Secret Path by Gord DownieSecret Path by Gord Downie

Secret Path

byGord DownieIllustratorJeff Lemire

Paperback | October 18, 2016

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Secret Path is a ten song digital download album by Gord Downie with a graphic novel by illustrator Jeff Lemire that tells the story of Chanie “Charlie” Wenjack, a twelve-year-old boy who died in flight from the Cecilia Jeffrey Indian Residential School fifty years ago.

Chanie, misnamed Charlie by his teachers, was a young boy who died on October 22, 1966, walking the railroad tracks, trying to escape from the Cecilia Jeffrey Indian Residential School to return home. Chanie’s home was 400 miles away. He didn’t know that. He didn’t know where it was, nor how to find it, but, like so many kids—more than anyone will be able to imagine—he tried.

Chanie’s story is Canada’s story. We are not the country we thought we were. History will be re-written. We are all accountable. Secret Path acknowledges a dark part of Canada’s history—the long suppressed mistreatment of Indigenous children and families by the residential school system—with the hope of starting our country on a road to reconciliation. Every year as we remember Chanie Wenjack, the hope for Secret Path is that it educates all Canadians young and old on this omitted part of our history, urging our entire nation to play an active role in the preservation of Indigenous lives and culture in Canada.

The next hundred years are going to be painful as we come to know Chanie Wenjack and thousands like him—as we find out about ourselves, about all of us—but only when we do can we truly call ourselves, “Canada.”

Proceeds from Secret Path will be donated to The Gord Downie Secret Path Fund for Truth and Reconciliation via The National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation (NCTR) at The University of Manitoba.
Title:Secret PathFormat:PaperbackDimensions:96 pages, 12 × 12 × 0.3 inPublished:October 18, 2016Publisher:Simon & SchusterLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:1501155946

ISBN - 13:9781501155949

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Secret Path
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Rated 5 out of 5 by from Purely Canadian It has been proven that comics can be used as a force for cultural change and societal awareness. Secret Path calls attention to a grim chapter in recent Canadian history. It does so with the story of a hope-filled aboriginal youth trying to make his way back home. Based on the life of Chanie Wenjack, the graphic novel and accompanying poems tell of his experience and eventual escape from a government-aided, church-organized, Indian residential school in 1966. Secret Path is a one-of-a-kind, joint cross-media project containing a music album by the late Gord Downie (of The Tragically Hip) and a graphic novel illustrated by leading comic creator, Jeff Lemire. A digital music download is included with the book. For an even greater experience, a boxed set with vinyl is also available through I’m not adding anything more to what some previous reviews have eloquently expressed but I whole-heartedly agree that Secret Path is an important and timely piece of political/social commentary. Please visit for more information.
Date published: 2018-12-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fabulous illustrations The best part of this story are the illustrations. The impact is profound; Lemire conveys so much emotion in each illustration. Definitely a tear-jerker.
Date published: 2018-09-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from So powerful Chanie Wenjack, a story that all Canadians need to know. Together Gord Downie and Jeff Lemire weave a piece of art depicting the journey of Chanie Wenjack as he tries to return home after escaping the Cecilia Jeffrey Indian Residential School. Lemire's art work in the graphic novel is a perfect companion to Downie's hauntingly beautiful 10 track album.
Date published: 2018-08-24
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Great book and better with the album! This is a oversized, illustrated book featuring mostly drawings and short texts of poems. I found that I connected with this work on a deeper level when I streamed the album. The book also included a sticker with a download code for the album too, but it is quite heavy subject matter.
Date published: 2018-07-30
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Amazing! Before knowing about this book I read Boyden Wenjack. After doing some research this book is an amazing illustration of Chanie's story! I think not having words in the actual graphic novel provides a stronger message. I think this should be a story all Canadian students know about! #plumrewards
Date published: 2018-07-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Brought me to tears. When I first heard about this book, I didn't know what to think. I knew it would be a sensitive topic to discuss and to read. Back home, nearly everyone's parents and grandparents attended Residential as well as Day Schools. We grow up hearing horror stories within families, but it's not really an open subject we talk about. I hadn't read Secret Path when I went to WE DAY. But seeing Gord Downie and hearing the kids chorus singing, I literally could not stop crying. It was so triggering but so wonderful. I went and bought Secret Path the next day. I was, and still am, so emotional whenever I read or listen to the music that goes with it. It's beautiful and I'm happy that this topic is finally reaching mainstream Canadian Society.
Date published: 2018-06-08
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Amazing and sad Amazing book with amazing art. Such a sad part of Canadian history.
Date published: 2018-05-25
Rated 3 out of 5 by from So True I originally read this book as part of the red maple program we have at our school, this book was so touching, and so sad at the same time, the music to go with this book is also pretty good.
Date published: 2018-04-29
Rated 5 out of 5 by from beautiful Along with Wenjack by Joseph Boyden. This is beautifully illustrated and such an important, heart wrenching story in Canadian history. A mush read.
Date published: 2018-04-27
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Essential Reading/Listening While the storytelling here isn't as poignant or nuanced as with Boyden's Wenjack, this graphic novel/album combination is just as moving and emotional an experience; immeasurable in its necessity on Canada's path to reconciliation.
Date published: 2018-04-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Most Impressive This is a story, among so many others that needs to be told. Nothing is held back, you will be moved and haunted afterwards by the pain caused by residential schools.
Date published: 2018-04-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Sad but well done. A dark look at the sad, short life of Chanie - thank you Gord for bringing to light an atrocity from Canada's past - far too long overlooked by non-Indigenous Canadians. This book was dark, sad and difficult - but a great way to discuss this subject with my young children.
Date published: 2018-03-01
Rated 3 out of 5 by from OK This book was ok and but not my favorite for personal reasons...
Date published: 2017-11-29
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Hauntingly Beautiful… Incredibly put together ..Secret Path tells Chanie Wenjack's story beautifully in words, song, and art. I could feel the pain and sadness
Date published: 2017-11-09
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Haunting Canada definitely has a dark history that is so very recent. This is the tragic story of Chanie Wenjack, a 12 year old boy that ran away from a Residential School. His goal was simply to go back home. With music by Gord Downie (RIP) and hauntingly beautiful images by Jeff Lemire, Secret Path packs quite a punch.
Date published: 2017-10-27
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Hauntingly Sad Excellent resource for teachers wanting to discuss impact of residential school system on First Nations people.
Date published: 2017-10-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A Book for Reconciliation This is a stunning and immersive experience. The illustrations and Gord Downie's music are separately powerful, but the combined effect is incredibly poignant. The tragic tale of Chanie Wenjack is the true story of Canada. It is our responsibility to acknowledge our history, and to continue to tell the stories of those whose lives were taken.
Date published: 2017-10-14
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Eye-opener The story is unbelievably heartbreaking and the music is haunting and atmospheric. I kept imagining the fear and hurt and pain that this poor little boy endured in his very short life. Although I heard briefly about residential schools in university, it wasn't something that was ever discussed in the public school system. The way indigenous peoples have been treated in this country is appalling. It's long past time for Canada to take steps to reconcile.
Date published: 2017-08-15
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Beautiful! An absolutely extraordinary book. Jeff Lemire's illustrations are perfection.
Date published: 2017-07-31
Rated 4 out of 5 by from moving moving, touching and haunting story !
Date published: 2017-07-27
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent teaching resource. This book is extraordinary. As a teacher I have used it in multiple grades ranging from Gr. 3-8. I've never had a student who was not totally engaged in the story.
Date published: 2017-06-14
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Emotional and Lovely Illustrations Definitely a tear-jerker. I am very empathetic to these injustices and I think this book is a great for educating. #plumreview
Date published: 2017-06-13
Rated 5 out of 5 by from touching Touching and disturbing. A new classic.
Date published: 2017-05-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great gift! Bought this as a Christmas Gift for my future father in law and he LOVED IT. the download was easy and a great listen along with the graphic novel!
Date published: 2017-03-19
Rated 4 out of 5 by from What a story! A great addition to any library.
Date published: 2017-03-14
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Powerful story Gord Downie's legacy will be more than just The Tragically Hip. This book, based on the true story of Chanie Wenjack and the residential schools, does not have a happy ending. It made me cry. It is not a story I will ever forget and neither should all Canadians. #plumreview
Date published: 2017-03-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A powerful book I read Secret Path while listening to the album of the same name by Gord Downie, stretching it out and taking the time to examine each frame of the graphic novel. The illustrations are perfect. The cartoonist is Jeff Lemire, a Canadian as well, and one of my favourites. The drawings are sketchy, moody and bleak, which fits the setting of the Residential School in Northern Ontario and the train tracks to nowhere. Most of the book is greyscale with blue, but there is a little bit of colour, which is, again, perfect. The illustrations are so descriptive and provocative that I hardly missed having text (there are only a couple of words in the whole novel). Lemire is really the best artist I can think of for this work. The songs lyrics at intervals throughout the novel written by Gord Downie are simple and meaningful. I loved listening to the cd and reading the lyrics at the same time. The way that he sings them is much more like poems accompanied by music than songs themselves as they aren't particularly catchy or singable... but they're perfect for the book. This is a book I would keep on my shelf, and one that I would recommend to others. Five stars! PS If you are captivated by the story behind this book, you should probably read the novel Porcupines and China Dolls by Robert Alexie; it's intensely raw, but an incredible read.
Date published: 2017-03-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Meritorious It commemorates one of the great injustices in Canadian history. The text and pictures are nicely balanced.
Date published: 2017-03-01
Rated 5 out of 5 by from scared to read i know this book is going to make me cry
Date published: 2017-02-27
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great book You learn a lot about the history of colonization in Canada and all the injustices that took place. Very factual and heartbreaking read
Date published: 2017-02-21
Rated 4 out of 5 by from heartbreaking The illustrations in this book, really help to show the heartbreak behind this truthful bit of Canada's past. :(
Date published: 2017-02-07
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Nope Okay I am cynical but someone making a lot of money off of an illness
Date published: 2017-02-06
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Heartbreaking A really great story. Pictures are nice but the heartbreaking story is really a terrific read. Highly recommended
Date published: 2017-02-03
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Tragis ctory The artwork is stunning, the is story tragic. A great book to go with Wenjack. #plumreview
Date published: 2017-01-27
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Amazing! Such an incredible way to tell an important story
Date published: 2017-01-26
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Touching Dramatic, emotional and mysterious. Words cannot describe how much the atmosphere touches the soul.
Date published: 2017-01-21
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Secret Path Didn't know what this was when I picked it up. It looked kind of eerie but when I looked at it further and found out it was novel and album by Gord Downie I had to pick it up. It is a beautiful haunting at times story and will evoke so many emotions. I wish there was a CD that came with it though.
Date published: 2017-01-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Beautiful in every sense. I received this as a Christmas gift and I love it. The artwork is stunning, the is story tragic yet beautiful and the lyrics throughout are haunting and perfect. I would recommend this book for any music lover, any fan of graphic novels, any Canadian and any person who has ever felt alone.
Date published: 2017-01-16
Rated 5 out of 5 by from I absolutely loved this book! It was a whirl wind of emotion. The artist did an amazing job, in capturing Chanie's emotions. It is a novel I will cherish for a long time.
Date published: 2017-01-09
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Beautiful Beautifully illustrated with Gord's songs throughout. I highly recommend reading while listening the the accompanying album.
Date published: 2017-01-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Stunning Gripping story, haunting and beautiful images, and powerful poetry. I'm so happy I bought this book!
Date published: 2017-01-05
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Great A moving, important story with an intriguing format.
Date published: 2017-01-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Gord Downie at his best cd code online and a great read. A must for any follower of Gord Downie
Date published: 2017-01-03
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Good Book I have never enjoyed a book as much as this one.
Date published: 2017-01-01
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Christmas gift I received this book for Christmas from my lovely wife. I haven't read it all the way through yet, but am enjoying it so far!!
Date published: 2016-12-28
Rated 4 out of 5 by from good really heart brwaking story
Date published: 2016-12-23
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Keep a box of tissues handy I bought Secret Path pre-release (back in September) and I couldn't wait until it arrived at my Post Office in later October. I had researched the Residential Schools in University (when I finally had the chance to learn the truth about Canada's dirty, not so little secret in a First Nations History course); Jeff Lemire's illustrations, paired with Gord Downie's poetry/songs bring the painful stories to life. Not only Chanie's story, but also the stories of those that survived the schools. Lemire's use of mainly darker colours (black, grey, blue) and harsh (straight) lines are very effective in portraying the overall emotional atmosphere at these schools (alienating, cold, unloving). I downloaded the album and listened to it as I read the book for the first time. Pure gold. Listening to Gord give Chanie's story a voice while looking at Jeff's illustrations was powerful enough to evoke hard-core tears and gut-wrenching sobs. Reflecting on my own school experiences, my generation could have benefited from Secret Path. Here's to hoping that today's teachers continue to heed the call to teach this very important lesson, no longer keeping it "hidden from History".
Date published: 2016-12-22
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Good read and decent music I like this book although some might have preferred it to have actual dialogue. It's quite touching when accompanied by the music or just alone.
Date published: 2016-12-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Important story to be told God bless Gord Downie, and all the people who suffered at the hands of an ingnorant Government.
Date published: 2016-12-15
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Powerful The illustrations and songs bring the story to life in a moving, powerful way.
Date published: 2016-12-07
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Really enjoyed it! #plumreview I really enjoyed this book! I already recommended it to a few friends!
Date published: 2016-12-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Loved It I thought it was great and suggested it to my friends
Date published: 2016-12-01
Rated 3 out of 5 by from wonderful wanted a cd with the book
Date published: 2016-11-26
Rated 4 out of 5 by from beautiful beautifuly wrien and illustrated
Date published: 2016-11-23
Rated 3 out of 5 by from It was amazing It was an amazing read I highly recommend it!
Date published: 2016-11-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from powerful very meaningful canadian story
Date published: 2016-11-21
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Beautiful! Absolutely beautiful! And a wonderful way to pay tribute to those who attended the residential schools!
Date published: 2016-11-21
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Beautiful Love it. Absolutely beautiful and heartbreaking at the same time
Date published: 2016-11-21
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A gripping graphic novel, searing lyrics and music The tragic story of Chanie Wenjack explored in this book and songs will stay with me forever. A very important work. I highly recommend Joseph Boyden's small but powerful book Wenjack as well.
Date published: 2016-11-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Unforgettable story I borrowed this book from the local library and I was moved with the story as well as wonderful drawings of story. I am going to buy this book and treasure it in my private library. Charlie is a symbol of an era in our history and that part of our dark past should be more talked and discussed about.
Date published: 2016-11-18
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Powerful This was an incredibly moving book. The imagery was incredibly evocative, and I found myself in tears at the end. I just wish it came with a cd, so that I could hear the lyrics as I read them.
Date published: 2016-11-18
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Beautiful I'm a fan of both Gord Downie and Jeff Lemire. I was thrilled when I heard that this would be coming out. The book is gorgeous and evokes all the appropriate emotions but be warned, there is almost no text in the entire book except on the back cover, so don't expect it to teach you Chanie's story. It serves much better as a companion to another book about him or if you already know the story.
Date published: 2016-11-15
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Poignant #plumreview So inspiring to see Gord Donnie using whatever time he has left creating art with such an eye toward rectifying and exposing social ills in the native community. A truly exemplary Canadian.
Date published: 2016-11-14
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Poignant Beautifully powerful, and equally devastating. Unique narrative choice to tell the story without words. I would recommend purchasing along with Wenjack. These stories need to be old.
Date published: 2016-11-13
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Such a moving story I wanted this the moment it was announced. Gord Downie and Jeff Lemire! Perfect combo to create such a moving story. Listening to the album by Gord Downie and looking at Jeff Lemire's images ... a must for every Canadian. #plumreview
Date published: 2016-11-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Amazing What a wonderful book. And by Gord Downie too, Can't miss.
Date published: 2016-11-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Tragic An important look into a part of Canadian history that we rarely discuss. Fantastic illustration.
Date published: 2016-11-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Timely This was a great deep dive into a part of Canadian history that we rarely talk about.
Date published: 2016-11-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Very impressed I recently received this book as a gift and when I finished it and actually looked at the illustrations it is a very good book, I was skeptical as first but glad I gave it a shot
Date published: 2016-11-03
Rated 3 out of 5 by from No CD :( The graphic novel is beautifully illustrated, however there is no 'ten song album' as specified. I'm very disappointed. This needs to be made clear. I wouldn't have purchased otherwise; I'd have waited for the physical CD. Five stars for the graphic novel, but no stars for no CD.
Date published: 2016-10-27
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Powerful and Essential Reading and Listening While this was a hard emotional journey to experience, very happy to now have this in my library of most treasured possessions. Chanie Wenjack's story needs to be told, and heard until we all understand why our indigenous peoples deserve better. So well done.
Date published: 2016-10-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Moving I walked up to this book at a local Indigo recognizing nothing more than Jeff Lemire's name. Usually, something like realizing out the work is a collab with Gord Downie would be enough to consider the piece impressive. Sitting with the book, reading through the poetry, and admittedly discovering its subject matter only then & there - the work leaves a resonance. Which I imagine is what Downie is rightfully aiming for. A second read - with the music download to accompany it - was especially moving. Downie's poetry and Lemire's linework mix into something sad & beautiful, an empathetic atmosphere reflecting on this piece of Canadian history. *NOTE: In response to a previous review on this page, yes there's no CD. But the online download offered is both in mp3 and wav - quality is very high.
Date published: 2016-10-22
Rated 2 out of 5 by from WISH there was an actual cd Buyer beware- there is no actual cd with this book, only an online code for a download. I was not expecting this, a little disappointed.
Date published: 2016-10-22