Friday, 18 May 2012

Children's author Peter Eyvindson about Kookum's Red Shoes

This is an interview with children's author Peter Eyvindson about his new book published by Pemmican, called Kookum's Red Shoes. It looks at the story related to Residential Schools and how this history should be introduced to young children and the value of this story.

Peter met an elder grandmother many years ago who was always going to the local school to check on the children. He discovered the reason why she was so protective of the children. As a young child the Kookum was is taken away from her home to live in a residential school. Wanting very much to leave, Kookum decided that only by being good will she be released. After all, Kookum only wants to be with her parents and her baby brother and to wear her bright red shoes. The Shoes had been bought just before the authorities came to take her. Her parents gave her this gift after they had seen the Wizard of Oz in the local small town theatre.

Peter Eyvindson's Kookum's Red Shoes is a story of one girl's strength in the face of oppression. Sheldon Dawson (Illustrator) has provided great pictures in vibrante colors to compliment Kookum's story. My children loved the book so much that they would not put it down.

The discussion talked about the church, how one goes about introducing such a dark story to small children, violence both surface and subsurface (Peter did not have any overt violence in the book), Peter's reasons for wanting to write the story and the length of time it took to find a courageous publisher willing to put this story in print.

To Learn More (interview & Podcast):


  1. As a soon to be Early Years teacher, I immediately gravitated to the blog post with children’s literature. The podcast with author Peter Eyvindson looked at his book Kookum’s Red Shoes and got my brain thinking about all the possible ways I could incorporate this into my future classrooms. Hearing the author discuss the purpose of this book allowed me to see the importance of incorporating this tragedy into an Early Years setting. I think Eyvindson used the medium of children’s literature to make this topic of residential schools more manageable for children. He does this through realistic accounts and not making it “light and fluffy” (Eyvindson, 2012).
    I think that this book would be a great way to include younger children in the conversation of residential schools. Students should be aware of what occurred in the past and how children like them were affected by this tragedy. It gives students of aboriginal decent an understanding of what their parents and grandparents had to live through. For teachers, this story provides a lot of connections to the Social Studies curriculum in Manitoba. This book fits well in the Grade 4 curriculum, where it looks at Manitoba’s history. The outcome that I would connect it to is, “4-KH-034 give examples of the impact of European settlement on Aboriginal communities in Manitoba. Include: displacement of communities, disease, cultural change” (Manitoba Education, 2004, p.149). This book would be a great way to look at this outcome in our curriculum. It would provide for an interesting conversation within the classroom and I think is something that is important for children to know. An article in the Canadian Teacher Magazine (2009), discussed the importance of incorporating the topic into the classroom (Loyle). The author believes that “the story of residential school is powerful [and] children are capable of asking pertinent questions…(Loyle, 2009, p.12). I think that using literature is great way to incorporate a topic like this into the classroom. It also focuses on real accounts that are not fabricated to mask what really happened. It makes this book a good tool to talk about residential schools. I would definitely use this book in my teaching and hope to discover more books that deal with different Aboriginal topics.

    Loyle, L. (2009,November). Residential schools: Resources for teaching. Canadian Teacher Magazine, 6(2), 12.
    Manitoba Education, Citizenship and Youth. (2008). Kindergarten to grade 8 social studies; Manitoba curriculum frameworks of outcomes. Retrieved from:

  2. This blog post discusses a children’s book Kookum’s Red Shoes by Peter Eyvindson and includes an interview with the author. I think that in an early years classroom, a variety of literature is absolute essential. We sometimes unconsciously stock our classroom libraries with books that we think are interesting and as a result we have a lack of diversity among texts. This book by Peter Eyvindson looks at the story of a grandmother who, as a young girl, was taken away from her family and forced to attend a Catholic residential school (Ouellette, 2012). She had seen The Wizard of Oz as a child and had received beautiful red shoes as a gift from her parents (Ouellette, 2012). The story continues to talk about her whirlwind experience in a residential school and how she eventually returned home to her red shoes that no longer fit (Ouellette, 2012). I think this story would be a great addition to an elementary classroom library. Students could seek out the book on their own to learn about Aboriginal children and how different their school experience might be. Teachers could use this book to introduce the students to the differences between Catholic residential schools and traditional Aboriginal schooling. The book also consists of a similar storyline to The Wizard of Oz, which offers many students the chance to become involved through a common story that the majority of people have heard before. The illustrations provide students with the opportunity to visually compare the two cultures. Students could possibly produce their own artwork and subsequently create a story that reflects a similar tale, either fictional or based on real events they have experienced. Overall, I believe that as teachers we need to be extremely cautious when considering books to add to our libraries. Students will use these books thousands of times throughout their schooling, which means that we need to provide them with a variety of books that represent people from diverse cultures in order to expand their knowledge and understanding.

    Falcon-Ouellette, R. (2012). Children’s Author Peter Eyvindson about Kookum’s Red Shoes. Retrieved from: