When I Was Eight Share this with a friend

by Christy Jordan-Fenton and Margaret Pokiak-Fenton
illustrated by Gabrielle Grimard

Best Books for Kids and Teens, starred selection, Canadian Children’s Book Centre Recommended Reads List, Canadian Toy Testing Council 2017 TD Summer Reading Club Recommended Reads List Christie Harris Illustrated Children’s Literature Prize finalist Cybils Award nomination

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.


“Utterly compelling.”
—Kirkus Reviews, *starred review, 02/13

“A searing account of assimilation policies and a celebration of the human spirit.”
—Booklist, 04/13

“This book is a small but powerful reminder of the freedom that literacy brings.”
—School Library Journal, 05/13

“A frightful but honest story about perseverance . . . Look for it. Order it. Share it.”
—American Indians in Children’s Literature (AICL), 07/21/13

“Its greatest potency lies in its representation of an indomitable child determined to read.”
—Toronto Star, 04/12/13

“A powerful story . . . ties in with antibullying themes.”
—Resource Links, 06/13

“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

“A celebration of diversity, willpower and courage.”
—gobblefunked.wordpress.com, 05/19/13

“Powerful and disturbing . . . readers will admire her for her incredible spirit and courage.
—Exeter-Times Advocate, 05/16/13

“Olemaun is a great character and an excellent example for young readers to follow.”
—CM Reviews, 06/13

“Sheds a quiet yet powerful look at residential schools and the treatment of native children in the Americas.”
—The Family-Ship Experience, 07/08/13

“This excellent picture book . . . a powerful way to introduce the residential school experience to younger readers.”
—Sal’s Fiction Addiction, 02/02/14

“A compelling story with beautiful illustrations.”
—North Shore News, 04/20/16

“An excellent book to start discussions and research about the effects of residential schools.”
—Canadian Teacher, 02/17


Look Inside

Featured Here

Download Cover

Rights Sold:
Korean, French NA, L Dialect Cree

Print This Page

For other books by
Christy Jordan-Fenton

For other books by
Margaret Pokiak-Fenton

For other books illustrated by
Gabrielle Grimard