Title: THE BARREN GROUNDS
Series: THE MISEWA SAGA – BOOK 1
Author: DAVID A. ROBERTSON
Genre: MIDDLE GRADE FICTION, INDIGENOUS PEOPLES, MULTICULTURAL INTEREST, SCIENCE FICTION AND FANTASY
Length: 256 PAGES
Publisher: PUFFIN CANADA – A DIVISION OF PENGUIN RANDOM HOUSE CANADA
Received From: NETGALLEY
Release Date: SEPTEMBER 8, 2020
Price: $17.99 USD
Rating: 4 OUT OF 5 STARS ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Narnia meets traditional Indigenous stories of the sky and constellations in an epic middle grade fantasy series from award-winning author David Robertson.
Morgan and Eli, two Indigenous children forced away from their families and communities, are brought together in a foster home in Winnipeg, Manitoba. They each feel disconnected, from their culture and each other, and struggle to fit in at school and at their new home — until they find a secret place, walled off in an unfinished attic bedroom. A portal opens to another reality, Askí, bringing them onto frozen, barren grounds, where they meet Ochek (Fisher). The only hunter supporting his starving community, Misewa, Ochek welcomes the human children, teaching them traditional ways to survive. But as the need for food becomes desperate, they embark on a dangerous mission. Accompanied by Arik, a sassy Squirrel they catch stealing from the trapline, they try to save Misewa before the icy grip of winter freezes everything — including them.
THE BARREN GROUNDS is the first in a series of Middle-Grade Indigenous/Fantasy novels. The series is titled THE MISEWA SAGA and has a Narnia-esque theme.
The story begins with Morgan, an angry preteen Indigenous girl who was placed into the foster care system as a toddler. That system is all she knows, and, as is often the case in real life, her experiences in foster care have not been pleasant.
Placed with a young couple who are new to foster parenting, Morgan resists all attempts at bonding because she is extremely cognizant of the fact that she can be sent back to an orphanage or on to another foster home at any time. “You’ll see. The world will harden you.” This seems to be Morgan’s issue. She has been thrown away all her life – even her biological mother didn’t want her.
Her foster parents bring a boy into their home who is a year younger than Morgan, named Eli. Eli is Indigenous, as is Morgan, but because she was placed into the system as a toddler, she knows nothing about her rich cultural background. But, Eli does.
When Eli draws a detailed scene, it somehow opens a portal to another reality. When Eli goes into the portal, Morgan goes after him to bring him back.
What they discover is a land out of Indigenous lore. With talking animals who walk on two legs, and a land stuck in perpetual winter, Morgan and Eli learn about their heritage.
Eli and Morgan set out on an epic quest to save the “two-leggeds” and their world from perpetual winter.
The adventures they have teach them that it isn’t always blood that creates a family.
They also learn that whether they are aware of their Indigenaity or not, it does not matter. That does not make them any less Indigenous than those who are aware of their heritage.
This story brings attention to the fact that too many Indigenous children are being removed from their parents and placed into foster care, often with non-Indigenous foster parents who are more interested in the money provided to them by government than in having the child become a true member of their family. There are definitely some amazing foster parents, but, unfortunately, the majority of foster kids tend to have multiple negative experiences before finding an acceptable placement. Many foster kids learn almost nothing about their heritage and culture and there is a vast difference between growing up in a white culture and growing up in an Indigenous culture.
All in all, this book has everything a Middle-Grade reader can possibly want and I think the MISEWA SAGA will be a hit.
I rate this book as 4 OUT OF 5 STARS ⭐⭐⭐⭐
** Thank you to NetGalley and the Publisher for providing me with a free copy of this book. **
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
DAVID A. ROBERTSON is the author of numerous books for young readers including When We Were Alone, which won the 2017 Governor General’s Literary Award and was nominated for the TD Canadian Children’s Literature Award.
Strangers, the first book in his Reckoner trilogy, a young adult supernatural mystery, won the 2018 Michael Van Rooy Award for Genre Fiction (Manitoba Book Awards).
David educates as well as entertains through his writings about Indigenous Peoples, reflecting their cultures, histories, communities, as well as illuminating many contemporary issues.
A sought-after speaker and educator, Dave is a member of the Norway House Cree Nation and currently lives in Winnipeg.
To learn more about this author, visit the following links:
DAVID A. ROBERTSON is also the author of several important Indigenous Peoples books and now has a podcast about his life.