The Barren Grounds
By David A. Robertson
Morgan is a thirteen-year-old foster kid who was taken away from her mother when she was only three. She has lived with many different families, none of whom have ever made her feel truly at home. By the time she moves in with Katie and James, she is just plain angry.
Eli is about a year younger than Morgan, but he was only taken from his family recently. He remembers everything about them and his Indigenous community. He misses them desperately, but now he must live with Katie and James too.
The good news is, Katie and James really want to be good parents and try their best to welcome Morgan and Eli into their home. But when they buy Morgan a pair of moccasins to help her connect with her First Nations culture, Morgan loses her cool. What do these white parents know about her culture anyway?
As Morgan and Eli try to find their footing in their new home, they discover a secret passageway in the attic. After Eli disappears through the portal, Morgan goes after him. Plunged into a blizzard, Morgan has no idea where to go. When Ochek appears, he guides her to his home village where she finds Eli warm and dry.
But Ochek’s village is dying. His world, known as Aski, is in perpetual winter, and there’s nothing left to eat. As Morgan and Eli get to know Ochek, a fisher (who wears clothes and talks) and his squirrel companion, Arik, they decide to stay and help them get back to the Green Time, when the sun shone and game was plentiful.
Told as an allegory about the loss of Indigenous lands and culture, The Barren Grounds is a riveting fantasy novel. Not only do the characters go on a quest through a wondrous landscape, but they also learn valuable lessons about their own strength of character and their own culture. By the time Morgan and Eli return to their foster home, they are changed people, connected to the land, to their Indigenous communities and to each other.
The Barren Grounds is book one of the Misewa Saga. Highly recommended!