Inuit girl returns to an almost forgotten lifestyle in 'A Stranger at Home'

What do you do when school is done for the day?

You might go to a friend's house to play, or you may attend an after-class event. Maybe you find somewhere quiet to do your homework, or you're old enough to stay by yourself until Mom or Dad gets home.

No matter how you spend your after-school hours, it's always good to be where your belongings are and your family lives.

Margaret Pokiak-Fenton went two whole years without seeing her mother or father or her sisters and brother. She was at school for two long years, and in "A Stranger at Home" (written with Christy Jordan-Fenton), she tells her story.

Olemaun Pokiak was very excited. She was finally going home!

She'd been at school for so long that she barely remembered her own name - the nuns and priests had called her "Margaret" - but soon, she'd taste her mother's delicious cooking again. She was so excited to see her sisters. She couldn't wait to get back to her village.

But when she stepped off the boat in Tuk, Olemaun was astounded.

Her parents spoke a language she had forgotten in the two years she'd been at the Christian school. Her sisters couldn't understand English. The family had moved to a bigger village, and they weren't returning home. Even her clothing and kamik were no longer comfortable.

Everything was different, but what's worse was that Olemaun's mother's cooking tasted strange. It was too salty, too fishy, and it was horrible! Olemaun was sure she'd have to starve.

Still, her family had saved her space in their tent, so Olemaun knew she was at home. She just wished she felt like she was. Everything was wrong, and people looked at her like she wasn't Inuit anymore. What they didn't understand was that she might be "Margaret" to the English but she was still Olemaun Pokiak inside!

Re-learning everything was very hard, and it didn't help that Olemaun's best friend, Agnes, was forbidden to play with her. Still, Olemaun worked hard to fit in again, even re-learning to swallow rubbery-tasting Muktuk, and life went back to normal.

And then her father asked her for a big favor.

It was something she never wanted to do.

As a sequel to the memoir "Fatty Legs", authors Jordan-Fenton and Pokiak-Fenton put a nice finish to the story of Margaret's life: her return home from the hated government-sponsored school and the realization that she'd forgotten Inuit ways, which is exactly what the schools intended.

Kids will love this story, and they'll be amazed to know that what happened to Pokiak-Fenton was, for Inuit and Native American children, very common not long ago. I also think kids will appreciate the artwork by Amini-Holmes, particularly since it's supported by real photographs.

Meant for middle-schoolers, I think this book could also be enjoyed by a high-schooler who needs a quick bio before school begins. For them, and for any kid who wants to fit in, "A Stranger at Home" fits nicely on a reading list.

View publishes Terri Schlichenmeyer's children's book reviews weekly.


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