Review by Mary Lawson
“Gord Downie began Secret Path as ten poems incited by the story of Chanie Wenjack, a twelve year-old boy who died fifty years ago on October 22, 1966, in flight from the Cecilia Jeffrey Indian Residential School near Kenora, Ontario, walking home to the family he was taken from over 400 miles away.”
The Secret Path is an entry point for discussing and learning about residential schools and the unimaginable abuse of Indigenous people in Canada. This graphic novel is set to the poetry and music of Canadian rock icon and Indigenous peoples advocate, Gord Downie. The Secret Path is an immersive graphic novel with songs that can be accessed online or downloaded when you purchase the book.
Downie was inspired by the life of Chanie Wenjack, a young boy that escaped a residential school and attempted to make the 600 km journey back to the family that he was separated from. Listening to the soundtrack and reading this graphic novel is an emotional experience for the senses.
I was still in high school when children were still being taken from their families and sent to Indian Residential Schools in Canada. The atrocities committed against Indigenous people was not something many Canadians were aware of or talked about. The Secret Path is a part of Canadian History; it is dark and it needs to be talked about. This book would be appropriate for grades 7 and up as a starting place for understanding residential schools, the abuse of Indigenous people and the impact on children and families.
ISBN 978 1 5011 5594 9
Publisher: Simon and Schuster Canada (2016)
You can purchase this book here.
*Book purchases made via our affiliate link may earn GLLI a small commission at no cost to you.
About the author
Gord Downie (February 6, 1964 – October 17, 2017), was a Canadian rock icon and an advocate for Indiginous rights. Gord Downie learned about the story of Chanie Wenjack and was inspired to write The Secret Path to help tell Chanie’s story, and the story of thousands of children like him.
About the Illustrator
Jeff Lemire is the award winning, New York Times bestselling author of such graphic novels as Essex County, Sweet Tooth, The Underwater Welder, and Roughneck, as well as the co-creator of Descender with Dustin Nguyen, Black Hammer with Dean Ormston, Gideon Falls with Andrea Sorrentino, and many others. Jeff has won numerous awards, including an Eisner Award and Juno Award in 2017. Jeff has also written extensively for both Marvel and DC Comics. He lives in Toronto, Canada, with his wife and son, and their troublesome pug, Lola. Visit him at his website or on Twitter.
Reviewer: Mary Lawson
Mary Lawson is originally from Ontario, Canada. She has been teaching internationally for 13 years and currently she is the middle school and high school librarian at ACS Abu Dhabi. Mary loves YA Lit and her deepest secret is that she is into all things fae. When Mary is not working or reading she enjoys going to the beach, baking and reading.
Curator of the second #IntlYALitMonth at Global Literature in Libraries Initiative:
Linda Hoiseth is the high school librarian at the American School of Dubai and has previously worked at schools in the US, Japan, Kuwait, Malaysia, Poland, Peru, Qatar, and India. She has a B.S. in English and Secondary Education, an M.S. in Curriculum and Instruction, and a graduate certificate in School Library Media. She’s currently a member of the ECIS Libraries Special Interest Group committee. She’s a fierce advocate for all students to have access to all the books. Follow her on Twitter.