Skipping and dancing home from school, a young girl carries in one hand a dream catcher she's made. "How do you say grandfather in Cree?" she asks. And suddenly their walk turns somber as Grandpa admits, "I don't remember... I lost my words a long time ago." Bewildered, the little girl presses, "How do you lose words, Grandpa?" He tenderly explains about the residential schools to which First Nations' children were forcibly sent: "They took our words and locked them away, punished us until we forgot them." By the next day, the little girl has a plan: she presents her grandfather with a dictionary in which he finds the soft, familiar words of his past.
Melanie Florence, of Cree/Scottish descent, offers Stolen Words as a sobering ode to her heritage, through eyes filled with love and hope. Artist Gabrielle Grimard is Florence's ideal creative partner, enhancing each page with depth and movement, capturing every touch, every gaze with enveloping empathy. Adding a grey overwash on Grandpa's memories proves especially effective in emphasizing the traumas he survived. Florence's narrative couldn't be more affecting. Word by word, her story--written in honor of her Cree grandfather--is a significant step toward forever healing. --Terry Hong, Smithsonian BookDragon