Skip to main content Skip to search Skip to search

Children's Fiction Native Canadian


by (author) Nicola Campbell

illustrated by Kim Lafave

Groundwood Books Ltd
Initial publish date
Jul 2005
Native Canadian, Post-Confederation (1867-), New Experience
  • Hardback

    Publish Date
    Jul 2005
    List Price
  • eBook

    Publish Date
    Nov 2019
    List Price

Add it to your shelf

Where to buy it

Recommended Age, Grade, and Reading Levels

  • Age: 4 to 7
  • Grade: p to 2
  • Reading age: 4 to 7


Winner of the Anskohk Aboriginal Children's Book of the Year Award. Finalist for the TD Canadian Children's Literature Award, the Marilyn Baillie Picture Book Award and the Ruth Schwartz Award

In just four days young Shi-shi-etko will have to leave her family and all that she knows to attend residential school.

She spends her last days at home treasuring 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. And so Shi-shi-etko carefully gathers her memories for safekeeping.

Richly hued illustrations complement this gently moving and poetic account of a child who finds solace all around her, even though she is on the verge of great loss -- a loss that Indigenous Peoples have endured for generations because of the residential schools system.

Correlates to the Common Core State Standards in English Language Arts:

With prompting and support, ask and answer questions about key details in a text.

Describe characters, settings, and major events in a story, using key details.

Use illustrations and details in a story to describe its characters, setting, or events.

Describe the overall structure of a story, including describing how the beginning introduces the story and the ending concludes the action.

About the authors

Nicola Campbell is Interior Salish and Métis author who lives in British Columbia. She has a BFA and a MFA in creative writing, and is currently working towards a doctoral degree focusing on contemporary Indigenous Storytelling at UBC Okanagan in Kelowna, BC. Her first free-verse children book "Shi-shi-etko" was published in September 2005 and was a finalist for the 2006 Ruth Schwartz Children Book Award, the 2006 TD Canadian Children Literature Award and the 2006 Marilyn Baillie Picture Book Award. Her second free-verse picture book "Shin-chi's Canoe" won the 2009 TD Canadian Children Literature Award and was a finalist for the 2009 Marilyn Baillie Picture Book Award and a 2008 Governor General Award for illustration. She believes it is time for Indigenous stories to focus on empowerment, rather than tragedy.

Nicola Campbell's profile page

Kim LaFave is a prolific picture book artist with many titles to his name, including Amos's Sweater, Ben Over Night, and Big Ben, which earned him the Mr. Christie's Book Award Silver Seal. He has also won the Governor General's Award, the Ruth Schwartz Children's Book Award, and the Amelia Frances Howard-Gibbon Illustrator's Award. Kim lives on the west coast of Canada, in Robert's Creek, British Columbia.

Kim Lafave's profile page


  • Short-listed, Ruth and Sylvia Schwartz Award
  • Short-listed, Marilyn Baillie Picture Book Award (CCBC)
  • Short-listed, TD Canadian Children's Literature Award
  • Winner, Aboriginal Children's Book of the Year (Co-Winner)
  • Long-listed, Chocolate Lily Award
  • Commended, CCBC Our Choice (Starred Selection)

Editorial Reviews

LaFave places a child in modern dress...within landscapes whose strong, curving lines evoke subdued but intense feelings underlying this poignant tale of taking leave.

Kirkus Reviews

...a timely publication...Campbell has written the story in a gentle poetic style.

Resource Links

This is a gorgeously illustrated story...The lyricism of Nicola Campbell's prose makes the point that such pristine experiences can and should be held in memory.

Canadian Literature

The text is poetic and the story is gentle.

Canadian Children's Literature - CBRA

Librarian Reviews


In just four days young Shi-shi-etko will have to leave her family and all that she knows to attend residential school.

I would use this book to help students begin to understand the history of residential schools. Moreover, this is a story about examining family history, learning from our elders, and respecting the environment in which we live. Through one First Nation girl’s experience, students can better consider where they come from and who they are.

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


Shi-shi-etko is excited about going away to school. She spends her last days at home visiting her natural surroundings. She visits the creek where her mother reminds her to “remember the ways of our people.” She canoes with her father where he tells her to remember the trees, mountains and lake. Her yayah (grandmother) takes her to collect a bag of memories, but although yayah’s intention is for Shi-shi-etko to keep the bag of memories, she buries it at the roots of a fir tree, so the memories will be kept safe. The cattle truck takes her and the other children away. The introduction explains the background for the piece.

Campbell is of Interior Salish and Métis ancestry. This is her first book. LaFave illustrated the award-winning Amos’ Sweater.

Source: The Association of Book Publishers of BC. Canadian Aboriginal Books for Schools. 2007-2008.


Native heritage, family and feelings comprise the themes of this outstanding picture book. As young Shi-shi-etko begins to prepare for her journey to a government mandated residential school far away and long removed from all that she has ever known, she collects the treasures of her world. All senses come into play as Shi-shi-etko counts down how many more sleeps she has until her forced departure.

Her mother’s song travels and flows throughout the valley, caught by the wind and carried by the eagles flight. It is through this song, this close connection to the earth and family that Shi-shi-etko is able to gather her memories of sight, sound, smell, taste and touch and place them in the special pouch given to her by her Yayah with instructions for safe keeping. A breathtaking sequence occurs when Shi-shi-etko’s father suggests that they take the canoe out on the lake.

This is a powerful picture book, not intended for “one-off” storytime in elementary classrooms. This is a picture book that can dovetail beautifully with Native studies at any level, that demands reflection and response, and that evokes thoughtful deliberation.

Kim LaFave’s illustrations provide a depth of awareness and understanding that reach beyond the rich, meaningful, sensitive and instructional text of this book. Together, Campbell and LaFave have created a Canadian masterpiece.

Source: The Canadian Children's Bookcentre. Winter 2006. Vol.29 No. 1.


Soon, Shi-shietko must leave for Indian Residential School, so she treasures her last days at home. Richly hued illustrations complement this gently moving and poetic account.

Source: The Canadian Children’s Book Centre. Canadian Children’s Book News. 2006.

Other titles by Nicola Campbell

Other titles by Kim Lafave

Related lists