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category: Children's Fiction
published: Jan 2009
publisher: Coteau Books

Fight for Justice

by Lori Saigeon

tagged: native canadian, bullying, multigenerational

A visit to his beloved grandfather helps give Justice some ideas about bullying and how he might deal with it.

When Trey bullies him and also attacks Charity, Justice can't understand why. He's afraid to tell anyone-his mother, his teacher, or the school principal-for fear of making things worse.

Then on a family visit to their home reserve, Justice helps his mushum (grandfather) fix his snowmobile and finds the courage to talk about Trey. Through Mushum' stories and actions, he begins to understand why people bully and some possible ways to deal with them. There' no one simple, sure-fire solution in this honest and compassionate story, but Justice no longer feels quite so alone at school or on the street.

About the Author

Lori Saigeon

Recommended Age, Grade, and Reading Levels
8 to 11
3 to 6
  • Short-listed, Diamond Willow
Editorial Review

In her first juvenile novel, Fight for Justice, Canadian public school teacher Lori Saigeon strives to create a relevant story that will not only engage her inner-city charges, but also tackle the troublesome problem of bullying. She writes about the things that are real to the age group: The terror of oral class presentations, peer pressure and chance encounters with cute crushes that leave you trembling and tongue-tied.

Justice Stoneyplain is 10 and lives with his mother and twin sister, Charity, in the town of Monarch City, somewhere in Western Canada. Justice struggles with his role as man of the house in a single-parent aboriginal family. On school mornings, their mother packs their lunches and reminds them to be good, before she hustles off to her job at the local health centre. Chores are routine on the weekends, and the twins pitch in. Allowances are paid. Candy bars and chips are Justice's favourites, although he knows he should be saving for a game system. Weekend outings include family trips to the neighbourhood swimming pool, where the twins meet friends and everyone has a great time. For Justice and his family, life is good -until Trey, a youngster from a troubled family and the leader of a small coterie of punks, begins to harass the twins and their friends.

One Saturday, when Justice is going to the neighbourhood Shop 'n' Go to spend his allowance, the gang stops him, calls him names and pushes him around. Justice worries for his sister, who will be coming to the store alone later. He also wonders what he did to make Trey want to hurt him.

One family event that Justice cherishes is the occasional visit to his grandparents on the reserve, which is a few hours drive in their mother's rickety old car. On those mornings, Justice bounds out of bed and gulps down his breakfast. It is Justice's chance to interact with his Mushum (grandfather), who teaches him hunting skills and talks to him about traditional first nations values, including respect and kindness. On one visit, Mushum takes Justice to visit a grumpy neighbour, Mr. Blackquill, who lives alone since his wife died. The old man does not welcome the visitors. Mushum persists, giving him a gift of bannock bread baked by Kokum (grandmother) and insisting on staying for coffee.The men finally enjoy friendly banter about the old days and share hearty laughs.

Later, Justice tells Mushum about Trey and the bullying. They talk about the futility of revenge. Mushum tells Justice that people who are angry are usually in pain. Justice thinks about this when he goes back to school and finds Trey as aggressive as ever. The threats and taunts cause Justice to fear for his safety. The twins' mother worries, but they are afraid to tell on Trey and the gang. Justice decides to talk to their mother and a bullying education assembly is called at school. That only causes Trey and his friends to increase their harassment. After school, Justice is knocked almost unconscious.

Finally, outside events intervene to give Justice a reprieve. Trey's family gets in trouble with the law, and the court places him in a temporary home away from the community. The little group can now relax. Justice will have time to work out how he will cope with Trey when the time comes again. The plot is laid out clearly and is just suspenseful enough to keep a youngster reading. The vocabulary is challenging, but will not require frequent discouraging dictionary checks. This is a thoroughly enjoyable reading experience. Ramona Kiyoshk, of the Ojibway First Nation, is a freelance writer.

— Globe and Mail


Top  Grade
Librarian review

Fight for Justice

Ten-year-old Justice feels like the "man of the house" for his twin sister Charity and their mom. But when his classmate Trey bullies him, he doesn't know what to do. Then on a family visit to their home reserve, Justice helps his mushum (grandfather) fix his snowmobile and finds the courage to talk about Trey. Through Mushum' stories and actions, he begins to understand why people bully and some possible ways to deal with them.

This is a book that can be shared to teach about dealing with bullies, and is essential for encouraging those who have been targeted to speak up to their peers, family, or teachers about being tormented. It also takes readers into the life of an Aboriginal boy and describes the relationship he has with his grandparents who lives on a reserve. Told in short chapters, this book might appeal to reluctant readers.

Teacher’s guide available (http://coteaubooks.com/assets/HTML/pdfs/teacher_resources/Fight%20for%20Justice%20Study%20Guide.pdf)

Source: Association of Canadian Publishers. Top Grade Selection 2016.

Association of Book Publishers of BC
Librarian review

Fight for Justice

When Justice and his twin sister Charity become the targets of bullying, Justice feels it is up to him to defend his family’s honour. But the bullies are bigger and more violent than he is and the situation seems beyond resolve. Afraid that telling will only make things worse, Justice hides the truth. His favourite place is the reserve where his Mushum and Kokum live and there Justice finds some peace as well as some good advice. With help from his family his self-confidence grows and Justice learns to look at the world that the bullies live in and to stand up for himself without resorting to violence.

Source: The Association of Book Publishers of BC. Canadian Aboriginal Books for Schools. 2011-2012.

Canadian Children's  Book Centre
Librarian review

Fight for Justice

Except for his problems with a local bully, 10-year-old Justice Stonyplain lives a good life in the city with his twin sister Charity and his mother. He especially loves going to the reserve – a place where he can run free and explore – to see his Kokum and Mushom, his mother’s parents. His Mushom has taught him many skills and the two of them enjoy doing things together. In fact, when his teacher asks the students to do a presentation on a city or important place, Justice picks the reserve.

When his classmate Trey starts picking on Justice – and sometimes Charity – at school and in the neighbourhood, Justice doesn’t know how to respond. Should he be “the man of the house” and protect his sister? Should he stop being “wimpy” and try to take revenge? Should he try to avoid the bullies and, if so, how? One thing he is sure of: he can’t tell his mother or the teachers.

While Justice struggles with this problem, there are lots of small victories and joys in his life – taking his first jump off the high diving board with his daredevil friend Vance, getting so excited about his project that he actually enjoys the presentation. There is also the growing realization that other children may not have the strong family that he does.

In the end, he and Charity are forced to tell the adults about the bullying, but it is Justice’s own strength and action (built on what he has learned from his Mushom and his mother) that solves the problem.

This is a first novel from Regina author and elementary school teacher Lori Saigeon and she draws on her experiences teaching in inner city schools. She marries a universal story – dealing with a bully – with the particular details of a Canadian city and the reserve in a gentle, positive and authentic tale.

Source: The Canadian Children's Bookcentre. Winter 2010. Vol.33 No.1.

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