Book Review: Not My Girl

Not My Girl by Christy Jordan-Fenton & Margaret Pokiak-Fenton, illustrated by Gabrielle Grimard
Grade: 1-3

Not My Girl, written by Christy Jordan-Fenton and Margaret Pokiak-Fenton and illustrated by Gabrielle Grimard is based on the true story of Margaret Pokiak-Fenton and her experiences as a young girl.

10-year-old Margaret, named Olemaun by her family, returns home to her Inuit community in Canada after spending two years at a residential school, a place where Indigenous children were taught to assimilate and lose elements of their culture. Her life experiences no longer matched those of her family. Her hair is cut short, she was given a new name, she has forgotten her native language, and her mother no longer recognizes her child. Margaret (Olemaun) feels disappointed in herself for losing this part of her identity. 

She struggles to eat the food her family provides and relies on her father to translate language for her. Because Margaret (Olemaun) spent two years away from her family and her way of life, she struggles to adapt. She also cannot help her family with household tasks, she has trouble connecting with her friends and community after they see her as an outsider. 

Margaret (Olemaun) looks inward to accept the parts of herself that she was unable to express while at the residential school. Through her family and her culture, Margaret-Olemaun learns to build her relationship with her past and future. 

Gabrielle Grimard’s illustrations are colorful and flowing and provide the reader with the ability to see the world through Margaret’s (Olemaun’s) perspective, demonstrating wide and open horizons and close looks into her family and life. 

Not My Daughter allows students to learn about a part of history from Canada that also took place in the United States. Students may have questions about the experience after reading, and the publisher created a discussion and study guide to assist in the learning process.

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