The Barren Grounds

The Barren Grounds (The Misewa Saga, Book 1) (Grades 6-8) 

Written by David A. Robertson 

Published in 2020 by Penguin Random House (Links to an external site.) 

Morgan and Eli, two Cree children, meet when they are placed in the same foster home—Morgan’s eighth and Elis’s first—in Winnipeg with first-time, non-Indigenous, foster parents Katie and James. Morgan has experienced devastating conditions in her previous foster homes and is struggling with Katie and James’ attempts to make her feel more at home. Eli finds comfort drawing detailed scenes based on stories from his home community in the sketchbook given to him by his father.  

Katie and James celebrate Morgan’s two-month anniversary in their home with a meal from a local Indigenous restaurant and a gift of moccasins as an attempt to help her feel connected with her Indigenous culture. Morgan loses her temper and escapes to the attic. Soon Eli joins her and gives her one of his drawings, which depicts a detailed scene of a fisher walking through a field in a blizzard. When Morgan staples the drawing to the wall, a portal into the world Eli has depicted opens. As the scene comes to life, the room is filled with cold air and snow while the fisher runs toward them. When Eli rips the drawing from the wall, the scene once again freezes in time. 

The next morning, Morgan discovers Eli is gone. When she returns to the room in the attic, Morgan realizes Eli put the drawing back up on the wall and entered the portal. She decides to go after him and bring him back. Soon, Morgan and Eli find themselves on a journey with Ochek, the fisher, and Arik, a squirrel. They discover Arik is stealing from Ochek’s trapline, to help the village of Misewa survive during the White Time. Morgan and Eli assist Ochek and Arik return the resources to the land to provide for the North Country and restore the village to the Green Time.  

The Barren Grounds is a richly detailed, fast-paced fantasy novel that is sure to engage middle school readers. 


Introducing the Author:  

Visit David A. Robertson’s author bio page (Links to an external site.). 


Learning More About the Book: 

Read these reviews of The Barren Grounds: 

Kirkus Reviews (Links to an external site.) 

Canadian Review of Materials (Links to an external site.) 

CBC Books (Links to an external site.) 

Watch The Barren Grounds bookfomercial (Links to an external site.). 

Read interviews with David A. Robertson by Cynthia Leitich Smith (Links to an external site.) and 49th Shelf (Links to an external site.). 

Watch The Barren Grounds: An Afternoon with David A. Robertson (Links to an external site.) (Vancouver Writers Fest 2020). At 40:45 David Robertson reads an excerpt from the novel. 

Listen to David A. Robertson read Chapter One of The Barren Grounds (Links to an external site.). 

Explore the Educator’s Guide (Links to an external site.) for The Barren Grounds. 

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