When a young girl helps tend to her grandmother’s garden, she begins to notice things that make her curious. Why does her grandmother have long, braided hair and beautifully coloured clothing? Why does she speak another language and spend so much time with her family? As she asks her grandmother about these things, she is told about life in a residential school a long time ago, where all of these things were taken away. When We Were Alone is a story about a difficult time in history, and, ultimately, one of empowerment and strength.
When We Were Alone won the 2017 Governor General's Literary Award in the Young People's Literature (Illustrated Books) category, and was nominated for the TD Canadian's Children's Literature Award.
David A. Robertson is an award-winning writer. His books include When We Were Alone (winner Governor General’s Literary Award), Will I See? (winner Manuela Dias Book Design and Illustration Award Graphic Novel Category), Betty, The Helen Betty Osborne Story (listed In The Margins), and the YA novel Strangers. David educates as well as entertains through his writings about Indigenous Peoples in Canada, reflecting their cultures, histories, communities, as well as illuminating many contemporary issues. David is a member of Norway House Cree Nation. He lives in Winnipeg.
Julie Flett is an award-winning Cree-Metis author, illustrator and artist. She has received many awards, including the 2016 American Indian Library Association Award for Best Picture Book for Little You, written by Richard Van Camp (Orca Books), and the Canadian Christie Harris Illustrated Children's Literature Award in 2015 for Dolphins SOS, written by Roy Miki (Tradewind Books) and in 2017 for My Heart Fills with Happiness, written by Monique Gray Smith (Orca Books), and was nominated for the Governor General’s Award for Children’s Literature for her book Owls See Clearly at Night (Lii Yiiboo Nayaapiwak lii Swer): A Michif Alphabet (L’alphabet di Michif). Her own Wild Berries (Simply Read Books) was chosen as Canada's First Nation Communities Read title selection for 2014-2015.
"Beautiful, painful, and shining with truth and dignity." - Richard Van Camp
"Julie’s Flett’s illustrations are impeccable. The contrast between the colourful and bleak illustrations perfectly match the narrative. The relatively small size of the book makes it perfect for sharing with younger children.
When We Were Alone addresses the topic of residential schools and, just as importantly, aspects of Cree culture and language. There is such gentleness about When We Were Alone that makes it an appropriate book for the even youngest of readers. Simply put, this is a much-needed book.
- Dr. Kristen Ferguson, CM Magazine