The dual-language edition, in English and Mi'gmaq, of the Silver Birch Express-nominated title, The Train.
Ashley meets her great-uncle by the old train tracks near their community in Nova Scotia. Ashley sees his sadness, and Uncle tells her of the day years ago when he and the other children from their community were told to board the train before being taken to residential school where their lives were changed forever. They weren't allowed to speak Mi'gmaq and were punished if they did. There was no one to give them love and hugs and comfort. Uncle also tells Ashley how happy she and her sister make him. They are what give him hope. Ashley promises to wait with her uncle by the train tracks, in remembrance of what was lost.
Callaghan (who is Mi'gmaq) crafts a quiet, informative tale following a black-haired, light brown skinned Indigenous child learning about her family and community's terrible years in residential schools. On a Canadian reserve, Ashley walks home from school and, when passing the abandoned train station, sees her great-uncle. Because Uncle wants her to know what was lost there, he recounts how the train would bring rice and potatoes, which were only available from the outside. One day, his Giju' cried as she sent her four oldest children to the station, where they were loaded onto trains and taken to a residential school. "They told us we were no longer Native," he tells Ashley. "And if we put up a fuss, we were hit, sometimes worse..." Emphasizing sensory details in the present day, the prose is straightforward; Uncle's traumatic experiences are gently worded for the picture book audience. Lesley's pastel-like drawings, rendered in a light color palette, vividly capture the story's emotions in multiple close-ups of Indigenous characters. But it's Wilmot's side-by-side Mi'gmaq translation that leaves the deepest impression of the language and culture that was lost and, thankfully, regained for Ashley's generation. Back matter features a glossary and a brief note on Canadian residential schools. Ages 6 9.