WHAT’S THE BOOK ABOUT
Narnia meets traditional Indigenous stories of the sky and constellations in an epic middle grade fantasy series from award-winning author David Robertson.
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.
WHY YOU SHOULD READ THIS BOOK
The blend of Narnia and Indigenous stories of the sky and constellations cinched my decision to read this book. The gorgeous book cover was also one of the reasons I picked it up. I am glad to say I enjoyed reading The Barren Grounds by David A. Robertson.
The Barren Grounds is instantly engaging. I could easily relate to Morgan and Eli’s disconnect with their foster family and their difficulty in fitting in their school. I could also relate to their foster parents’ attempts to win over their hearts.
Due to the disconnect they feel with their current surroundings and their intense longing for their families and community, they both are lonely. Consequently, both stick to themselves and do not interact with others.
Further, Morgan has difficulty believing she deserves kindness from the world. Her mother left her resulting in her low self-esteem. This, in turn, results in her lashing out at others. Eli, on the other hand, is the quiet kid who understands a lot more than he lets it on.
It is only when Morgan is being kind to Eli, and he behaves the same way, that she realizes the fault of her ways.
The Barren Grounds is mysterious and gripping. The portal to Aski plunges Morgan and Eli down a rabbit hole and changes their lives forever. It was exciting to travel with Morgan, Eli, Ochek, and Arik on their perilous adventure and watch them overcome the obstacles on the way.
The book is vividly descriptive. I could visualize the Barren Grounds, the village of Misewa, and the North country. It is a journey of self-discovery, finding your family, and facing your fears head-on. It is also a commentary on how man’s greed is destroying nature and inhibiting its ability to provide more for us.
The book starts on a great note, however, at 38% becomes a little boring. The pace picks up again after 45%. The actual journey does not start until after 60%.
The Barren Grounds has a self-sacrificing noble hero, two brave kids eager to go on an adventure, talking animals, and most importantly, snow.
Lots of snow.
The book will appeal to young children a lot. Further, it is a perfect script to be adapted into a movie.
However, I felt the book could have been better. In my humble opinion, the comparison to Chronicles of Narnia might have worked to the book’s disadvantage. It is not as grand as the former.
It seems like sequels are possible, and I will be glad to read them as well.
Overall, I enjoyed reading the book and heartily recommend it for children looking for an exciting adventure.
The Amazon.in link above is an affiliate link. If you purchase from here, I will receive a very small commission at no extra cost to you.
Many thanks to the publisher for approving my copy of the book via Netgalley. This does not affect my opinion on the book. I opted to provide an honest review on my blog.
DAVID A. ROBERTSON is the winner of the Governor General’s Literary Award, the Beatrice Mosionier Indigenous Writer of the Year Award and the John Hirsch Award for Most Promising Manitoba Writer.
His books include When We Were Alone (winner of the Governor General’s Award, a finalist for the TD Canadian Children’s Literature Award and a McNally Robinson Best Book for Young People); Will I See? (winner of the Manuela Dias Book Design and Illustration Award, Graphic Novel category); the YA novel Strangers (recipient of the Michael Van Rooy Award for Genre Fiction); and Monsters (a McNally Robinson Best Book for Young People).
Through his writings about Canada’s Indigenous Peoples, Robertson educates as well as entertains, reflecting Indigenous cultures, histories and communities while illuminating many contemporary issues. David A. Robertson is a member of Norway House Cree Nation. He lives in Winnipeg.