The Barren Grounds by David A. Robertson
Cree author David A. Robertson's Governor General's Award–winning When We Were Alone is one of our favourite children's books, so we were delighted when he published this middle-grade fantasy, the first volume in the Misewa Saga.
Two Indigenous kids, Morgan and Eli, meet in a Winnipeg foster home. They feel disconnected from their culture and each other, and struggle to fit in, until they find a secret place walled off in an attic bedroom. It leads to another reality—frozen, barren Askí—where they meet Ochek, the only hunter supporting his starving community, Misewa. Ochek welcomes the human children, teaching them traditional ways to survive, until the need for food becomes desperate and 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.
One of Quill & Quire's Best Books of 2020
Recommended by booksellers on NPR's Code Switch
One of CBC Books' Best Middle-Grade and Young Adult Books of 2020
One of Canadian Children's Book News’ Best Books of 2020
A CBC Books Bestseller
PRAISE FOR The Barren Grounds:
"This middle-grade fantasy deftly and compellingly centers Indigenous culture." —STARRED REVIEW, Kirkus Reviews
“[T]he treatment of Cree culture resonates, and the engaging characters and folklore ensure readers will look forward to the next installment.”—Publishers Weekly
“Reminiscent of C.S. Lewis’s Narnia stories, this fantasy is very much its own tale of ruptured Indigenous culture, of environmental reciprocity and care.”—Toronto Star
“The Barren Grounds has a strong message about living with the earth and not taking more than you need.”—Toronto Public Library