest for education and her coming to terms with a cruel adversary and a kind advocate have all the elements of folktale. The text is rich in verbs, physical detail and imagery, which would make the book an excellent read-aloud. Outsiders flit about the north, plucking children from their homes. The powerful illustrations — with their play of light and dark, and the mask-like face of the Raven — contribute to the folkloric, universal quality of the tale. A scrapbook of photos featuring Arctic family and school life enriches the book and roots it in reality. A map and explanatory footnotes, as well as a final chapter on residential schools, expand and provide a context for the story.

Like Shi-shi-etko and Shin-chi’s Canoe — and the memoirs of Larry Loyie — this book helps younger readers understand of the lasting impact of residential schools.

Source: The Canadian Children's Bookcentre. Winter 2011. Volume 34 No. 1.

Fatty Legs

On a trip to Aklavik with her father, Margaret is mesmerized by the dark-cloaked nuns and the pale-skinned priests. She knows they hold the key to the greatest of the outsiders’ mysteries — reading. Even though her father warns her that her spirit will be worn down and made small, she begs to attend the school. At the hands of a cruel and heartless nun, Margaret suffers humiliation, but emerges with her spirit intact.

Source: The Canadian Children’s Book Centre. Best Books for Kids & Teens. 2011.

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