The Barren Grounds (The Misewa Saga #1)

David A. Robertson. Puffin Canada, $17.99 (256p) ISBN 978-0-7352-6610-0
Robertson, a member of the Norway House Cree Nation, winks at C.S. Lewis’s Narnia tales in this Indigenous fantasy series starter, centering two Cree foster children in Winnipeg. Avid fantasy reader Morgan, 13, has been living with well-intentioned but culturally insensitive white couple Katie and James for two months. After being abandoned as a toddler and cycling through seven white foster families, Morgan is frustrated, and she expects no better from this home. Meanwhile, Eli, 12, arrives at Katie and James’s house, escaping his pain by drawing strange creatures in a sketchpad. When Morgan and Eli staple one of Eli’s drawings to the wall of their off-limits attic, they travel to the ever-winter land of Askí, where they meet bipedal animals that wear clothes and speak an English-Cree mix. Indigenous stories are touched on as the children and their new friends, Ochek (“fisher” in Cree) and Arikwachas, a squirrel, set out to make spring return to Askí. While the humans’ and animals’ voices are somewhat homogenous, the treatment of Cree culture resonates, and the engaging characters and folklore ensure readers will look forward to the next installment. Ages 10–up. Agent: Jackie Kaiser, Westwood Creative Artists. (Sept.)
Reviewed on : 09/30/2020
Release date: 09/01/2020
Genre: Children's
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