The story of the beautiful relationship between a little girl and her grandfather. When she asks her grandfather how to say something in his language – Cree – he admits 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.
Melanie Florence has been recognized for her ability to write about Indigenous history and culture with sensitivity and compassion. Stolen Words has particular importance for Melanie because it was inspired by her own grandfather, who kept his Cree identity and his experience at a residential school a secret from her and his family. As a result, Melanie did not get the chance to have the healing exchange of language and culture with him that is shared by the characters in her story.
Quebec artist Gabrielle Grimard matches the author’s poignant but age-appropriate text with illustrations that clearly convey the girl’s concern for her grandfather’s feelings and her joy in finding a way to give him back his language – and learn it herself.
The simple text in Stolen Words has a powerful impact emotionally on the reader, but also inspires hope and courage as the child and adult embark on a journey of healing, through love, determination, and resiliency... It makes the reader reflect on the importance of culture, family, and one’s own identity… And with seeing this story through the eyes of a child, Stolen Words is highly effective as a powerful and dynamic narrative.
Melanie Florence's Stolen Words is a modern story, a hopeful exploration of one way the Cree people may begin to reclaim their language and culture.... While the story of how the Canadian government destroyed the lives of First Nations children is harsh, the subject is handled with dignity and love.... The illustrations by Gabrielle Grimard are suffused with warm tones of yellow, green, brown, the lines playful and full of movement.
Gabrielle Grimard’s evocative watercolour illustrations are emotionally powerful.... Stolen Words tells a heartbreakingly honest story that all Canadians must hear.
"Stolen Words” would be an asset to any home or school library. It is a very powerful tool to educate both Indigenous and non-indigenous readers about the long lasting effects of the residential school system.
As historical fiction, the book relies on strong positive memories of [the author's] grandfather, and researched facts about...residential school[s]. The characters are portrayed with genuine emotions in softly colored, mixed media illustrations.
Florence's tender text soothes the harsh reality of having Native language stolen while attending one of Canada's former residential schools for Indigenous children. Grimard's equally emotive illustrations show the stark realities of the experience in symbolic images... Unforgettable. (Starred Review)
... Stolen Words, from Melanie Florence, is one man’s emotional tale of strength, hope, and healing, shedding light on the continued repercussions of the horrific residential schools that separated indigenous children from their families and heritage in the name of cultural assimilation. In color and gray scale, Gabrielle Grimard’s moving watercolors capture the bittersweet journey while looking to the future.
This sensitive, beautifully illustrated picture book deftly explores the inter-generational impact of Canada's residential school system... "Stolen Words" is unreservedly and emphatically recommended for family, preschool, elementary school, and community library picture book collections.
... a sobering ode to [Florence's] heritage, presented through eyes filled with love and hope... Word by word, her story—written in honor of her Cree grandfather—is a significant step toward forever healing. (Starred Review)
To say that Florence’s story has a happy ending is an oversimplification. Her text, combined with illustrator Gabrielle Grimard’s pictures, shows that language reclamation is a process – more complex than a simple case of lost and found.... Readers are left with the message that language has not been destroyed, only rendered dormant by its captivity. (Starred Review)
An emotional read, as the illustrations show mothers waving goodbye to their children and words being lost. As Grandfather revisits his native first language, the words fly back.... Recommended.
Florence's evocative text is enhanced by Gabrielle Grimard's sensitive watercolour, gouache, oil and pencil illustrations.... The final page, depicting the young girl walking hand in hand with her grandfather, exudes a sense of intergenerational love, resilience and hope.
In this poignant picture book about the devastating legacy of residential schools, author Melanie Florence presents the story of a little girl who re-introduces her grandfather to his first language after he has spent many years without it. A simple text with tremendous emotional impact, the dialogue between child and adult inspires hope for younger generations along with admiration for a resilient and determined man whom we know will succeed in his quest to re-learn what has been lost.... While definitely geared towards young children, Stolen Words is a picture book that older readers will also appreciate for its historical significance, honesty, impactful language, and artful presentation. Highly recommended.
...an emotionally charged series of interactions and memories that are pure Melanie Florence. They will astound readers and sadden them, while encouraging healing and learning without shame or anger.