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Children's Nonfiction Native Canadian

Shannen and the Dream for a School

by (author) Janet Wilson

Second Story Press
Initial publish date
Oct 2011
Native Canadian, Social Activists, Politics & Government
Recommended Age
9 to 13
Recommended Grade
5 to 8
Recommended Reading age
9 to 12
  • eBook

    Publish Date
    Oct 2011
    List Price
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Oct 2011
    List Price
  • Downloadable audio file

    Publish Date
    May 2021
    List Price

Classroom Resources

Download Teacher’s Guide

Where to buy it


The true story of Shannen Koostachin and the people of Attawapiskat First Nation, a Northern Cree community, who have been fighting for a new school since 1979 when a fuel spill contaminated their original school building. Shannen's fight took her all the way to Parliament Hill and was taken up by children around the world. Shannen’s dream continues today with the work of the Shannen's Dream organization and those everywhere who are fighting for the rights of Aboriginal children.

About the author

Janet Wilson is an award-winning artist and a published author, holding over 50 publishing copyrights in the children's literature field. She graduated with honours from the Ontario College of Art and Design as a mature student, the mother of two little boys. Janet's love of books combined with a particular talent for drawing children has brought her into the world of "kidlit." Her more realistic style lends itself to interpreting the stories of children's favorite authors in producing picture books. Sensitivity to the nuances of facial expressions helps young readers grasp subjects ranging from dealing with death, the arrival of a new baby, the tragedy of war or just wishing your new dress was a different colour. Her awards include Best Illustrated Book in the United States in 2004 for Jasper's Day, Canadian Information Book of the Year for her artwork in In Flanders Fields, and she is the first non-native artist to be awarded the Native Reading Week Award for her illustrations in Solomon's Tree. Janet is a career artist known for her fine art commissioned portraits and still life paintings.


Janet Wilson's profile page

Editorial Reviews

Shannen was truly a young lady to be admired and emulated.

Good News Toronto

The many non-fiction text features (photographs, captions, quotes, excerpts from newspaper articles, maps, diagrams, fact boxes, a timeline, glossary) plus a lively writing style make this an accessible book for a variety of young readers.

Canadian Teacher Magazine

In this fictionalized and well-written account of Shannen's quest for justice for Aboriginal schooling Janet Wilson gives voice to the issue.

Sal's Fiction Addiction

This readable, inspiring story is thoroughly engaging. It’s both informative and politically rousing; even more precious than these qualities, perhaps, is its portrait of a Northern family and community.

The Toronto Star

This book should be mandatory reading material for middle school students. It is a gentle introduction to the way in which Canada has failed to live up to its treaty obligations.

Another Step to Take blog

Janet Wilson has written a powerful account of the true story of one Aboriginal girl's fight for safe and comfortable schools for all children.

CM Magazine

Librarian Reviews

Shannen and the Dream for a School

The true story of thirteen-year-old Shannen Koostachin, who fought for the rights of the children in her community of Attawpiskat First Nation.

Organized in twenty chapters and accompanied by photographs, this nonfiction text tells the true story of Shannen Koostachin and her classmates’ efforts to get the Canadian government to replace their contaminated elementary school in Attawapiskat First Nation in northern Ontario. Teachers and librarians can use this book to bring the definitions of perseverance, equity, and justice to life. Share this book with students to show them the power young people have to raise their voices, get organized and fight for what is right.

Also available: Severn and the Day She Silenced the World by Janet Wilson

Author available for school visits.

Source: Association of Canadian Publishers. Top Grade Selection 2016.

Shannen and the Dream for a School

Shannen Koostachin was an Aboriginal girl who had a dream for a safe and proper education for all children and youth in her community of Attawapiskat, Ontario. In 2008, at the age of 13, she challenged the Canadian Government for reneging on promises that had been made to their community to build a school to replace the one that had been contaminated by a fuel leak in 1979. This dynamic young activist was killed in a car accident in 2010. The people of Attawapiskat are still waiting for a school, but progress has been made because of Shannen’s belief that it’s “possible for children to create a better world”. A timeline of Aboriginal History in Canada and Glossary of Aboriginal items and Cree words are included.

This book is a First Nation Communities Read 2012-2013 Feature Book Selection.

Source: The Association of Book Publishers of BC. Canadian Aboriginal Books for Schools. 2012-2013.

Shannen and the Dream for a School (A Kids’ Power Book)

Attawapiskat had nothing but a few portables where their children attended school. Shannen Koostachin was one of those children and she, along with her friends and community, decided to do something about it. They started off by making a YouTube video about the poor condition of the portables and travelled to Ottawa to speak to politicians, telling them they were failing First Nations children. Their story inspired children across the nation.

Source: The Canadian Children’s Book Centre. Best Books for Kids & Teens. Fall, 2012.

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