“An educational and somber tale of mistreatment suffered by Indigenous children in Canada. ”
As a young girl walks home from school through the Canadian countryside, she happens upon her uncle, who is standing at the site of a demolished train station. When she asks what he is doing, he answers that he is waiting for the train. Seeing the tracks in disrepair and knowing the line to be abandoned, the girl is confused, but as they sit together, the uncle relates the tragic history of how he, along with siblings and over 150,000 Indigenous children in Canada, were forced to leave their homes and attend residential schools, where their heritage and culture were repressed. Now he waits for “what we lost that day to come back to us.” Lesley’s illustrations flow between semi abstract and realism, matching Callaghan’s somber story of a reality shaped by a tragic but almost forgotten past. The inclusion of details such as the uncle eating a raw potato make the story very personal and believable. The narration is rough at moments—why does the light in Uncle’s eyes counter an otherwise cheerful expression coming over his face?—and presents a time of historical mistreatment in a tone that would leave readers with a sense of hopelessness but for the girl’s willingness to join her uncle in waiting for better days to return.
Ashley meets her great-uncle by the old train tracks near their reserve in Nova Scotia. When she sees his sadness, he shares with her the history of those tracks. Uncle tells her that, during his childhood, the train would bring their community supplies, but there came a day when the train took away with it something much more important. One day he and the other children from the reserve were taken aboard and transported to a residential school, where their lives were changed forever. Ashley promises to wait with her uncle as he sits by the tracks, waiting for what was taken from their people to come back to them.
Jodie Callaghan is a Mi’gmaq woman from the Listuguj First Nation in Gespe’gewa’gi near Quebec. She has always been drawn to storytelling and has found writing to be the best way to connect to her history and her culture. She was inspired to write The Train after listening to many people tell her about their residential school experiences. Jodie is currently working as an adult-education teacher in her community. She lives with her husband, child and two pugs.
Georgia Lesley is a Canadian-born professional artist and illustrator living in British Columbia’s Cariboo Region. Her illustrations have been published by Scholastic Canada and in various materials, including books, posters and calendars for the Nlaka’pamux Nation Tribal Council, the Fraser Thompson Indian Services Society, Doctors of BC and the First Nations Health Authority. Georgia is primarily self-taught. She loved drawing and painting as a child, which started a lifelong passion. She began illustrating in 2006 and strives to create a sense of depth, emotion and visual storytelling to assist and enhance the written word.