Jennifer Maruno is a long-time educator. Her debut novel, When the Cherry Blossoms Fell, was shortlisted for the Hackmatack Award and the Pacific Northwest Library Association Young Readers Choice Award. She is also the author of Warbird, Cherry Blossom Winter, Kid Soldier, and Totem. She lives in Burlington, Ontario.
Jonny must travel to the distant past to understand the present.
As an orphaned white boy in a school full of Native students, fourteen-year-old Jonny Joe isn’t like any of the others at the island Redemption Residential School off the west coast. When the advances of Father Gregory disturb Jonny, he joins another boy in an escape to a mountain cave. But when they leave the cave, the world as they knew it no longer exists.
The boys travel to a native village in a sheltered bay, where Jonny becomes skilled in the art of carving. When a steamship enters the cove, the party of sightseers brings a disease that annihilates most of the people in the village. Meanwhile, Jonny has learned the secret of his past and when he returns to the present, Jonny carves a totem pole to honour the members of the village.
With engaging language and action delivered at the perfect pace to maintain interest without overwhelming a reader with information, Totem is a masterpiece of middle-grade fiction.
Maruno tells a well-realized story complete with brave young men and villains.