Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Wenjack” as Want to Read:
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview


4.27  ·  Rating details ·  5,885 ratings  ·  826 reviews
Shortlisted for the 2017 OLSN Northern Lit Award

An Ojibwe boy runs away from a North Ontario Indian School, not realizing just how far away home is. Along the way he's followed by Manitous, spirits of the forest who comment on his plight, cajoling, taunting, and ultimately offering him a type of comfort on his difficult journey back to the place he was so brutally removed
Paperback, 112 pages
Published October 18th 2016 by Hamish Hamilton
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 4.27  · 
Rating details
 ·  5,885 ratings  ·  826 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of Wenjack
Mar 13, 2017 rated it really liked it
Education, I honestly believe, is the only way to start correcting the incredible injustices of the past. The mistreatment of Aboriginal Peoples in Canada is something that I learned so little about throughout my school years, and so it's up to me to fix that.

Reading books like this is harrowing. It's sad and honestly a bit awful. Who, seriously, wants to read about kids being ripped away from their families to be raised in schools that try to abuse their culture out of them? ... No one. But we
Matt Quann
Oct 28, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: oh-canada
This is the most important Canadian book of the year.

I don't just mean that in a literary sense either. No, this book is absolutely essential reading for Canadians. In a country where we pride ourselves on our kindness and sense of community, it is of paramount importance that we look upon the abject horror of residential schools. It is important that we as a country know these atrocities so that they will never be committed again, and so that reconciliation can begin.

I read Wenjack cover to co
Jul 26, 2021 rated it really liked it
With all the news that has come out in the last few months about these hideous residential schools, here in my own backyard, I thought it’s time for me to find out more about this horrifying history.
I’ve been a fan of Boyden’s for his richly cultured North American Indian stories. This however, is nonfiction, based on Chanie Wenjacks’s desertion from one of these monstrous schools. It’s his journey to try to get home and the animal spirits - Manitous - whom witness him on his way.
This doesn’t ha
Jan 02, 2017 rated it really liked it
I read WENJACK by JOSEPH BOYDEN in one sitting which took me less than an hour to read. When I bought this book I didn't realize that is was a novella and I honestly didn't know much about the plot either. I bought it because it looked interesting to me and I knew that I would learn something by reading it. This book is based on Chanie "Charlie" Wenjack's story, which I regretfully have to say that I never knew nothing about. Which is really sad when you think about it.

The story was told in two
Jon Grice
Sep 27, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction
From the 1870's-1996, Canada implemented Indian Residential Schools to "educate" thousands of children from indigenous families. These places were boarding schools, often located hundreds of miles away from the homes of the students. In these institutions, Native children were forced to "unlearn" all of their cultural languages and heritage. Countless children died in these alien facilities, from disease, from abuse, and from exposure or accidents while trying to run away. It is not clear to me ...more
Aug 16, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: short-fiction, owned
This is a nice short book that would be a good introduction to Boyden's works. It's a novella that tells the story of Chanie "Charlie" Wenjack who escapes from a Canadian Indian residential school in an attempt to make it back to his family. It's beautifully written, as all Boyden's books are, and tells a harrowing story. It did lack some depth that I feel Boyden captures in his other short stories, but I still enjoyed it and would recommend it. Now that I've read all of his books, I guess I jus ...more
Lala BooksandLala
Nov 07, 2016 rated it it was amazing
"Many thousands of children died during their time in these alien institutions- from disease, from abuse, from exposure or accidents while trying to run away. The true number of children who died under the watch of those responsible for their care will never be known. Proper records were purposefully not kept. The death of these countless innocents remains one of the deepest, most brutal stains on Canada's history." ...more
Brandon Forsyth
Jun 21, 2016 rated it it was amazing
One of those rare stories that only takes an hour to read, but you know will stay with you for the rest of your life. Miigwetch, Mr. Boyden.
Dave Schaafsma
10/14/17: Re-read for my Fall 2017 YAL class, partly in conjunction with Secret Path, by Gord Downie and Jeff Lemire. Some revisions/edits.


“Walk on, little Charlie
Walk on through the snow.
Heading down the railway line,
Trying to make it home.
Well, he's made it 40 miles,
Six hundred left to go.
It's a long old lonesome journey,
Shufflin' through the snow.”

The Ballad of Charlie Wenjack (1972) by the great Indian singer Willie Dunn

Something really special has been happening around the 50th anniv
What a terrific novella!
The writing is superb.
Once again Boyden gives a voice to the unheard.
I wished this was a whole novel with hundreds of pages.
The spiritual atmosphere is fascinating.
But the story is extremely sad, based on a true story of Chanie Wenjack, a boy who died alone, after running away from an abusive residential school, trying to find his home.
To hear how Canadians mistreated the aboriginals people is devastating.
I don’t think that there is anyway to correct the injustices of t
"One day I will run.
One day they won't hurt me anymore."

This quote from WENJACK written by Scotiabank Giller Prize-winning author Joseph Boyden and illustrated by artist Kent Monkman, was probably said by many boys brutally taken from their homes to residential Indian schools.

Chanie, an Ojibwe boy runs away from a Residential Indian School in Northern Ontario, not realizing that his home is over six hundred kilometres away. Manitous, spirits of the forest, follow Chanie and comment on his long
Oct 27, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This book, so tiny and fragile and beautiful, is a gorgeous tribute to a boy who, his family says, was all three of these things.

I love this book -- its frailty in physical size and in emotional contribution.

Boyden has done a beautiful job with a painful subject. Along with Downie & Lemire's Secret Path, Wenjack's story is coming out in a classy way, a touching way and a way that demands attention. I am thankful to all of these artists for what they are giving us as Canadians.
Nov 06, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-in-2016
This is a must read for all Canadians, young and old. Joseph Boyden narrates the escape of Chanie 'Charlie' Wenjack from his residential school to go to his home. This glimpse into a First Nation youth's life shows how horrible those schools were.

It does shine the light on one of the worst moments of Canadian history and how the 'European' wanted to educate and civilize the 'savage' and how horribly wrong it was done.

You can grab a copy from the nearest Chapters or Coles , and you won't regret
A pocketbook worth reading; there is some kind of power in there on those pages. It is a quiet and poignant blend of reality and lore from the first people of what would become known as Canada, raped of their culture by the white man and forced to assimilate. The little boy in this story is a hero and should be regarded as such. His is one of thousands of similar stories of the toll it took on the men and women who'd been ripped from their families.

If I have one criticism, it's that it wasn't l
Apr 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction, canadian
A must read for every Canadian! This is a very short book but tells the story of one of the darkest periods of First Nation children's lives in Canada!

We always hear how nice everyone is in Canada but reading this book shows not everyone was treated with kindness.
What a beautiful, spiritual, incredibly sad, poetically written short story.

This is a very tiny book, but it reads so much bigger than it is. Absolutely loved the deep spiritual feeling Boyden inserted into his writing.

Boyden wrote this in a such a brilliant and natural way to portray such a dark and deeply sad true story.

Easy 5/5.
Kris - My Novelesque Life
Jan 08, 2017 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: fans of poetry and canadian histiry
Written by Joseph Boyden
2016; Hamish Hamilton (118 Pages)
Genre: literary fiction, historical fiction, canadian, canada

RATING: ★★★★

Chanie Wenjack, a young Ojibwe boy is taken from from his family and put into aresidential school in Ontario, Canada. While there he is bullied and abused by those that are supposed to care for him. Despite the danger, he decides to runaway with two fellow "students". Later, he would be found dead. Wenjack's death would lead to an inquest that would reveal th
❀ Susan G
Oct 20, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2016-reads

After meeting Joseph Boyden in June, at the Celebrating Canada’s Indigenous Writers Event, I have been looking forward to his latest book. Wenjack is a novella that is a “pocket-sized” book with a striking black and white drawings of the spirit animals which followed Chanie Wenjack in the fictional story based on his escape from the residential school. Despite its’ small size, the book shares a large impact on readers who consider the terrible legacy of re
50 years ago, 12-year old aboriginal boy Chanie Wenjack ran away from a Canadian residential school, heading for the home he had been taken from. He didn't make it.

If you went to a Canadian high school anything like mine was, this subject was optional learning. History class glazed over the chapter where we mistreated first nations children, ripping from their homes, beating them when they escaped, and forcing them to forget their own language, names, and family.

In English class, when Three Day
May 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing
My heart goes out to Chanie Wenjack and all the others who experienced the loneliness and fear of the Residential School system.
The mysticism in this story warmed my heart. Chanie wasn't alone through his ordeal of finding his way home. I truly hope that Chanie had the hearts of the spirits with him.
This story can be seen on many levels:
Chanie Wenjack, the frightened, hungry, scared 12-year old who tried to find his way home.
Chanie Wenjack, the boy who's plight caused a nation to look at what
May 06, 2016 rated it it was amazing
The story of 12 year old Chanie Wenjack, an Anishinaabe boy who ran away from his residential school and subsequently died from hunger and cold alone along railway tracks in Northern Ontario in 1966. His death launched an investigation into these horrendous institutions - though it still took many decades for the last school to finally close its doors . In short: another absolutely essential read from Canada's greatest living writer. ...more
Dec 31, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: can-lit, fiction
“Wenjack” measures up to all my expectations, and then some. It was beautiful how he changed each chapter up, and wrote in a different point of view. If it wasn’t our main character, Chanie, then it was an owl, or a spider, or even a lynx. The interweaving of man and animal is essential to the storyline of this book. Read my full review on my blog, ReadingMaria : https://mariazuppardi.wordpress.com/2...
Aug 25, 2016 rated it really liked it
Picture the genius writing of A Little Life but in less than one hundred pages, and made even sadder with a First Nations angle.

And a child alone in the cold.

And a true story.

Not for the faint of heart. But you have to have a heart to read it.
Jul 21, 2021 rated it really liked it
I start with an apology. Canada has a dark secret but over the last decade, it has been exposed. In the last few months, countless unmarked graves have been discovered in connection with residential schools. Since the 1870s, indigenous children were sent to residential schools, as they put it, “to beat the Indian out of them” so they could be Canadian. That was the attitude if the Church and the government. The schools ended in 1996.

I went to a Catholic school where many students were from the n
Allison ༻hikes the bookwoods༺
I'm at a loss for words after reading this fictionalized account of Chanie Wenjack's last days, with flashbacks to his time in a residential school. It's through masterfully crafted historical fiction such as this that we can begin to truly understand the horrors of our past. ...more
Czarny Pies
Oct 16, 2017 rated it really liked it
"Wenjack" is a short novel by Joseph Boyden (winner of the 2008 Scotiabank Giller Prize) the tells the story of Chanie Wenjack (a native Canadian) who at the age of 13 died of hunger after fleeing the Cecilia Jeffrey Indian Residential School at age 13 in Kenora, Ontario, Canada.
Boyden's superb text is accompanied by outstanding illustrations. My problem with the book is the grievous lack of expository material to assist readers unfamiliar with Northern Ontario and the Canadian Residential Scho
Chihoe Ho
Oct 09, 2016 rated it really liked it
So much emotional weight and societal significance is packed into this novella, and really, only a great master storyteller like Joseph Boyden can capture the nuance of this tragic true story in such succinct ways through the eyes of the creatures who witness Chanie Wenjack's perilous journey. ...more
Oct 26, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Charlie. His real name is Chanie. But the ones who forced him to that school can't pronounce or don't care to listen and so say it with sharp tongues instead. If we could feel pity for this one, we would. His walk before, his walk to come. Neither is easy. All he wants is home. We follow now, we follow always, not to lead but to capture. Someone, yes, will capture this boy's life.

The genesis of Wenjack sounds like the stuff of urban myth: After Gord Downie's brother rediscovered the old Macl
Carolyn Walsh
Nov 18, 2016 rated it really liked it
Chani Wenjack, a 12 year old indigenous boy has become a symbol of the many children who died at residential schools. He died 50 years ago while running away from the school he was forced to attend many miles away from home. Chani's story serves as a companion piece to The Secret Path by Gordon Downie and Jeff Lemire which tells the boy's story through song and a graphic novel.
The horrific conditions at the schools which existed from the 1870's until the last one closed in 1996. Thousands of c
Susan's Reviews
Jun 12, 2018 rated it really liked it
Thin booklet - collection of short stories. Loved the shape-shifter story: I still think about it from time to time!
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »

Readers also enjoyed

  • Secret Path
  • Life in the City of Dirty Water: A Memoir of Healing
  • Five Little Indians
  • Indian Horse
  • Scarborough
  • They Called Me Number One: Secrets and Survival at an Indian Residential School
  • Jonny Appleseed
  • The Inconvenient Indian: A Curious Account of Native People in North America
  • Seven Fallen Feathers: Racism, Death, and Hard Truths in a Northern City
  • Ragged Company
  • Medicine Walk
  • A Knock on the Door: The Essential History of Residential Schools from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada
  • The Strangers
  • Fatty Legs: A True Story
  • Starlight
  • The Break
  • Sugar Falls: A Residential School Story
  • 21 Things You May Not Know About the Indian Act: Helping Canadians Make Reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples a Reality
See similar books…
Joseph Boyden is a Canadian novelist and short story writer.

He grew up in Willowdale, North York, Ontario and attended the Jesuit-run Brebeuf College School. Boyden's father Raymond Wilfrid Boyden was a medical officer renowned for his bravery, who was awarded the Distinguished Service Order and was the highest-decorated medical officer of World War II.

Boyden, of Irish, Scottish and Métis heritage

Related Articles

Need another excuse to treat yourself to a new book this week? We've got you covered with the buzziest new releases of the day. To create our...
29 likes · 5 comments
No trivia or quizzes yet. Add some now »