“When I Was Eight” By Christy Jordan-Fenton And Margaret Pokiak-Fenton, Illustrated By Gabrielle Grimard

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 is a young readers version of the bestselling memoir, Fatty Legs. Now young readers can meet this remarkable girl who reminds us what power we hold when we can read. Ages 6–8.


About The Author

Margaret Pokiak-Fenton
Christy Jordan-Fenton

Christy Jordan-Fenton lives on a farm outside Fort St. John, British Columbia, which they share with her mother-in-law Margaret (the main character in both Fatty Legs (2010) and A Stranger at Home (2011), three small children, three dogs, a llama, too many rogue rabbits to count, and enough horses to outfit a small town. Christy’s work has appeared, or will appear, in Jones Ave, Prairie Fire, and an anthology entitled DiVerseCities 2. She is also a performing cowgirl poet and hopes to continue to tell stories that promote education, understanding, and healing. Margaret Pokiak-Fenton was born on Holman Island in the Arctic Ocean, en route with her nomadic family to their winter hunting grounds on Banks Island. She spent her early years on Banks Island. Margaret is well known for her traditional handmade Inuit crafts and has showcased them at the Northern Arts Festival many times. Most Saturdays she can be found at the local farmer’s market in Fort St. John where she sells her beautifully beaded and adorned crafts and the best bread and bannock in the North Peace.


Read Aloud Tips

  • Introduce the book by asking students to reflect on what they love about reading and learning to read.
  • Throughout the book, ask students to predict what will happen next.
  • Use language walls to discuss new and unknown words.
  • Discuss the authors and their backgrounds and how it plays into the setting of the book.


“The authors of Fatty Legs (2010) distill that moving memoir of an Inuit child’s residential school experience into an even more powerful picture book. – Kirkus Reviews

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Information Sheet – When I was 8

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