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Children's Nonfiction Native Canadian

The Secret Pocket

by (author) Peggy Janicki

illustrated by Carrielynn Victor

Orca Book Publishers
Initial publish date
Apr 2023
Native Canadian, Prejudice & Racism, Cultural Heritage, Post-Confederation (1867-), Social Activism & Volunteering
Recommended Age
6 to 8
Recommended Grade
1 to 3
Recommended Reading age
6 to 8
  • eBook

    Publish Date
    Apr 2023
    List Price
  • Hardback

    Publish Date
    Apr 2023
    List Price

Classroom Resources

Where to buy it


“Captures the sympathy of readers and holds their attention...An age-appropriate telling by an Indigenous creative team of a tragic historical period.”—School Library Journal, starred review

The true story of how Indigenous girls at a residential school sewed secret pockets into their dresses to hide food and survive.

Mary was four years old when she was first taken away to the Lejac Indian Residential School. It was far away from her home and family. Always hungry and cold, there was little comfort for young Mary. Speaking Dakelh was forbidden and the nuns and priest were always watching, ready to punish. Mary and the other girls had a genius idea: drawing on the knowledge from their mothers, aunts and grandmothers who were all master sewers, the girls would sew hidden pockets in their clothes to hide food. They secretly gathered materials and sewed at nighttime, then used their pockets to hide apples, carrots and pieces of bread to share with the younger girls.

Based on the author's mother's experience at residential school, The Secret Pocket is a story of survival and resilience in the face of genocide and cruelty. But it's also a celebration of quiet resistance to the injustice of residential schools and how the sewing skills passed down through generations of Indigenous women gave these girls a future, stitch by stitch.

About the authors

Peggy Janicki is an award-winning Dakelh teacher from the Nak’azdli Whut’en First Nation. She holds a master of education in Indigenous knowledges/Indigenous pedagogies from the University of British Columbia. Peggy has worked for decades to reveal the hidden stories and histories of Indigenous Peoples, as featured in UBC’s Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) "Reconciliation through Indigenous Education." When her mother shared a secret story that changed all their lives and highlighted the impacts of colonization, Peggy also became a storyteller. She lives in Chilliwack, British Columbia.

Peggy Janicki's profile page

Carrielynn Victor is fueled by the passion to tell stories through her art. Her ancestors come from around the world, descending from bloodlines in Scotland, Ireland, and Wales that arrived in the Americas in the 1600s, and Coast Salish ancestors that have been sustained by S’olh Temexw (our land) since time immemorial. Carrielynn was born and raised in S’olh Temexw and nurtured by many parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles.

Along with a thriving art practice, Carrielynn maintains a communal role as a plant practitioner. The responsibilities for traditional plant practitioners range from protection and preservation of lands to networking and trade to harvest and preparation methods. These understandings are reflected in the artwork and knowledge Carrielynn contributes to her communities. Carrielynn also operates an environmental consultancy, based out of Chilliwack, BC, which reviews and reports on projects with a blended focus, pairing Sto:lo cultural and heritage understanding with ecological knowledge.

Carrielynn’s work speaks to the differences and similarities between ancient and modern understandings. The foundation of an intrinsic connection to the land provides Carrielynn with the understandings and perspectives she utilizes in her Coast Salish art practice. The values found in carrying forward ancestral knowledge and incorporating that knowledge with environmental sciences, as well as the arts, is a lifelong learning journey and a key part of Carrielynn’s working practice.

Carrielynn Victor's profile page


  • Short-listed, Washington Library Association (WLA) Towner Book Award for Nonfiction Picture Books
  • Short-listed, Indigenous Voices Awards (IVA) - Published prose in English
  • Commended, Children’s Book Council & National Council for Social Studies Notable Social Studies Trade Books for Young People
  • Commended, Cooperative Children's Book Center Choices
  • Short-listed, Prince George Public Library Jeanne Clarke Local History Publication Award
  • Nominated, Forest of Reading Silver Birch Express Award
  • Joint winner, The Sunshine Coast Writers and Editors Society (SCWES) Book Awards for BC Authors
  • Commended, CCBC Best Books for Kids & Teens
  • Commended, Ontario Library association (OLA) Best Bets

Editorial Reviews

“Use(s) the blues and greens of nature to effectively capture warm family scenes in contrast with the dull grass and browns of school life.”

Children's Literature Comprehensive Database (CLCD)

“Simply drawn, expressive...A moving picture book.”


“Victor's artwork is emotional and offers realistic glimpses at the differences between the warmth happiness experienced at home, and the stark reality of life in the residential school.”

Sal's Fiction Addiction

“An engaging and important story, this book is highly recommended for home, public, and school libraries.”

Quill & Quire

“Imbued with marvelous details and remarkable balance as it describes both hardship and resilience… Heartrending and heartening.”

Cooperative Children’s Book Center, School of Education, University of Wisconsin–Madison

“Both sadness and joy are accessible within the illustrations and partner perfectly with the prose…An important addition to any bookshelf…A wonderful story for mature youngsters to engage with to begin talking about the history of residential schools. Highly Recommended.”

CM: Canadian Review of Materials

“Though the tale is emotionally fraught, young readers are left with an uplifting reminder about the power and resolve of Indigenous people...A moving tribute to Native children’s survival in the residential school system.”

Kirkus Reviews

★“Captures the sympathy of readers and holds their attention...An age-appropriate telling by an Indigenous creative team of a tragic historical period.”

School Library Journal, starred review

“This important story brings attention to the resilience, ingenuity, and strength of the Indigenous children who were taken away to residential schools… Highly recommended.”

Canadian Children’s Book News

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