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From the Roots Up

by (author) Tasha Spillett

illustrated by Natasha Donovan & Donovan Yaciuk

Portage & Main Press
Initial publish date
Oct 2020
English Language Arts, Social Justice
Grade Levels
9 to 12
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Oct 2020
    List Price
  • eBook

    Publish Date
    Oct 2020
    List Price

Where to buy it

Descriptive Review

In this second volume of the Surviving the City series, we are reintroduced to friends Miikwan (Anishinaabe) and Dez (Inninew) as they navigate their lives and identities as Indigenous youth within an urban context. When Dez is arrested and racialized for vandalism, she is forced to face her Kookum’s recent death as well as come to terms with her own identity. Through friendship and community, and with the support of a compassionate Elder named Geraldine, Dez is able to learn about what it means to be Two-Spirit, alongside teachings about love, acceptance, and ceremony. The illustrations in this graphic novel skilfully intertwine contemporary life with dream memories and spirit imagery to enrich each character’s story. Containing mature themes including police violence and intergenerational trauma, this book is suited for secondary learners and could be used as a springboard for exploring these topics.

64 pp., 6.5 × 10", colour illustrations

Tasha Spillett (Inninewak and Trinidadian) • Natasha Donovan (Métis Nation of BC), illus.

Source: Association of Book Publishers of BC - Canadian Indigenous Books for Schools (2021-2022)

About the authors

New York Times–bestselling author Tasha Spillett (she/her/hers) draws her strength from both her Inninew and Trinidadian bloodlines. She is a celebrated Afro-Indigenous educator, poet, and emerging scholar. Tasha is most heart-tied to contributing to community-led work that centres on land and water defence, and the protection of Indigenous women and girls. Her books include the award-winning graphic novel series Surviving the City and the celebrated children’s book, I Sang You Down From the Stars. Tasha is currently working on her PhD in Education through the University of Saskatchewan, where she holds a Vanier Canada Award. @TashaSpillett

Tasha Spillett's profile page

Natasha Donovan is the illustrator of the award-winning Mothers of Xsan series (written by Brett Huson). She illustrated the graphic novel Surviving the City (written by Tasha Spillett), which won a Manitoba Book Award and received an American Indian Youth Literature Award (AIYLA) honor. She also illustrated Classified: The Secret Career of Mary Golda Ross, Cherokee Aerospace Engineer which won an Orbis Pictus Honor Book and an American Indian Youth Literature Award (AIYLA). Natasha is Métis, and spent her early life in Vancouver, British Columbia. Although she moved to the United States to marry a mathematician, she prefers to keep her own calculations to the world of color and line. She lives in Washington.

Natasha Donovan's profile page

Since 1998, Donovan Yaciuk (he/him/his) has done colouring work on books published by Marvel, DC, Dark Horse comics, and High Water Press including A Girl Called Echo and Breakdown: Reckoner Rises series and This Place: 150 Years Retold. Donovan holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts (Honours) from the University of Manitoba and began his career as a part of the legendary, now-defunct Digital Chameleon colouring studio. He lives in Winnipeg, MB Canada, with his wife and two daughters.

Donovan Yaciuk's profile page


  • Short-listed, Forest of Reading Red Maple Award
  • Nominated, MYRCA Northern Lights
  • Short-listed, Indigenous Voices Award, Published Graphic Novels, Comics, and Illustrated Books in any Language
  • Short-listed, Carol Shields Winnipeg Book Award
  • Short-listed, Mary Scorer Award for Best Book by a Manitoba Publisher
  • Short-listed, McNally Robinson Book for Young People (Older Category)

Editorial Reviews

Moving and heartfelt, readers definitely will want to know what happens next.

The Globe and Mail

Every single thing about these volumes is important. They are beautifully written, fantastically illustrated, at times heartbreaking, humourous, and rooted in Indigenous strength.

Dani @thunderbirdwomanreads

This story is so important. The illustrations in this book are gorgeous, and add so much depth to the story. This book is an essential addition to classroom and libraries.

Bit About Books

Among CCBC's Best Books for Kids and Teens list, designated a title of exceptional caliber

The Canadian Children's Book Centre (CCBC)

Surviving the City and From the Roots Up are beautiful, poignant, and emotional. I highly recommend you read these graphic novels.

The Tiny Activist