Journal of a Travelling Girl
Journal of a Travelling Girl
I felt bad for letting everyone down, but Grandpa made me feel worse. I want to yell at him from the top of my lungs. It’s so boring sitting in the canoe doing nothing while everyone else gets to paddle! I want to go home! I don’t care about travelling the paths of the ancestors! They aren’t even my ancestors!
Grandma looked at me with her big smile and kind, gentle eyes. Her long salt-and-pepper hair was tied back in a ponytail. She put her hand on my cheek and said, “Be patient, my girl. Look at the land. It’s better than television. Look at the life around you. Enjoy the view.”
So that’s what I did. And just before reaching our new camp, we saw two moose swimming across the lake. They were so big and right in front of us! They looked majestic with their gigantic antlers shooting up above the water. It was like a nature movie. We saw lots of loons too. I love that they have so many different songs. (p. 28)
When her mother tells 11-year-old Jules that she’s going on a traditional canoe trip with members of her community, she’s furious. Like most pre-teen girls, she doesn’t like the idea of disconnecting from her computer, (an area where she and her mom disagree), and she’s absolutely convinced that the trip will be miserable. She also misses her Uncle Joe who recently passed away and was the closest thing she had to a father. At first, the trip lives down to her expectations, and she can’t wait for it to be over so she can go home, but then things start to change. With support from her friends and the wisdom of the elders, she gains a new understanding and appreciation for her land and its history.
Inspired by her experience working as a program manager and living in the Thcho community of Wekweeti, Northwest Territories, author Nadine Neema has crafted a coming-of-age story that introduces Thcho culture through the outsider lens of a white pre-teen girl.
With the story being told in journal format, readers travel along with Jules as she learns more about the history and reasoning behind the Thcho people’s traditions while Neema simultaneously intertwines key information about the Tłįch Agreement, a land claims/self-government agreement signed in 2003.
The journal entries are told in a straightforward and direct manner, and Neema is clearly cognizant of her young audience in the tone and language used in the journal entries. Unfortunately, in her efforts to keep the information simple, the entries often read like a ‘What I did today’ list and lack colour or expression. Neema also barely addresses the community’s grief over Jules’ losing her uncle Joe, something which would have added depth to Jules’ character. Jules’ descriptions of the other people on the trip seem inserted for the sake of the reader and only offer minimal insight into their characters.
As the trip progresses, Jules’ entries do reflect some growth. She gradually stops resenting the trip and starts participating. She learns to be mindful of her actions while facing her fears and growing more confident, and she gains an appreciation for the importance of the historical moment that the Thcho people are celebrating.
While the novel does fit nicely into Indigenous curriculum studies in the middle grades, the author neglected to offer any supporting back matter or further research which would have helped support the valuable history that she was trying to convey.
Overall, Journal of a Travelling Girl is a fast, easy, and interesting read that should be considered for classroom use, but it will fail to engage most kids seeking a personal pleasure read.
Rachel Seigel is an Adult selection Specialist at LSC and an author.