November’s Book Time theme is about war, and while more reviews will be coming on that, the mask that sang by Susan Currie (Second Story Press) and I am Not a A Number by Jenny Kay Dupuis and Kathy Kacer (Second Story Press) is about another type of war – one that the Canadian government inflicted on our First Nations people in the form of attempting to erase their culture and identity.

I don’t know a lot about the residential school that thousands of First Nations children were forced to attend. Most of my knowledge has come from books I have read, and the information I am finding out through the media.

But it makes me sad that a country that encourages diversity, once tried to destroy the fascinating culture that was here first.

The mask that sang and I Am Not A Number are two very different books on the same topic. The mask that sang is a fiction book, and winner of the Second Story Press Aboriginal Writing Contest, that follows the story of Cass and her mom. Cass learns that her grandmother, who abandoned her mother at birth and has never had contact with them, has left them a house, a sealed envelop and an unusual mask, which seems to create strange dreams, voices and incidents for Cass.

The symbolism in the book is beautiful and the characters in the book – both main and supporting – are wonderful. I feel like this would be a wonderful book to share with my son except for the racism against Degan, a First Nation’s boy. Do people actually feel this way? Do people actually say these things and mean it? I can’t get my head around it. I don’t want my son to hear those words. And mainly it is because then I will have to give background and I think he is too young to hear about the horrible things we do to each other. He can keep his innocence a little longer.

The ending is wonderful, and I have great hope for Cass, her mom and their friends.


I Am Not a Number is more of picture book with an incredible sad story of three children being forced into a residential school.

My heart broke for Irene, the main character, as well as her brothers George and Ephraim, and I don’t even want to imagine how terrible it would have been for their parents; they were forced by law and jail if they didn’t allow the Indian agent to effectively steal their children.

And what happens to Irene when she is there. Disgusting. I understand about following orders in fear of your own death. I can comprehend and appreciate that. But when you choose to do something awful, to a child, when no one else is watching, that shows true character, and not a good one.

The mask that sang

Susan Currie

Second Story Press


I Am Not a Number

Jenny Kay Dupuis and Kathy Kacer

Second Story Press