Matt’s Weekly Reads, October 1, 2022


Medicine Walk, Richard Wagamese (2014)

If you at all followed along with my reading lists this week in honour of yesterday’s National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, you’ll no doubt be very aware that I’m a big fan of the writing of Richard Wagamese. And this is my absolute favorite thing he’s written. In this novel, we meet Frank, a sixteen year-old who is summoned to the side of the father he’s only known enough to be disappointed by. His father, in the final stages of liver failure, asks Frank to take him out into the forest to die and be buried in accordance with their people’s customs. He reluctantly agrees and over their time together, his father slowly reveals the story of his life, and — most importantly to Frank — the identity of the boy’s mother.

Beautifully written, empathetic without excusing the inexcusable, this is a rich and delicious read.


Read this if you’re interested in:

  • Indigenous Perspectives
  • Complicated Families
  • Grief and Loss
  • Nature

My Rating, 10/10

Reads in Honour of Canada’s National Day for Truth and Reconciliation (September 30)

  • Black Water, David A. Robertson (2020), 9/10: This is a beautiful memoir structured around the memories and stories that arise when the author’s elderly father asks to go visit his family trap line for the first time in seventy years. It’s a wonderful and honest story, particularly as it deals with the author’s complicated experience of growing up not knowing he was Indigenous all the while his father was a national leader in promoting education in Indigenous knowledge, language, and ways — enlightening and empathetic. (Indigenous Perspectives, Memoir, Education, Cree)
  • The Barren Grounds, David A. Robertson (2020), 8.5/10: I loved this first installment in an Indigenizing and decolonizing middle grade fantasy series. It created a vivid sense of place, both in this world — with the foster siblings’ well-meaning but still kind of cringy foster parents and the realities of junior high school — and in the legendary world they enter. It was really a smart twist on the portal story motif, since it actively decolonizes a motif that is notorious for having (accidental and intentional) colonizing sensibilities. The only reason it didn’t get a higher score for me was because some of the action sequences struck me as being a bit lame. But overall, I really enjoyed this and cannot wait to read on in the series! (Indigenous Perspectives, Fantasy, Middle Grade, Decolonizing, Cree, Portal Stories)
  • Noopiming, Leanne Betasamosake Simpson (2020), ?/10: I had a difficult time giving this one a rating, so I simply opted not to! It is a very inventive story told in a very creative way. It honestly didn’t work for me. But, I know it’s very well done. If you like non-linear, postmodern storytelling, give this one a try. If not, you might be better served looking elsewhere. (Postmodern Literature, Indigenous Perspectives, Damned Raccoons)
  • Wenjack, Joseph Boyden (2016), 10/10: This is a powerful story of the final days of a young boy who runs away from a Residential School, based on a true story. It’s very short, skirting the boundaries between short story and novella, but it makes excellent use of every page as it tells its tragic narrative through the eyes of the boy himself and the animals who observe him. (Indigenous Perspectives, Canadian History, Residential Schools, Truth & Reconciliation)

Weekly Roundup

  • Downton Shabby, Hopwood DePree (2022), 6.5/10: This real-life story has a fascinating premise: a Hollywood producer discovers he’s inherited a centuries-old English manor house on the verge of collapse, and dedicates his life to stabilizing and restoring it. While it ‘does what it says on the box,’ and the story is interesting enough, I was ultimately underwhelmed by the book itself. (Memoir, True Stories, Historical Preservation)
  • The Secret Garden on 81st Street, Ivy Noelle Weir, Amber Padilla, and Frances Hodgson (2021), 9/10: This riff on The Secret Garden is the second release in the Classic Graphic Remix series, which reimagines beloved literary classics as graphic novels speaking to contemporary, urban life. Here we meet Mary, a young girl who has to move in with her mysterious and reclusive uncle in New York City after the death of her parents. This was entirely delightful, even as it dealt with some difficult subject matter around grief and mental health. (Middle Grade, Graphic Novels, New York City, Mental Health, LGBTQ2S+, Found Family)
  • Spy School: The Graphic Novel, Stuart Gibbs (2022), 10/10: This is the first of a planned full graphic novel adaptation of the popular middle grade series, Spy School. I haven’t read any of the novels, so I can’t comment on the adaptation other than to say it seemed to me that this story worked perfectly as a graphic novel and I can’t imagine it being in a different format! (Though, I’m excited to learn!) Our hero is Ben, a twelve year-old straight A student who dreams of being a spy. Imagine his delight when he is invited to join a top secret CIA training program! But, of course, all is not well at the school and some things really are too good to be true… (Middle Grade, Graphic Novels, Adaptation, Kids Doing Espionage, Mole Hunt)

4 responses to “Matt’s Weekly Reads, October 1, 2022”

  1. […] David A. Robertson (2021), 10/10: I enjoyed the first book in the Misewa Saga, The Barren Grounds (see last week’s post) so much that I had to keep on going with it right away. If anything, this was even better, as […]


  2. […] loving The Secret Garden on 81st Street, I couldn’t wait to read more in the Classic Graphic Remix series, which reimagines juvenile […]


  3. […] him they will kill him unless he defects to their side. Cue espionage misadventures! I read the first book in this series in its new Graphic Novel adaptation, so I was intrigued how I’d find the print for the second book. While I enjoyed the Graphic Novel […]


  4. […] noteworthy because they do innovative things with content or style (Leanne Betasamosake Simpson’s Noopiming comes to mind), books that speak powerfully to a present moment (such as Elizabeth Strout’s, Lucy […]


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