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I Am Not a Number by Jenny Kay Dupuis
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I Am Not a Number (edition 2016)

by Jenny Kay Dupuis (Author), Gillian Newland (Illustrator)

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1409155,045 (4.4)4
"A picture book based on a true story about a young First Nations girl who was sent to a residential school. When eight-year-old Irene is removed from her First Nations family to live in a residential school she is confused, frightened, and terribly homesick. She tries to remember who she is and where she came from despite the efforts of the nuns to force her to do otherwise. Based on the life of Jenny Kay Dupuis' own grandmother, I Am Not a Number brings a terrible part of Canada's history to light in a way that children can learn from and relate to"--… (more)
Member:MegaKami1995
Title:I Am Not a Number
Authors:Jenny Kay Dupuis (Author)
Other authors:Gillian Newland (Illustrator)
Info:Second Story Press (2016), 32 pages
Collections:Your library
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I Am Not a Number by Jenny Kay Dupuis

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"When the Indian agent comes for Irene and her brothers, their parents reluctantly give them up to be taken to one of Canada’s infamous residential schools.

At the school, Irene is separated from her brothers, scrubbed, shorn, and assigned a number: 759. When she and another girl exchange words in Ojibwa, a nun punishes Irene for speaking “the devil’s language.” The punishment is horrifying: she is made to hold a bedpan filled with hot coals. The year passes slowly, chapel preferable to chores and lessons, especially as she can see her brothers there. At home the next summer, Irene tells her father, the community’s chief, about the “lessons” taught at “that horrible place”—and when the Indian agent comes again in the fall, the children hide while he tells the agent, “You will NEVER. TAKE MY CHILDREN. AWAY. AGAIN!” By the time readers get to this place in the story, they will have gotten past the stiff beginning and occasional overwriting and will be as relieved as Irene at their rescue. Newland’s watercolors capture the warmth of this Anishinaabe family and the austerity of the boarding school; the scene in which Irene’s father stares down the agent will have children cheering. Dupuis and Kacer base the story on the experiences of Dupuis’ grandmother, and they provide further information on the residential schools in an author’s note.

A moving glimpse into a not-very-long-past injustice. (Picture book. 7-11)" From Kirkus Reviews, www.kirkusreviews.com
  CDJLibrary | Apr 28, 2021 |
"I Am Not a Number" is the story of a young girl named Irene and her two brothers who are taken from their family and forced to live at a residential school for Indigenous children. At the residential school, Irene and her brothers are abused by nuns and forced to abandon their language and culture. When Irene and her brothers return home for the summer, their father comes up with a plan to hide them from the "Indian agent" so that they will never be taken again. This book is based on Jenny Kay Dupuis's grandmother's experiences as a First Nations child in Canada being forced by the government to attend a residential school. It documents Canada's history of oppressing its Indigenous people. It is a story about family, injustice, resilience, and love. It would be an excellent book to use for teaching social studies as the events in the story are not only relevant to Canadian history but to the United States' history, as well. I would recommend this book to third through sixth grade teachers. ( )
  lucymaccash | Sep 27, 2020 |
Beautiful art and a very important story. ( )
  widdersyns | Jul 19, 2020 |
Jenny Kay Dupuis writes in the voice of her grandmother as a child, telling how (in 1928) little Irene, aged eight, and her two young brothers were taken from their home on the Nipissing First Nation Reserve, just west of North Bay, Ontario. Their father was threatened with jail if he didn’t hand over the children to the Indian agent. Resigned and grieved, he and the children’s mother watched as the government representative drove off with them. It would have been a long ride west (along what is now known as highway 17) to Spanish, Ontario where the imposing Catholic-run residential school stood. There Irene would be separated from her brothers. She’d be assigned a number (Indian kids were deprived of names at the school), ordered to “scrub the brown off”, and her beautiful hair would be cut (a ritual the Anishinaabe perform when grieving a loved one, and one which Irene saw as peculiarly fitting in this terrible place—given the losses she was experiencing). Irene’s essential kindness—her sharing a biscuit with another child at breakfast, a transaction which involved the use of Nippissing words (the “devil’s language”, according to the worst of the nuns)—was punished. Sister Mary made the little girl hold a bedpan full of hot coals. The child’s hands were badly burned.

Irene’s story has a happier ending than many other survivor accounts of these residential schools. Irene and her siblings were sent home for the summer. Slowly, the stories of the deprivation and abuse they endured at the Indian School leaked out. Irene’s father resolved and succeeded in heroically hiding the children when the Indian agent returned for them in the fall. He told the government man he didn’t care about his threats. He refused to send the kids back.

An afterword notes that in the course of a century approximately 150,000 First Nations, Inuit, and Métis children were removed from their families and taken to residential schools, places of horror and mistreatment. Jenny Kay Dupuis’s account, accompanied by spare, subdued paintings, is a very accessible one. It gives a good idea of the abuse and the sadness without overwhelming young readers with too many terrible details. Presenting Irene’s story in a two-language (Nipissing and English) text is a powerful statement. The language (like the Nipissing people from which it comes) has endured.

Recommended for children ages 8-12, this is another book I’d love to see on the Ontario Library Association’s Silver Birch Express Readers’ Choice Awards list this fall. ( )
  fountainoverflows | Aug 22, 2019 |
This book tore at my heart. The residential schools were a black mark on Canadian History as well as the Christian Church. To tear children away from their families and force them to live a life that is completely unfamiliar to them is awful enough, but to tell them their language, life, beliefs etc. were evil is devastating. I cried as I read this story about young Irene Couchie and her brothers. The way she was treated was despicable. It is no wonder so many Native Canadians had/have mental health issues. The threats to her parents of arresting them if they did not turn over their children was extortion at best. Kudos to Irene for sharing this story with her granddaughter to publish. The way it is written is wonderful for children to learn about this shameful time in Canadian History without them dealing with trauma. It is sad, but I know there is so much more that could have been added that would have been too much for children to hear. A definite must for all Canadian History classes in elementary schools.

I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. ( )
  Carlathelibrarian | Feb 5, 2019 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Jenny Kay Dupuisprimary authorall editionscalculated
Kacer, Kathymain authorall editionsconfirmed
Newland, GillianIllustratorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
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"A picture book based on a true story about a young First Nations girl who was sent to a residential school. When eight-year-old Irene is removed from her First Nations family to live in a residential school she is confused, frightened, and terribly homesick. She tries to remember who she is and where she came from despite the efforts of the nuns to force her to do otherwise. Based on the life of Jenny Kay Dupuis' own grandmother, I Am Not a Number brings a terrible part of Canada's history to light in a way that children can learn from and relate to"--

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