Margin Notes



“It took me going far away

To feel this close to you

It took dreaming of a memory

To change what I thought I knew.”


David A. Robertson’s The Barren Grounds is a book I hope many get the chance to read. The Indigenous author and public speaker recently published The Barren Grounds in the fall of 2020 as Part One of the Misewa Saga. It is marketed as a middle-grade book although I believe it would be a fantastic read for any student who enjoys themes such as fantasy, adventure, and self-discovery. The story follows two Indigenous children Morgan and Eli who have been placed in the same foster home in a white suburban Manitoban town. Morgan is our protagonist, a strongminded avid reader who at times is a little hard-headed and blunt, offering comedic relief during tense scenes. Morgan has been through several foster homes and struggles to remember who her family is – only dreaming brief visions of a woman speaking to her in Cree. Although she is apprehensive about opening up to her foster family, she bonds with Eli over his hauntingly detailed drawings. While hanging out in the attic, the two discover a portal to another world that is stuck in a cycle of wintery famine. There Morgan and Eli meet a stoic Fisher and witty Squirrel, and the two children help them reclaim their land from the infections of human greed.

The Barren Grounds is a story of losing yourself and finding yourself, of insatiable hunger and contentment, of greed and generosity, and of fear and courage. If Cree is not a language that you’re familiar with, I recommend pairing this book with the audio version as there is Cree dialogue throughout the chapters. The audiobook helped to further immerse me into the land of Misewa and hear the language as it is spoken. It is a story rich in Indigenous culture and tradition and would open any reader’s eyes to the heartaches Indigenous families across Canada face after being separated from their loved ones, their languages, and their cultures. This book will make you laugh, cry, and put you back together again.

Sarah Levita is a pre-service teacher in the Bachelor of Education program at the University of New Brunswick. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in English literature and language from the Memorial University of Newfoundland and has a background in teaching English as a Second Language. She loves to write, travel, and spend time with her Pomeranian, Chloe.

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