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When I Was Eight

3.95  ·  Rating Details ·  131 Ratings  ·  39 Reviews
Bestselling memoir Fatty Legs for younger readers. Olemaun is eight and knows a lot of things. But she does not know how to read. Ignoring her father’s warnings, she travels far from her Arctic home to the outsiders’ school to learn. The nuns at the school call her Margaret. They cut off her long hair and force her to do menial chores, but she remains undaunted. Her ...more
Hardcover, 32 pages
Published February 1st 2013 by Annick Press (first published January 29th 2013)
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This copy kindly provided by NetGalley on behalf of the publisher

Too much going on in this one for my son, he's 4.5yo, better suited to children a bit older I think.

This girl has big dreams and in order to achieve them she needs to leave her family & go to school in a different community to her own. Here she is subjected to horrible conditions & treatment, before she teaches herself to read.

There are references to Alice in Wonderland that may not make sense to a child that doesn't kno
Nicole Doescher-Train
Sep 28, 2015 Nicole Doescher-Train rated it it was amazing
I really enjoyed the book. The story details about a young girl who wants nothing more than to learn to read. The book goes through how this young girl overcomes adversity to be able to read one day. The story also gives readers some background on how many children who did not fit into America's society were forced to change. This is a book that students should read in order to learn about situations like these. The illustrations help to show the reader what is going on in the story.
Jul 01, 2014 NebraskaIcebergs rated it really liked it
When I Was Eight by Christy Jordan-Fenton and Margaret Pokiak-Fenton is an adaptation of Fatty Legs, in which Margaret recollects her negative experiences in a church-run residential school. Because I have read both books, as I review When I Was Eight, I will also be comparing and contrasting the two versions.

I'll start with what I liked about When I Was Eight. The well-crafted writing style stands out more in When I Was Eight. There are many active verbs, such as “shrugged” and “begged”. In add
Ashley D--
Read this with grade nine students who are usually very rowdy, but this had their attention the whole way through. Definitely a good one for discussion. Not as harsh as Fatty Legs for kids who can't handle sad stories. This could be read to children as young as eight, hopefully with a discussion before and after.
Jan 03, 2016 Becky rated it really liked it
Shelves: pb-bio, read-in-2013
I received an electronic ARC of this book from NetGalley.

This book is the story of Olemaun, an Inuit girl who is eight years old. She knows many things about her world - how to keep the sled dogs quiet, and that the "sun slept in the winter and woke in the summer." But she does not know how to read "the outsiders' books." Olemaun wants to go to school like her older sister. Although her father does not want her to go, Olemaun finally wears down her father and the next spring she stays at the sch
Jul 10, 2016 Dawn rated it it was ok
In an attempt to educate the reader about the abuses suffered by aboriginal children in the residential school system the authors have created a new form of discrimination. The nun in this story is illustrated and described to resemble a fairy-tale witch, even going so far as to cackle in the text. Several times the crucifix she wears is prominently displayed while doing something awful. This disrespectful representation of a religious group as a whole makes this a poor choice to use with ...more
Mar 14, 2013 Tasha rated it really liked it
Shelves: picture-books
This is a lovely new picture book version of Fatty Legs that will share Olemaun’s story with younger readers than the original chapter book. It follows Olemaun from her time with her nomadic family through her attending the “outsider’s school.” There her hair is chopped short and her warm parka is replaced with thin and scratchy clothing. Her name is even changed to Margaret. Margaret wants most to learn to read, but the school is much more interested in getting the children to work hard rather ...more
Caryn Caldwell
Jul 26, 2013 Caryn Caldwell rated it it was amazing
An autobiographical account of the author's childhood adapted for children from the book Fatty Legs. When Olemaun was eight, she convinced her father to let her leave their Inuit island and travel far away to the outsiders' school so she could learn to read. Victorious, Olemaun arrives at school ready to learn. Things are not easy for her, however. The nuns take away her native clothes, replacing them with an ill-fitting uniform. They rename her Margaret and order her to do chores. When she ...more
Olemaun is eight when she convinces her father to send her to the outsiders’ school. What Olemaun wants more than anything is to be able to read like her older sister. Reluctantly, her family lets her go. Instead of the education she expects to receive, Olemaun is put to work doing physical labor with the other girls. One of the nuns is particularly cruel to her – at one point locking her in the cellar. Olemaun (now called “Margaret”) is able to overcome all of these obstacles and learn to read. ...more
Dec 29, 2015 Jane rated it really liked it
This adaptation of Jordan-Fenton’s novel Fatty Legs is a semi-autobiographical account of the author’s experiences as a child in a residential school. Although made gentler for young audiences, Olemaun’s story is a deeply painful one – a story of separation, neglect, cultural destruction, and abuse, but it is also a story of strength, determination, and hope. In a particularly heartbreaking twist on the residential school story, Olemaun actually begs her father to allow her to go to the school, ...more
Aileen Stewart
Jul 27, 2015 Aileen Stewart rated it it was amazing
This book made me stop and think about how important it is to appreciate the little things, especially when life is difficult. When I Was Eight is based on the true life experiences of Margaret Pokiak-Fenton, a small girl born in the arctic, whose only dream was to learn to read Alice In Wonderland like her older sister.

When she finally talks her father into letting her attend a catholic school in the town where they trade, she finds school daunting. One of the nuns cuts of her hair, changes her
This is the story of eight year old Olemaun. She wants so desperately to go to the outsiders school and learn to read their language. When her father agrees to allow her to attend the outsiders school, she finds that she has to fight for the right to do so.

I have heard of many accounts of what it was like to be native and attend an Indian Residential School. This book does not shy away from some of the accounts that I have heard, such as cutting the hair and stripping them of their ancestral na
Young Olemaun knew a lot of things pertinent to her daily life in a frozen world. But she didn't know how to read and this one thing was her greatest desire. She wanted it so badly that she begged her father to send her to the Outsiders school. He knew it wasn't the best place for her but he finally gave in to her wishes and left her with the nuns. So many changes happened then, she lost her hair and her name to these strangers. She was worked to the bone doing every chore imaginable, but she ...more
Feb 07, 2013 Tracy rated it liked it
This is a good book to show that perseverance and determination pay off. Olemaun is just like many 8 year old kids, and wants what she wants right now. She doesn't listen to her father when he tries to disuade her, and eventually does get her wish to attend school and to learn how to read. But this school is not what she expected, she is not treated very nicely by the Nuns at this school. The treatment that Olemaun receives could very well frighten kids who have sensitive hearts. But in the end ...more
May 01, 2013 Erin rated it it was amazing
This seemingly simple work is complex in its beauty. Olemaun not only found her voice, she has given voice to an entire generation of children who were taken from their homes. When I Was Eight is a powerful book with stunning pictures. My favorite passage comes at the end, when Olemaun rises to meet the vindictive nun’s challenge.

“I felt a great happiness inside that I dared not show. I quietly took my seat. I was Olemaun, conqueror of evil, reader of books. I was a girl who traveled to a strang
Inuit girl Olemaun begs her father to allow her to attend the white man's school so she can learn to read in English, and despite his misgivings, he does so. Although she is excited, she loses many parts of her identity, including her hair, clothing, and name. The newly-christened Margaret struggles with the chores and being belittled by a teacher because she cannot read. After being punished severely, she draws strength from within and is finally able to read. The story and illustrations ...more
Jennifer Heise
Feb 09, 2014 Jennifer Heise rated it really liked it
Heartrending story with beautiful illustrations and a clear depiction of a painful chapter in First Peoples history. Olemaun wants to learn to read, so she gets her parents to let her go to the outsiders' school. Once there, she finds out that the school is not what she expected. In addition to the petty humiliations of the Indian school regime, she must face up against a teaching nun who has it in for her and bullies her mercilessly. But due to her determination and bravery, Olemaun does learn ...more
Jun 29, 2013 duchesskenni rated it liked it
Shelves: summer-2013
An Inspiring Historically Derived Picture Book

Beautifully illustrated.

I think this is a good book to share with children. First, it exposes them to the idea that education isn't a right, but a luxury. The hardship that Olemaun had to overcome in her desire to learn how to read is certainly inspiring. I certainly would not want to leave home at 8 to be mistreated why trying to get an education.

Also the book gives children insight into how Native American were treated in boarding schools. Forced t
This is a fantastic book about another embarrassing aspect of our history: ripping Native American's culture from them and force-feeding the white man's. It's a wonderful way to introduce the topic to younger children (3rd grade and up) that conveys the inhumanity of what was done while also making it relatable to them and what they've experienced so far in their lives.

Great for Common Core, as children will be able to easily read this narrative nonfiction (with wonderfully vivid pictures by Ga
Olemaun is a young Inuit girl who longs to learn to read like her big sister. Her father resist taking her to school until she wears him down. At her new school she receives a new name and a haircut. While she still longs to read, her chores and the treatment she receives at the hands of her classmates and the nun teacher blunts her zeal for words. Olemaun must harness the strength and tenacity that got her into to school to master the English language. This is a wonderful book that highlights ...more
Jun 23, 2013 Anna rated it really liked it
Shelves: netgalley
Disclosure: I received a free ebook of this title from NetGalley.

This book tells the story of Olemaun, an Inuit girl who begs her father to let her attend a Catholic school so that she can learn to read. Though the teachers are mainly interested in forcing the schoolgirls to do chores and to wear Western clothing, Olemaun’s determination causes her to achieve her goal, being able to read Alice in Wonderland. The poetic prose and softly drawn illustrations skillfully convey Olemaun’s resolution t
Jan 24, 2015 Jeffrey rated it really liked it
I like this book very much though I do wish that Annick had suggested an epilogue to provide some context for the book - it certainly is a powerful story about an Inuit girl's humilation at the hands of a nun in the Residential School she attends and how she overcomes and, ultimately, triumphs - it has a lovely narrative voice and I admire the way that the authors have shaped the story for a picture book audience from the much more complex Fatty Legs but there is still something missing - works ...more
Jul 10, 2013 Beth rated it it was ok
Wanted to like this book more than I did - it's rare to see a book discussing Native American Boarding Schools, which is why I was initially drawn to it. I did enjoy the illustrations more than the text. I found the text to be stilted in places and didactic in others. Some cliches were glaringly obvious to me as well, but as it is a rare book topic, I would still allow the title into my collection.

ARC supplied by publisher via NetGalley
Feb 16, 2014 Mayra rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Last week I read this book to the fourth graders at school. I first asked them what they wanted when they were eight (money, to be this or that, friends, etc). I also pointed out where Banks Island was and briefly talked about the Inuit, Reservation schools and nuns. Not a word was heard until I was done with the last page.
I did not know this is a shorter version of another book: Fatty Legs. It is on my wish list.
A poignant picture book about a little girl who learns to read at a great price because she must attend an Indian Residential School. She endures the stripping of her cultural traditions, her language, and her family, but perseveres. This one doesn't sugarcoat things and remains understandable for young readers.
Jun 17, 2013 Jen rated it it was amazing
Full review at

When I Was Eight is a younger version of 2010's USBBY Outstanding International Book, Fatty Legs. The story of Margaret Pokiak-Fenton's time in a residential school is more detailed in the middle grade novel, but this picture book has the same message of the triumph of the individual no matter the circumstances.
Raegan Rocco
Dec 05, 2013 Raegan Rocco rated it it was amazing
Absolutely amazing picture book version of Christy and Margaret's "Fatty Legs"...which I appreciated so much. This picture book version is brilliant...the art by Gabrielle Grimard is so stunning and beautiful I just wanted to continue looking at the pictures on each page before I turned the next...
I appreciate hearing first-hand accounts of the residential school era. This is a part of history that I did not know about when I was growing up.

This is a picture book version of a portion of the book Fatty Legs which I also enjoyed.

Flor De Vita
Feb 28, 2016 Flor De Vita rated it it was amazing
A story that showed the reality of many kids that live through abuse, separation or even the destruction of their cultures. But not everything is lost. In this case she has the determination and hope to survive and stand up when the situation is bad.

May 03, 2013 Jen rated it liked it
Shelves: pb
this is a very sad book with pretty pictures. She does so many chores though, it is unclear when she learned to read as she triumphs on the last page. I would change the ending slightly and find out how she uses the power to read after she gets older.
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Christy Jordan-Fenton was born on a farm in rural Alberta. Her only dreams were to be a cowgirl, to dance with Gene Kelly and to write stories. As a youngster, she barrel-raced, rode on cattle drives, witnessed dozens of brandings, and often woke up on early spring mornings to find lambs, calves, and foals taking refuge in the bathroom.

Her parents divorced when she was seven, and she moved to town
More about Christy Jordan-Fenton...

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