The Secret Pocket

  • Illustrated By: Carrielynn Victor
  • Pages:32
  • Publisher:Orca Book Publishers
  • Themes:residential school history, resistance, survival, Indigenous People, colonization
  • Available:04/11/2023
  • Lexile:660L
  • Fountas & Pinnell Text Level Gradient:P
9781459833746 LICENSE OPTIONS

“Captures the sympathy of readers and holds their attention...An age-appropriate telling by an Indigenous creative team of a tragic historical period.”—School Library Journal, starred review

The true story of how Indigenous girls at a residential school sewed secret pockets into their dresses to hide food and survive.

Mary was four years old when she was first taken away to the Lejac Indian Residential School. It was far away from her home and family. Always hungry and cold, there was little comfort for young Mary. Speaking Dakelh was forbidden and the nuns and priest were always watching, ready to punish. Mary and the other girls had a genius idea: drawing on the knowledge from their mothers, aunts and grandmothers who were all master sewers, the girls would sew hidden pockets in their clothes to hide food. They secretly gathered materials and sewed at nighttime, then used their pockets to hide apples, carrots and pieces of bread to share with the younger girls.

Based on the author's mother's experience at residential school, The Secret Pocket is a story of survival and resilience in the face of genocide and cruelty. But it's also a celebration of quiet resistance to the injustice of residential schools and how the sewing skills passed down through generations of Indigenous women gave these girls a future, stitch by stitch.

“In bringing her mother’s story to the world, Peggy Janicki has ignited a powerful fire for intergenerational healing. A vivid illustration of how Traditional Knowledge helped the children at residential schools be heroes for themselves and each other. Not only has Janicki meticulously documented everyday life as experienced by the students of the Lejac residential school but she has also highlighted their ingenious and courageous efforts to survive. Strengths-based, age-appropriate and vividly engaging.”
– Christy Jordan-Fenton, award-winning author of Fatty Legs
★“Captures the sympathy of readers and holds their attention...An age-appropriate telling by an Indigenous creative team of a tragic historical period.”
– School Library Journal, starred review
“Simply drawn, expressive...A moving picture book.”
– Booklist
“Though the tale is emotionally fraught, young readers are left with an uplifting reminder about the power and resolve of Indigenous people...A moving tribute to Native children’s survival in the residential school system.”
– Kirkus Reviews
“Peggy Janicki takes us on a powerful and gentle journey of truth as she shares the lived experience of life before, during and after residential school. She reminds us of the genius within, the importance of caring for others and, of course, love. This moving story had me from the first page, and I am sure it will influence hearts and minds for generations.”
– Monique Gray Smith, award-winning author of My Heart Fills With Happiness
“Both sadness and joy are accessible within the illustrations and partner perfectly with the prose…An important addition to any bookshelf…A wonderful story for mature youngsters to engage with to begin talking about the history of residential schools. Highly Recommended.”
– CM: Canadian Review of Materials
“Beautifully illustrated and powerfully narrated, The Secret Pocket amplifies the voices and experiences of Indian Residential School Survivors. In doing so, Peggy Janicki and Carrielynn Victor make an important contribution to the work of putting truth before reconciliation.”
– Sean Carleton, historian and author of Lessons in Legitimacy: Colonialism, Capitalism, and the Rise of State Schooling in British Columbia
“In this important story of courage and resistance, educator Peggy Janicki shares the story of her mother and other Survivors who sewed secret pockets into their dresses to hide food to feed themselves and others at Lejac residential school. We need to continue to hear these stories and share them with our children so we can move forward in our collective healing.”
– Dr. Sara Florence Davidson, co-author of Potlach as Pedagogy: Learning Through Ceremony
“It is through stories that knowledge, understanding, empathy and the tools for deep and lasting change are passed on. Peggy Janicki has carried her mother’s story for us to hold in our hearts. This truth-telling and history-sharing will touch readers of all ages as they allow themselves to feel the weight of this powerful book.”
– Amber Price, MGC, owner of The Book Man

“An engaging and important story, this book is highly recommended for home, public, and school libraries.”

– Quill & Quire

“This important story brings attention to the resilience, ingenuity, and strength of the Indigenous children who were taken away to residential schools… Highly recommended.”

– Canadian Children’s Book News

“Victor's artwork is emotional and offers realistic glimpses at the differences between the warmth happiness experienced at home, and the stark reality of life in the residential school.”

– Sal's Fiction Addiction

“Use(s) the blues and greens of nature to effectively capture warm family scenes in contrast with the dull grass and browns of school life.”

– Children's Literature Comprehensive Database (CLCD)

“Imbued with marvelous details and remarkable balance as it describes both hardship and resilience… Heartrending and heartening.”

– Cooperative Children’s Book Center, School of Education, University of Wisconsin–Madison
The Sunshine Coast Writers and Editors Society (SCWES) Book Awards for BC Authors   | 2023  |  
Forest of Reading Silver Birch Express Award   | 2024  |  Nominated
CCBC Best Books for Kids & Teens   | 2023  |  Commended
Ontario Library association (OLA) Best Bets   | 2023  |  Commended
Prince George Public Library Jeanne Clarke Local History Publication Award   | 2024  |  Short-listed
Cooperative Children's Book Center Choices   | 2024  |  Commended
Washington Library Association (WLA) Towner Book Award for Nonfiction Picture Books   | 2025  |  Short-listed
Children’s Book Council & National Council for Social Studies Notable Social Studies Trade Books for Young People   | 2024  |  Commended
Indigenous Voices Awards (IVA) - Published prose in English   | 2024  |  Short-listed