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Publisher's Summary

Narnia meets traditional Indigenous stories of the sky and constellations in an epic middle-grade fantasy series from award-winning author David Robertson.

Morgan and Eli, two Indigenous children forced away from their families and communities, are brought together in a foster home in Winnipeg, Manitoba. They each feel disconnected, from their culture and each other, and struggle to fit in at school and at their new home - until they find a secret place, walled off in an unfinished attic bedroom. 

A portal opens to another reality, Askí, bringing them onto frozen, barren grounds, where they meet Ochek (Fisher). The only hunter supporting his starving community, Misewa, Ochek welcomes the human children, teaching them traditional ways to survive. But as the need for food becomes desperate, they embark on a dangerous mission. 

Accompanied by Arik, a sassy Squirrel they catch stealing from the trapline, they try to save Misewa before the icy grip of winter freezes everything - including them. 

©2020 David A. Robertson (P)2020 Penguin Random House Canada

Critic Reviews

2021 Diamond Willow Award

2021 Governor General’s Literary Award - Young People’s Literature - Text

2021 National Chapter IODE Violet Downey Award

2021 Panda Book Award"

2022 Rocky Mountain Book Award

2021 Silver Birch Award for Fiction

2022 Surrey Schools Book of the Year

2021 TD Canadian Children's Literature Award

“This is a book that is rich in its characterization, evocative in its descriptions, and skillful in its weaving together of traditions of the past and life in the present.” (CM Magazine)

“[T]he treatment of Cree culture resonates, and the engaging characters and folklore ensure readers will look forward to the next installment.” (Publishers Weekly)

"This middle-grade fantasy deftly and compellingly centers Indigenous culture." (Kirkus Reviews, starred review)

What listeners say about The Barren Grounds

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First Nations Foster Kids go traveling

It took me a while to get into this but once we managed to go through the portal it was very special. I assume that the words in Cree (?) were correctly pronounced and they added a lot.
Well worth reading.

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Sooo Good

One of the best books I’ve read in recent memory. As a teacher I have chosen how I will start every school year.

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For BIPOC students.

We heard this audio book for virtual learning in my sixth grade class. Most of my students are of BIPOC backgrounds and it was great to hear words in a story that they could relate to. Topics raised in this story allowed me to have courageous conversations with my class.

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Is Pemmican the new Turkish Delight?

What an amazing fantasy story for everyone, with indigenous Canadian cultural woven throughout. Definitely one for the young people in my world, and well, anyone. I thoroughly enjoyed it, thanks David!!!

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Beacon Light in our times

These days I don’t often get to listen to a book straight through but this one was such a salve for my soul that “I couldn’t put it down”. I made time to listen to it.