9781554514908_cover Enlarge Cover
5 of 5
3 ratings
list price: $9.95
also available: eBook Hardcover Audiobook
category: Children's Nonfiction
published: Feb 2013
publisher: Annick Press

When I Was Eight

by Christy Jordan-Fenton & Margaret-Olemaun Pokiak-Fenton, illustrated by Gabrielle Grimard

tagged: native canadian

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 tenacity draws the attention of a black-cloaked nun who tries to break her spirit at every turn. But the young girl is more determined than ever to learn how to read.

Based on the true story of Margaret Pokiak-Fenton, and complemented by stunning illustrations, When I Was Eight makes the bestselling Fatty Legs accessible to younger readers. Now they, too, can meet this remarkable girl who reminds us what power we hold when we can read.

About the Authors

Christy Jordan-Fenton

Margaret-Olemaun Pokiak-Fenton

Gabrielle Grimard has been drawing since she was young. Her passion for drawing and painting led her to pursue studies in fine arts and arts education at Concordia University. After she had her first child, she began her career as an illustrator. She is the illustrator of The Library Bus, which is a Governor General’s Literary Award finalist, and Stolen Words, which was a Bank Street College Best Book of the Year, a Kirkus Best Picture Book of the Year, and the winner of the Ruth and Sylvia Schwartz Children's Book Award. She lives in Waterville, Quebec, with her family.

Recommended Age, Grade, and Reading Levels
6 to 9
1 to 4
Reading age:
6 to 9
  • Joint winner, TD Summer Reading Club Recommended Reads List
  • Joint winner, Best Books for Kids and Teens, starred selection, Canadian Children’s Book Centre
  • Joint winner, Recommended Reads List, Canadian Toy Testing Council
  • Short-listed, Christie Harris Illustrated Children’s Literature Prize
Editorial Reviews

“Utterly compelling.” 

— Kirkus Reviews, *starred review, 02/13

“An even more powerful read due to its emphasis on concise, affective text coupled with Gabrielle Grimard’s quietly unpretentious artwork.”

— Canlit for Little Canadians, 04/28/13

“Its greatest potency lies in its representation of an indomitable child determined to read.”

— Toronto Star, 04/12/13

“This book is a small but powerful reminder of the freedom that literacy brings.”

— School Library Journal, 05/13

“An excellent book to start discussions and research about the effects of residential schools.”

— Canadian Teacher, 02/01/17

“A frightful but honest story about perseverance . . . Look for it. Order it. Share it.” 

— American Indians in Children’s Literature (AICL), 07/21/13

“A powerful story . . . ties in with antibullying themes.”

— Resource Links, 06/13

“A searing account of assimilation policies and a celebration of the human spirit.”

— Booklist, 04/13

“Powerful and disturbing . . . readers will admire her for her incredible spirit and courage.”

— Exeter-Times Advocate, 05/16/13

“This excellent picture book . . . a powerful way to introduce the residential school experience to younger readers.” 

— Sal’s Fiction Addiction, 02/02/14

“Olemaun is a great character and an excellent example for young readers to follow.”

— CM Reviews, 06/13

Buy the e-book:


Top  Grade
Librarian review

When I Was Eight

Margaret is determined to learn how to read, but that means leaving her Arctic home for the outsiders' school. A version of Fatty Legs for younger readers.

Residential schooling is an important part of Canada’s history. This book makes it accessible for young students to learn about some of the history through the lens of a young Inuit girl, Margaret, who wants to go to school to learn how to read. Besides telling one story of learning to read, several themes can be found in this story: assimilation, using your voice, and standing your ground.

Also available: Not My Girl by Christy Jordan-Fenton & Margaret Pokiak-Fenton

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

Association of Book Publishers of BC
Librarian review

When I Was Eight

In spite of her father’s warnings, eight-year-old Olemaun wants to learn to read which means attending a residential school. Renamed Margaret she remains feisty and stubborn attracting the negative attention of one of the nuns. In spite of insults, extra chores and frightening punishments, Margaret teaches herself to read and finally beats the nuns at their own game. This short picture book is an adaptation of the true story of Margaret Pokiak-Fenton. Previously published as Fatty Legs, When I Was Eight this book introduces Margaret’s story to younger readers. Charming colour illustrations enhance the text.

Source: The Association of Book Publishers of BC. Canadian Aboriginal Books for Schools. 2013-2014.

Contacting facebook
Please wait...