Skip to main content Skip to search Skip to search

Young Adult Fiction Aboriginal & Indigenous


by (author) Jennifer Maruno

Dundurn Press
Initial publish date
Jul 2014
Aboriginal & Indigenous, Canada, Runaways
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Jul 2014
    List Price
  • eBook

    Publish Date
    Jul 2014
    List Price

Add it to your shelf

Where to buy it

Recommended Age, Grade, and Reading Levels

  • Age: 12 to 15
  • Grade: 7 to 10
  • Reading age: 12 to 15


Jonny must travel to the distant past to understand the present.

As an orphaned white boy in a school full of Native students, fourteen-year-old Jonny Joe isn’t like any of the others at the island Redemption Residential School off the west coast. When the advances of Father Gregory disturb Jonny, he joins another boy in an escape to a mountain cave. But when they leave the cave, the world as they knew it no longer exists.

The boys travel to a native village in a sheltered bay, where Jonny becomes skilled in the art of carving. When a steamship enters the cove, the party of sightseers brings a disease that annihilates most of the people in the village. Meanwhile, Jonny has learned the secret of his past and when he returns to the present, Jonny carves a totem pole to honour the members of the village.

About the author

Jennifer Maruno began her publishing career with award winning educational materials for The Peel District School Board and the Ontario Ministry of Education. She is one of the authors of Explorations, a mathematics program for Addison-Wesley of Canada, and worked with TVO in developing teaching materials for the television show Mathica's Mathshop. For her contributions to educational writing, she received the Federation of Women Teachers Writing Award, the National Council of Teachers Award of Excellence and The Award of Merit from the National School Public Relations Association. She holds a Masters of Education, Principal's and Primary Specialists certification and is a graduate of the Institute of Children's Literature and the Humber School of Writers summer program.Her short stories have appeared in a variety of children's magazines in Great Britain, United States and Canada. Born in Niagara Falls, Ontario, Jennifer came from a book loving family. She worked as a library helper in the old red brick library on Victoria Avenue while attending Valley Way Public school. Her childhood ambition was to have a book with her name on the spine sitting on the shelf.Her first children's novel, When the Cherry Blossoms Fell won nominations for the Hackmatack and Young Readers of Canada Awards.Educator, researcher and author, Jennifer Maruno knows stories provide much more than entertainment. From the pages of Canadian history, she creates novels empathetic to those who have experienced the darker side of our past. Maruno's understanding of the importance of cultural identity has brought When the Cherry Blossoms Fell, Cherry Blossom Winter and Cherry Blossom Baseball based on the Japanese Internment and Warbird a novel of early Jesuit life among the Huron people.Details of Kid Soldier, Jennifer's fourth novel for children, come from her father's diary. He joined the Canadian Armed Forces under age and set out for England. Enroute Britain declared war. Totem, the story of a boy seeking his identity from the confines of a residential school, was written at a time most necessary to Truth & ReconciliationJennifer lives in Burlington, Ontario with her husband spending her time weeding her David Austin roses, writing and reading to grandchildren.Laurel Keating is an award-winning artist whose illustrations are familiar to Newfoundlanders. With an eye for detail and sympathy for all living things, Laurel brings her characters to life with warmth and humour. Children have delighted in her rich and colourful illustrations in Find Scruncheon and Touton (1 and 2) and Yaffle's Journey and Full Speed Ahead: Errol's Bell Island Adventure. She lives in scenic Portugal Cove, which she has called home all her life.

Jennifer Maruno's profile page


  • Commended, Dewey Divas and the Dudes Spring Picks

Editorial Reviews

Maruno tells a well-realized story complete with brave young men and villains.

School Library Journal

With engaging language and action delivered at the perfect pace to maintain interest without overwhelming a reader with information, Totem is a masterpiece of middle-grade fiction.

Quill & Quire

User Reviews

First Nations-Hatchet+timetravel

Interesting local time-travel adventure that seems weirdly misclassified. This is absolutely a Middle Grade/Children's read. It's Coastal First Nations-meets-Hatchet-plus-Time-Travel.

There's a blond orphan in an island residential school in the 20th century. A new friend escapes with him to a cave where they travel to the 19th century and blondie learns totem carving and gets a spirit animal. The resolution isn't really great; the kids don't really do much other than learn and get some better choices for the future. Arguably, the protagonist may actually be a wolf spirit, since it seems to be what moves the story forward throughout. Which would be a great twist if it had been developed more. What is cool is reading some great historical details and recognizing a very Pacific Northwest/BC/Coastal First Nations setting. But no idea why this was classified as YA. Some glancing mentions of kids being molested and going missing would have been well within the acceptable range for MG-level dark. Recommended short read for ages 9-12 or so who are interested in local history.

Other titles by Jennifer Maruno