The Barren Grounds: The Misewa Saga, Book One (Paperback)
This fantastic series opener about Indigenous foster kids set in Canada - - will creep into your soul, thump thump thump, like a beating drum or eagle wings taking flight or your pounding heartbeat – in this Narnia-inspired fantasy . 13 year old Morgan has seen it all as she has bounced around after a succession of failed foster homes since very early childhood. She reluctantly has agreed to her foster parents to help watch 12-year old new foster child – Eli – as he navigates middle school, where she comes to discover his amazing drawing talent. As kids tend to do when bored, they enter the attic at home that has an unexplained painted-over doorway, and whoosh…….in comes the cold, frost and snow from beyond. Joseph’s drawing of a winter forest has come alive including talking and walking squirrels, fishers and bears, among other animal elders.
— From Staff Picks by Maureen
Morgan and Eli, two Indigenous children forced away from their families and communities, are brought together in a foster home in Winnipeg, Manitoba. They each feel disconnected, from their culture and each other, and struggle to fit in at school and at their new home -- until they find a secret place, walled off in an unfinished attic bedroom. A portal opens to another reality, Askí, bringing them onto frozen, barren grounds, where they meet Ochek (Fisher). The only hunter supporting his starving community, Misewa, Ochek welcomes the human children, teaching them traditional ways to survive. But as the need for food becomes desperate, 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:
"David A. Robertson has written such a fine, beautiful novel. He manages to combine hard truths about our history with a Narnia-like fantasy, sweeping us into the world of the story while opening our hearts as well." —Susin Nielsen, author of We Are All Made of Molecules and No Fixed Address
"This middle-grade fantasy deftly and compellingly centers Indigenous culture." —STARRED REVIEW, Kirkus Reviews
“This is a book that is rich in its characterization, evocative in its descriptions, and skillful in its weaving together of traditions of the past and life in the present.” —CM Magazine
“[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