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When I Was Eight

When I Was Eight

Interest Age: 6–9
Grade: 1–4
Reading Level: Common Core Correlations
CCSS.ELA-Literacy Strand-Reading literature: RL.3.1,2,3,4,5,6,7,10

Reading Level: Lexile 760L
Hardcover : 9781554514915, 32 pages, February 2013 , 9.0" x 9.0"
Paperback (Picture book) : 9781554514908, 32 pages, February 2013 , 9.0" x 9.0"
Ebook (EPUB) : 9781773214689, 32 pages, June 2020 Audiobook : 9781773215235, March 2021
Rights sold: French, Korean, English


Bestselling memoir Fatty Legs for younger readers.

Olemaun is eight and knows a lot of things. But she does not know how to read. Ignoring her father’s warnings, she travels far from her Arctic home to the outsiders’ school to learn.

The nuns at the school call her Margaret. They cut off her long hair and force her to do menial chores, but she remains undaunted. Her tenacity draws the attention of a black-cloaked nun who tries to break her spirit at every turn. But the young girl is more determined than ever to learn how to read.

Based on the true story of Margaret Pokiak-Fenton, and complemented by stunning illustrations, When I Was Eight makes the bestselling Fatty Legs accessible to younger readers. Now they, too, can meet this remarkable girl who reminds us what power we hold when we can read.


  • Joint winner, TD Summer Reading Club Recommended Reads List 2017
  • Joint winner, Best Books for Kids and Teens, starred selection, Canadian Children’s Book Centre 2013
  • Short-listed, Christie Harris Illustrated Children’s Literature Prize 2013
  • Joint winner, Recommended Reads List, Canadian Toy Testing Council 2013


“Utterly compelling.” 

- Kirkus Reviews, *starred review, 02/13

“A frightful but honest story about perseverance . . . Look for it. Order it. Share it.” 

- American Indians in Children’s Literature (AICL), 07/21/13

“A searing account of assimilation policies and a celebration of the human spirit.”

- Booklist, 04/13

“This book is a small but powerful reminder of the freedom that literacy brings.”

- School Library Journal, 05/13

“Olemaun is a great character and an excellent example for young readers to follow.”

- CM Reviews, 06/13

“Its greatest potency lies in its representation of an indomitable child determined to read.”

- Toronto Star, 04/12/13

“A powerful story . . . ties in with antibullying themes.”

- Resource Links, 06/13

“An even more powerful read due to its emphasis on concise, affective text coupled with Gabrielle Grimard’s quietly unpretentious artwork.”

- Canlit for Little Canadians, 04/28/13

“Powerful and disturbing . . . readers will admire her for her incredible spirit and courage.”

- Exeter-Times Advocate, 05/16/13

“This excellent picture book . . . a powerful way to introduce the residential school experience to younger readers.” 

- Sal’s Fiction Addiction, 02/02/14

“An excellent book to start discussions and research about the effects of residential schools.”

- Canadian Teacher, 02/01/17