Stolen Words

This is the story of the beautiful relationship between a little girl and her grandfather. When she asks her grandfather how to say something in his language – Cree – he admits that his language was stolen from him when he was a boy. The little girl then sets out to help her grandfather find his language again. This sensitive and warmly illustrated picture book explores the intergenerational impact of the residential school system that separated young Indigenous children from their families. The story recognizes the pain of those whose culture and language were taken from them, how that pain is passed down, and how healing can also be shared.

Distinctions: OLA Best Bets List (2018)

Leaving the Trail June 30, 2022.

Stolen Words. Text © 2017 Melanie Florence Illustrations © 2017 Gabrielle Grimard. Reproduced by permission of Second Story Press, Toronto.

Stolen Words... is a very powerful tool to educate both Indigenous and non-indigenous readers about the long-lasting effects of the residential school system.


To say that Florence’s story has a happy ending is an oversimplification. Language reclamation is a process – more complex than a simple case of lost and found.


Lesson Plan

The Lesson Plan for Stolen Words is available with purchase and sent to an email address provided by the school board. To view a sample Lesson Plan, click on the file below. It is based on “Trampoline Boy”.

Sample Lesson Plan
Stolen Words lesson plan cover

Book Creators

Melanie Florence

Melanie Florence portrait

Melanie Florence has been recognized for her ability to write about Indigenous history and culture with sensitivity and compassion. Stolen Words has particular importance for Melanie because it was inspired by her own grandfather, who kept his Cree identity and his experience at a residential school a secret from her and his family. As a result, Melanie did not get the chance to have the healing exchange of language and culture with him that is shared by the characters in her story. Melanie Florence is an award-winning writer of Cree and Scottish heritage. She wrote Stolen Words in honor of her grandfather. Melanie never had the chance to speak to him about his Cree heritage, and the story is about the healing relationship she wishes she had been able to have with him. Her book Jordin Tootoo was an American Indian Library Association Honor Book, and Missing Nimama won the TD Canadian Children’s Literature Award. Melanie lives with her family in Toronto. Gabrielle Grimard uses various media to research and create the illustrations for a book, but her favorite aspect will always be color. She uses mainly watercolors, gouache, and oil. She adds a touch of wooden pencil for the details. She has illustrated dozens of books and has been nominated for several awards. She lives near Sherbrooke, Quebec.

Gabrielle Grimard

Gabrielle Grimard portrait

Gabrielle Grimard was born in 1975 in Montreal. Much to the dismay of her teachers in the early grades, Gabrielle was constantly drawing in class. For her, drawing was a way of keeping her concentration focused. Otherwise, she would spend all her time daydreaming. Gabrielle studied art, first in high school, then at Concordia, and finally at l’Université du Québec à Montréal (l’UQAM). Although Gabrielle took on many art projects after graduating, she did not start illustrating picture books until after the birth of her son. Her artwork appears in over 25 children’s books.