Faraday School welcomes author David RobertsonApril 21, 2022 News Story
Photos and files courtesy of Kim Muehling
Faraday School students and staff were honoured and excited to welcome Governor General Award-winning author David Robertson for a recent visit.
This wonderful opportunity for students coincided with the relaxing of restrictions so it was also the first large group assembly in the school in years.
“We really enjoyed having Mr. Robertson here at Faraday, and it was even more special to be able to have our students come together in small groups for the first time in a long while,” said Principal Jennifer Cox. “It was a wonderful way to build community within our school, celebrate our students’ writing and learn from Mr. Robertson’s work.”
Robertson spoke with students during two special assemblies—one for intermediate classes and a second assembly for primary students.
Students had been reading Robertson’s books in anticipation of the visit and preparing questions for the author. All students had read The Trapline, about a young child who visits the land of his Moshom’s childhood, and the intermediate students had just finished a read-a-loud of The Barren Grounds.
The author frequently features Indigenous issues, culture and characters in his novels, stories and graphic novels.
“I felt happy, astonished,” said one Grade 6 student. “I can’t believe he came to our school. Someone that famous. The book that we were reading is coming here! Like if Will Smith or The Rock pulled up in our driveway!”
Robertson read his book While We Were Alone to the primary students; the book examines the loss of culture in Residential Schools. For the intermediate classes, Robertson read the much anticipated first chapter of The Great Bear, the sequel to The Barren Grounds. Both The Great Bear and The Barren Grounds are part of an epic series of fantasy novels that feature Indigenous characters. The author said that the overall scarcity of Indigenous characters in novels continues to fuel his work.
In both assemblies, students were given an opportunity to ask questions. The intermediate classes thoroughly enjoyed peppering Robertson with questions about the books.
“I really wish he was there for a week so we could keep throwing questions at him,” the Grade 6 student added. “We should have given him a pop quiz. I’d reread all the books actually. I’d like to buy his books.”
The author also shared his thoughts about the process of Reconciliation in Canada. He said Reconciliation involves the building of community life, and finding identity in the recognition and celebration of your home. In The Barren Grounds, the characters of Eli and Morgan are both struggling, as foster children, with what and where home is for them.
“I like how he incorporated the tradition of long hair, culture, language; that makes it unique. It’s different and I like it. You find a book about your culture, and you want to read it because it’s about your culture. We’ve been learning about Every Child Matters, and Indigenous culture, the graves that have been found,” shared another Grade 6 student.
Robertson told students about how he began writing as a child; he had plenty of excellent advice for young writers.
“I remember him saying if you’re writing, write something that you’re used to, and if you’re reading, read something that you don’t know about so that you can learn something new,” the Grade 6 student added.
One of Faraday’s primary students participated in a writers’ workshop with Robertson, sharing his writing on behalf of the students. Robertson warmly welcomed and encouraged the student, and advised him on the process of editing and carefully choosing the words for the expected audience.
Robertson’s visit was well-received by students and staff alike.
"It was a uniquely special and important experience for the students to hear a local author speak about culture and a sense of home while processing both their own experiences of home, and their own work as writers," said librarian Kim Muehling. "Robertson addresses current issues in his books that are of great consequence in the lives of our students, while locating them in the environment that is known to them."
Students said they appreciated reading books that were set in a recognizable landscape while opening their eyes to the environment and traditions of Indigenous nations in Northern Manitoba.
“You finish one of the chapters about walking in the snow and then you go outside to the winter and you’re like “Am I in the book?” said a Grade 5 student. “It’s snowing outside. It’s snowing in the book. It’s all happening in Winnipeg.”
Another student chimed in: “I don’t think I’d last a day if I were in the barren grounds. I don’t even know how to hunt!”