top of page

The Picture Book Buzz

I Am Not A Number - Multicultural Children’s Book Day 2017 #ReadYourWorld

I am participating in the Multicultural Children's Book Day 2017 (1/27/17) and joining numerous reviewers in highlighting books which celebrate diversity. The copy of this book, sent me from Second Story Press, for purposes of this review, will be donated to a classroom in Seattle, WA - through Reading Partners Seattle.

I Am Not A Number

Authors: Kathy Kacer & Dr. Kay Dupuis

Illustrator: Gillian Newland

Publisher: Second Story Press (2016)

Ages 7-11

Historical Fiction


Self-identity, diversity, empathy, family, Canadian history, and prejudice.

Synopsis (from Amazon):

When Irene is removed from her First Nations family to live in a residential school, she is confused, frightened and terribly homesick. She tries to remember who she is and where she came from despite being told to do otherwise. When she goes home for summer holidays, her parents decide never to send her away again, but where will she hide and what will happen when her parents disobey the law?

(from Second Story Press):

Based on the life of the co-author Jenny Kay Dupuis' grandmother Irene Couchie , I Am Not A Number, is a hugely necessary book that brings a terrible part of Canada's history to light in a way that children can learn from and relate to.

Opening Lines:

The dark figure, backlit by the sun, filled the doorway of our home on Nipissinf Reserve Number 10.

"I'm here for the children," the shadowy giant said, pointing a long finger at me. "You! How old?"

I shrank behind my mother. Here for the children?

"How old? he repeated.

"Eight." The whisper floated from my mouth.

Why I like this book:

In the drive to bring greater diversity to children's literature, to ensure that all children see themselves reflected in books, we must not shy from dealing with the unpleasant aspects of history.

Residential Schools are a little, discussed event in both Canadian and US history. They involved the relocation of First Nation (and Native American) children into residential schools. This book highlights some of the abuse, neglect, and injustices done to the relocated First Nation children, in the misguided attempt to educate them, by removing their culture and language. Actions with far reaching consequences for these communities.

With the last Canadian residential school closing in 1996, I Am Not A Number offers elementary and middle school teachers a sensitive tool for opening a discussion on this recent facet of history. The text, accompanied by the muted brown, yellow, and white tones of the illustrations, reflect the seriousness of the events, without being overbearing. The author and illustrator deal with the material in a gentle matter-of-fact way, enabling younger children to understand and giving older children a point to begin further research.

The voice and determination of Irene Couchie draw you through the story and stick with you long after you're finished. Unwilling to surrender the core of who she was, Irene fights to remember and preserve her heritage and family when she and her two brothers are forced to leave home and attend a residential school. Separated from her family, brothers, and much of her identity, Irene struggles under harsh conditions and rules, to survive and remember her mother's parting words - "Never forget who you are."

In the back material, the author provides a look into the history of these residential schools in Canada and vibrantly colored images of her great-Grandfather Ernest Couchie and Grandmother Irene Couchie Dupuis. Reinforcing empathy toward others and self-identity, this picture book makes a valuable addition to any library or personal collection.


- check out The First Nations Series for Young Readers: Teacher's Guide (includes collections of First Nation Biographies and a Teacher's Guide);

- look at this collection of teacher's guides.

- examine the website for the First Nations in Canada.

- Interview a grandparent or other relative about their life as a child. Write a mini-biography and share it with the class or other family members.

- interview a new student, an immigrant, or someone from another culture, race, or religion. Write a mini-biography.

This review of I AM NOT A NUMBER is part of Multicultural Children’s Book Day 2017 (1/27/17).

Multicultural Children's Book Day is in its fourth year and was founded by Valarie Budayr from Jump Into A Book and Mia Wenjen from PragmaticMom. Our mission is to raise awareness of the ongoing need to include kids’ books that celebrate diversity in home and school bookshelves while also working diligently to get more of these types of books into the hands of young readers, parents and educators.

Despite census data that shows 37% of the US population consists of people of color, only 10% of children’s books published have diversity content. Using the Multicultural Children’s Book Day holiday, the MCBD Team is on a mission to change all of that.

Current Sponsors: MCBD 2017 is honored to have some amazing Sponsors on board. Platinum Sponsors include Scholastic, Barefoot Books and Broccoli. Other Medallion Level Sponsors include heavy-hitters like Author Carole P. Roman, Audrey Press, Candlewick Press, Fathers Incorporated, KidLitTV, Capstone Young Readers, ChildsPlayUsa, Author Gayle Swift, Wisdom Tales Press, Lee & Low Books, The Pack-n-Go Girls, Live Oak Media, Author Charlotte Riggle, Chronicle Books and Pomelo Books. Author Sponsors include: Karen Leggett Abouraya, Veronica Appleton, Susan Bernardo, Kathleen Burkinshaw, Delores Connors, Maria Dismondy, D.G. Driver, Geoff Griffin, Savannah Hendricks, Stephen Hodges, Carmen Bernier-Grand, Vahid Imani, Gwen Jackson, Hena, Kahn, David Kelly, Mariana Llanos, Natasha Moulton-Levy, Teddy O'Malley, Stacy McAnulty, Cerece Murphy, Miranda Paul, Annette Pimentel, Greg Ransom, Sandra Rihardcs, Elsa Takaoka, Graciela Tiscareño-Sato, Sarah Stevenson, Monica Mathis-Stowe; SmartChoiceNation, and Andrea Y. Wang.

We’d like to also give a shout-out to MCBD’s impressive CoHost Team who not only hosts the book review link-up on celebration day, but who also works tirelessly to spread the word of this event. View our CoHosts HERE.

MCBD Links to remember:

- Free Multicultural Books for Teachers:

- Free Kindness Classroom Kit for Homeschoolers, Organizations, Librarians and Educators:

- Free Diversity Book Lists and Activities for Teachers and Parents:

Maria Marshall

 Photograph © A. Marshall

Follow Me

  • Facebook Social Icon
  • Twitter Basic Square
  • Instagram Social Icon
  • 1473394675_goodreads
  • Pinterest



bottom of page