BOOKS By Me

 

 

Stolen Words

The story of the beautiful relationship between a little girl and her grandfather. When she asks her grandfather how to say something in his language – Cree – he admits that his language was stolen from him when he was a boy. The little girl then sets out to help her grandfather find his language again. This sensitive and warmly illustrated picture book explores the intergenerational impact of the residential school system that separated young Indigenous children from their families. The story recognizes the pain of those whose culture and language were taken from them, how that pain is passed down, and how healing can also be shared.

"In this poignant picture book about the devastating legacy of residential schools, author Melanie Florence presents the story of a little girl who re-introduces her grandfather to his first language after he has spent many years without it. A simple text with tremendous emotional impact, the dialogue between child and adult inspires hope for younger generations along with admiration for a resilient and determined man whom we know will succeed in his quest to re-learn what has been lost.... While definitely geared towards young children, Stolen Words is a picture book that older readers will also appreciate for its historical significance, honesty, impactful language, and artful presentation. Highly recommended." - CM: Canadian Review of Materials

 

“Florence’s tender text soothes the harsh reality of having Native language stolen while attending one of Canada’s former residential schools for Indigenous children. Grimard’s equally emotive illustrations show the stark realities of the experience in symbolic images... Unforgettable.” - Kirkus Reviews - STARRED REVIEW

He Who Dreams

Juggling soccer, school, friends and family leaves John with little time for anything else. But one day at the local community center, following the sound of drums, he stumbles into an Indigenous dance class. Before he knows what's happening, John finds himself stumbling through beginner classes with a bunch of little girls, skipping soccer practice and letting his other responsibilities slide. When he attends a pow wow and witnesses a powerful performance, he realizes that he wants to be a dancer more than anything. But the nearest class for boys is at the Native Cultural Center in the city, and he still hasn't told his family or friends about his new passion. If he wants to dance, he will have to stop hiding. Between the mocking of his teammates and the hostility of the boys in his dance class, John must find a way to balance and embrace both the Irish and Cree sides of his heritage.

 

"He Who Dreams is a breathtaking read for anyone who enjoys dance, drumming, pow wows, and traditional aboriginal attire. Enjoy!" - Ottawa Public Library Blog

"The author...reinforces that she is capable of writing engaging stories about Indigenous subjects in any genre...John is an appealing character...Scenes between him and his parents and energetic younger sister, Jen, are especially well drawn...He Who Dreams offers readers a fast-paced story with realistic Indigenous content connecting the book to contemporary discussions about Indigenous issues in Canada." - Quill & Quire

"Melanie Florence manages...to portray a realistic portrait of a young man trying to figure out what motivates him and where he wants to go while giving his story room to tell itself rather than trying to direct from the keyboard. Well done." - Resource Links

"Florence effortlessly creates a very real and loving biracial family for her thoroughly modern protagonist. John's fast-paced tale twines universal teen concerns with specific cultural issues. This novel allows young readers to embrace their own heritages and realize they stand on the shoulders of all their ancestors." - Kirkus Reviews

Rez Runaway

Raised on a reserve in northern Ontario, seventeen-year-old Joe Littlechief tries to be like the other guys. But Joe knows he's different -- he's more interested in guys than in any of the girls he knows. One night Joe makes a drunken pass at his best friend Benjy and, by the next morning, everyone on the rez is talking about Joe. His mother, a devout Christian, is horrified, and the kids who are supposed to be his friends make it clear there's no place for him in their circle, or even on the rez. Joe thinks about killing himself, but instead runs away to the city.

Alone and penniless on the streets of Toronto, Joe comes to identify with the Aboriginal idea of having two spirits, or combining both feminine and masculine identities in one person. He also begins to understand more about how his parents have been affected by their own experiences as children in residential schools -- something never discussed on the rez. And he realizes he has to come to terms with his two-spiritedness and find people who accept him for who he is.

This is a novel that reflects the complex realities faced by young LGBTQ and aboriginal youth today.

 

"A compelling read that deals with plenty of complex and current issues. Melanie Florence has a real gift for immersing readers in the story...While there are many novels dealing with a teen's struggle to accept his or her own sexual identity, this is one of the first I've come across, dealing with a transgender character and two-spiritedness. Highly Recommended"

— Joanne Peters,, CM Magazine, November 2016


"This is a brutally honest look at what can happen to homeless youth, especially if they are struggling with gender identity. No punches are pulled... The reality of living on the street is brought to life... 

Dialogue is fresh and natural although without the swearing that would be more realistic. Florence has really captured the lilt and tone of talk on the reserve. Chapters are short and the reading level is 3.9 so although the issues in this book will appeal to all high school students it will also be accessible to those high school students who are struggling to read well."

— Joan Marshall,, Resource Links, February 2017


"Covering tough topics such as gay bashing, gender identity, and underage prostitution, Florence unflinchingly depicts the risks encountered by LGBTQ teens. A gritty fairy tale for modern times, Rez Runaway communicates hope and compassion to an increasingly vulnerable teen demographic with an optimistic endnote that all teens need to hear: 'It really does get better.'"

— Karen Doerksen,, National Reading Campaign, September 2016


"Lots of stuff going on in such a short book. I like the upbeat and optimistic tone."

— Tina Avon, Blogger,, Netgalley Reviewer, March 2017

Missing Nimama

Kateri is a young girl, growing up in the care of her grandmother. We see her reaching important milestones her first day of school, first dance, first date, wedding, first child along with her mother, who is always there, watching her child growing up without her.  Told in alternating voices, Missing Nimama is a story of love, loss, and acceptance, showing the human side of a national tragedy. An afterword by the author provides a simple, ageappropriate context for young readers.

 

"A touching story related from the point of view of a missing indigenous woman as she watches her daughter grow up without her." — Quill and Quire"A stunning accomplishment in storytelling...expect to see this one on award lists in the near future." - CanlitforLittleCanadians"And most of all, that this story works because it’s a picture book, because of the marriage of words and stories, and how the respective voices of mother and daughter can exist together, even if apart, on the page. Missing Nimama is a mourning song, but also a call to action." - Kerry Clare, PickleMeThis

The Missing

After a girl she knows from school goes missing and is found dead in the Red River, Feather is shocked when the police write it off as a suicide. Then, it's Feather's best friend, Mia, who vanishes — but Mia's mom and abusive stepfather paint Mia as a frequent runaway, so the authorities won't investigate her disappearance either. Everyone knows that Native girls are disappearing and being killed, but no one is connecting the dots. 

When Feather's brother Kiowa is arrested under suspicion of Mia's abduction, Feather knows she has to clear his name. What Feather doesn't know is that the young serial killer who has taken Mia has become obsessed with Feather, and her investigation is leading her into terrible danger. 

Using as its background the ongoing circumstance of unsolved cases of missing and murdered Aboriginal women, this fictional thriller set in Winnipeg explores one teenager's response to a system that has long denied and misrepresented the problem.

"Issues drive the plot (a subplot concerns homophobia aimed at one of Feather's friends) in this very brief contemporary novel, making for an informative, swift read."

— Kirkus Reviews, September 2016


"Many teens will be surprised to learn the statistics concerning violence against Aboriginal women in Canada that are quoted by Feather and her mother are true, as are the concerns about inadequate police investigation in cases of missing or murdered Native women. True to reality, Mias story does not end happily. This quick-paced thriller will appeal to reluctant readers and fans of shows like Law & Order."

— Bethany Martin,, Voices of Youth Advocates (VOYA), October 2016


"There are a lot of serious subjects tackled in the book, such as the disappearance of Native girls being ignored by the police, anti-gay sentiments, child abuse, and victim blaming ... The book is written for reluctant readers, and achieves the aim of mature subjects written in easier language."

— Polenth Blake,, NetGalley Reviewer, March 2016


"This book is filled with suspense and is very interesting. It makes you want to keep on reading! I hope there are more books like this. It's not too scary and it has the right amount of suspense."

— Isabelle Kraus,, NetGalley Reviewer, January 2016


"Melanie Florence's young adult novel The Missing reveals the world of missing girls and women in Winnipeg. It is a tragic issue that has been ignored for so long and by so many... The mystery of the young ladies' abductions and deaths is creatively written. The short chapters move quickly. The many twists and turns make The Missing a true page-turner. The author explores many social issues—prejudice, racism, sexual abuse, missing aboriginal children and women, foster care, social media and the flawed justice system. Every secondary school library information centre should have a copy of Melanie Florence's The Missing."

— Keep Calm and Novel On,, Educator and NetGalley Reviewer, January 2016


"This was a very interesting book to read. I am always intrigued by missing people and the details surrounding their disappearance. I was glued to this book from page one. I recommend this book to anyone who is intrigued by the mystery of a disappearance."

— Natalie McNichols,, NetGalley Reviewer, January 2016


"I really enjoyed it . . . A quick, easy, and enjoyable read . . . filled with teen life, high school drama and gossip, and the struggles of trying to survive day to day."

— Kyle Robertson,, NetGalley Reviewer, January 2016


"The Missing's plot, a mystery that includes missing teenage girls, high school gossip, and a creepy step father, will appeal to middle and high school students. The lower reading level makes it accessible to reluctant and/or struggling readers."

— Judy Gottschalk,, Educator, January 2016


"Set against the backdrop of the plight of Aboriginal women in Canada and the general indifference of the local authorities, the book makes a compelling and heart-breaking case of the issue ... Narration is on-point and keeps you glued to the story. The story also touches the various problems faced by the teenagers, including the vicious rumor factory, life at foster care, molestation, racism, homosexuality, etc., highlighting the importance of a good, supportive family... The story is entertaining and with keep you engrossed."

— Ananya Bhattacharjee,, NetGalley Reviewer, January 2016

Righting Canada's Wrongs

Canada's residential school system for aboriginal young people is now recognized as a grievous historic wrong committed against First Nations, Metis, and Inuit peoples. This book documents this subject in a format that will give all young people access to this painful part of Canadian history. 

In 1857, the Gradual Civilization Act was passed by the Legislature of the Province of Canada with the aim of assimilating First Nations people. In 1879, Prime Minister Sir John A. Macdonald commissioned the "Report on Industrial Schools for Indians and Half-Breeds." This report led to native residential schools across Canada. First Nations and Inuit children aged seven to fifteen years old were taken from their families, sometimes by force, and sent to residential schools where they were made to abandon their culture. They were dressed in uniforms, their hair was cut, they were forbidden to speak their native language, and they were often subjected to physical and psychological abuse. The schools were run by the churches and funded by the federal government. 

About 150,000 aboriginal children went to 130 residential schools across Canada. 

The last federally funded residential school closed in 1996 in Saskatchewan. The horrors that many children endured at residential schools did not go away. It took decades for people to speak out, but with the support of the Assembly of First Nations and Inuit organizations, former residential school students took the federal government and the churches to court. Their cases led to the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement, the largest class-action settlement in Canadian history. In 2008, Prime Minister Harper formally apologized to former native residential school students for the atrocities they suffered and the role the government played in setting up the school system. The agreement included the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which has since worked to document this experience and toward reconciliation. 

Through historical photographs, documents, and first-person narratives from First Nations, Inuit, and Metis people who survived residential schools, this book offers an account of the injustice of this period in Canadian history. It documents how this official racism was confronted and finally acknowledged.

"A great book...there's a lot there for us all."

— Gil Deacon,, CBC Metro Morning


"If I were purchasing materials for a high school library, I would buy at least 2 copies, and I would urge Social Studies and Aboriginal Studies classroom teachers to have at least one ccopy on their bookselves. Perhaps the strongest work to date in the Righting Canada's Wrongs series, Residential Schools underscores the importance of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's work... Highly Recommended."

— Joanne Peters,, CM Magazine, April 2016


"This resource-rich book is sure to spark both class and individual exploration. An index, glossary, and timeline will help teens navigate the rich content in this book, while links to online video and audio clips and the "For Further Reading" section will guide them beyond its pages. Teachers will also find lesson plans and other helpful tools in an accompanying series Resource Guide."

— Jen Bailey,, National Reading Campaign, March 2016


Recommended by the Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs Carolyn Bennett for the #GiftingReconciliation Campaign

One Night

All it takes is one night for everything to change.

Luna Begay is as studious and serious about her Aboriginal heritage as her sister, Issy, is outgoing and fun. When Issy convinces Luna to go with her to a party full of rich kids, Luna is surprised to end up talking with Jon, who is charming, sophisticated, and very good-looking. But the night turns bad when Jon drugs and rapes Luna.  Feeling guilty and ashamed that she will be perceived as an "Indian slut," Luna doesn't tell anyone and remains in denial until Issy figures out that Luna is pregnant. Knowing that her decisions will affect her parents and Issy as much as her own future, Luna has to work out how to deal with the consequences of that one night, and she has to do it fast.

"A hi-lo title that reads like a Lifetime made-for-TV movie. An adequate choice for struggling readers."

— Tamara Saarinen,, School Library Journal, October 2016


"...well-meaning addition to a genre in need of strong books."

— Kirkus Reviews, September 2016


"Melanie Florence's young adult novel One Night is a powerful read for all readers. Written for reluctant readers it will be read by readers at all levels... The author explores many issues — sexual abuse, bullying, teenage pregnancy, adoption, and rape. Melanie Florence's well-written and compassionate novel does not disappoint."

— Keep Calm and Novel On,, Educator and NetGalley Reviewer, January 2016


"I adore Luna... She never begins to act out of character but she does grow throughout the novel ... Parents and other adults [are exactly as I would expect them to be. Realistically portrayed, they are at first shocked, then incredibly supportive of Luna. Her principal and teachers are understanding and concerned with her safety. I heaved a sigh of relief at this portrayal. I work at a public high school ... and I absolutely KNOW this is how it goes down there rather than the usual judgmental way portrayed in novels. (Although the students on the other hand can be brutal - also written in the novel.) Luna's parents were so fantastic. Concern for their daughter, getting her immediate medical care, discussing realistic options for after the baby is born, and supporting Luna the whole way are exactly how a parent SHOULD react. Writing adults as they are here could encourage girls to come forward about rape or pregnancy. THANK YOU MELANIE FLORENCE! ... The inclusion of so many contemporary issues (alcoholism, stereotyping, negative branding, rape, drinking, abortion, adoption, being roofied) makes it interesting and thought-provoking the whole way through."

— Mandy Peterson,, Librarian, January 2016


"As a niche book written for reluctant YA readers One Night actually packs quite a wallop, and is sure to appeal to teenage girls who may not have yet developed a reading habit. It is both topical and contemporary and reflects many of the issues in today's news."

— Resource Links, December 2015


"This book deals with some serious topics that are timely and are issues teens are facing. One Night touches on aspects of racism, stereotyping, bullying, drugs, rape, and Aboriginal heritage. It would be well-paired with some recent news articles or other non-fiction pieces on any of these topics."

— Chasity Findlay,, CM Magazine, December 2015


"This book handled some tough subjects very well for a book aimed primarily at young adults — it is not often that you can get a book that is easy to read that covers such topics as date rape, racism, bullying, teenage pregnancy and adoption well but I am glad to have read this one — the way that author has written it makes it flow very well."

— Donna Maguire,, NetGalley Reviewer, January 2016


"With Interesting characters and a fast moving plot, this book should appeal to both middle and high school girls. The subject matter is relevant and has many topics that could spark lively classroom discussions."

— Judy Gottschalk,, Educator, January 2016

Jordin Tootoo: The Highs and Lows of the First Inuit to Play in the NHL

HONOR BOOK - AMERICAN INDIAN LIBRARY ASSOCIATION

 

Hockey is a relatively new sport in Canada's North. It wasn't until 2003 that Jordin Kudluk "Thunder" Tootoo became the first Inuk to play in an NHL game. Although hockey is a rough sport to begin with, Jordin Tootoo is known for having to "fight his way through." Jordin has had more than his fair share of fights ? both on and off the ice. He's had to overcome the social problems that are associated with the North, fight his way through the discrimination and culture shock he encountered after leaving Rankin Inlet and moving to Alberta to play in the Juniors, and see his way through the grief of losing his NHL-bound older brother and hero, Terence Tootoo, to suicide in 2002.  This new biography explores the struggles and accomplishments of the most recognized role model for young Aboriginal and Inuit people today.

"Though the primary focus of this book is hockey, the book covers a wide range of topics and issues that a young reader can take away with them, such as the rights of Inuit people on their land, the federal government’s description and recognition of Indigenous peoples, racism"

— Christine MacFarlane, Windspeaker


Though the primary focus of this book is hockey...also covers a wide range of topics and issues that will likely lead to further discussion, including rights of Inuit people on their land, the federal government's description and recognition of indigenous peoples, racism and the higher incidence of Aboriginal youth suicide.

— Nicole Dalmer, CM Magazine, February 2011


...Tootoo's story is as much a tale about two brothers as it is about the love of hockey...With text boxes and photographs that complement the story and contribute to the reader's experience, each page of this fast paced read details Tootoo's ambition and fighting spirit.

— Ana Malespin, Resource Links, February 2011


Like her subject, the author doesn't pull many punches in Tootoo's rousing, rather hard-bitten tale, which, thankfully, has a storybook ending aimed directly at teenage-boy reluctant readers.

— Kirkus Reviews, www.kirkusreviews.com, January 2011


This biography follows Jordin's childhood in the Arctic, rooted in Inuit tradition and his parents' constant support...Photographs and factoid insets spread throughout the biography help the reader visualize Tootoo's childhood. Rich descriptive language brings the reader into the hockey game where "blades cut a path across the ice and breathing rasps." Curriculum Connections: This text lends itself well as a resource for biography research and writing units, supports a character study for sports and Aboriginal heroes, and packs enough action to be a great "book for boys" in a classroom library.

— Amanda Forbes, Canadian Teacher Magazine, June 2012

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