Recommended Age, Grade, and Reading Levels
- Age: 12 to 18
- Grade: 7 to 12
Ten-year-old Nathan has a number of demons to confront and overcome. One of them is the school bully who delights in tormenting Nathan wherever he comes upon him and that can happen in unexpected and unpredictable ways. Another challenge is that Nathan's Grampa is suffering from the early onset of Alzheimer's, and because Nathan is devoted to his grandfather, they both have to navigate this difficult new challenge in the family's life.
Grampa moves in with Nathan, his mother and father, and together they try to figure out how things are going to work from here on in. Finally, Grampa introduces Nathan to a part of his heritage he knew nothing about until now: a First Nations link with a great-grandmother, now long gone, whose story of hope inspires Nathan to overcome his own worries.
About the author
Susan Ouriou is an award-winning literary translator who has translated the fiction of Quebec, Latin-American, French and Spanish authors. She won Canada’s Governor General’s Literary Award for Translation in 2009 for Pieces of Me by Charlotte Gingras, after first being shortlisted for The Road to Chlifa by Michèle Marineau and then for Necessary Betrayals by Guillaume Vigneault. The Road to Chlifa was also awarded an honour list placing by IBBY (International Board of Books for Youth) as were Naomi and Mrs. Lumbago by Gilles Tibo, This Side of the Sky by Marie-Francine Hébert and Pieces of Me. Necessary Betrayals was also voted one of the 100 best books of 2002 by the Globe and Mail. Another translation, The Thirteenth Summer by José Luis Olaizola, was runner-up for the John Glassco Translation Prize. She has worked as the director of the Banff International Literary Translation Centre and as faculty for the Banff Centre's Aboriginal Emerging Writers residency. She is the editor of the 2010 anthology Beyond Words – Translating the World.
"This story could be used in discussing world history and the different ways cultures are threatened. It could also be used to look at family dynamics, and the problem of bullying."
— Resource Links
"This multilayered coming-of-age story sheds a light on how experiences are internalised and can continue to affect our behaviours for a long while afterward. Ouriou's expertly drawn cross-cultural parallels allow readers from diverse backgrounds to gain insight into the feelings and behaviours of others. Nathan and friend Max are both very relatable characters facing real-life challenges. All characters are written with dimension, including backstories that illuminate who they are and how they behave. This seemingly simple tween-novel touches on topics that include racism, illness, compassion and more.
— CM Magazine
"Susan Ouriou's Nathan brings readers the magic of childhood when anything is possible, from a spaceship landing in a field near Nathan's house to deceased relatives and animal spirits joining him in his grandfather's living room. Yet this insightful book also represents the suffering that is part of childhood, realistically portrayed when Nathan and then his new friend endure the psychological and physical torment of a bully and, before his eyes, Nathan's beloved grandfather slips into the bog of Alzheimer's.
"Ouriou gives us the story of a boy who discovers that like the reservoir near his home, everyone has hidden depths and secrets and "no one's story is what we see on the surface." It is through hardship and challenge that Nathan discovers his own reservoir of strength and through pain that he learns compassion.
"Susan Ouriou has created a disarmingly simple book on the surface, with characters and situations that are easy to relate to. But much more than that, Nathan is a book that delves into the depths and complexities of everyday life and a young person who, despite the obstacles, learns the delicate skill of navigation and discovers , in part through the affirmation of his world's Indigenous past, the treasure of wisdom.
— Joan Crate, award-winning Indigenous writer
"Nathan is a tender coming-of-age story about a boy facing hard facts about aging and bullying. In writing that is fluid and compassionate Susan Ouriou explores the power of human relationship."
— Kim Echlin, Under the Visible Life