Wednesday, August 21, 2013

World Wednesday-- Ghost Hawk

Ghost HawkCooper, Susan. Ghost Hawk. 
27 August 2013, Margaret K. McElderry Books
Copy recieved from Young Adult Books Central and reviewed there.

Little Hawk is sent by his father out into the woods to survive with the few possessions he carries with him, for three months in the winter. Such a journey will make him a man, but is fraught with peril. There are heavy snows, and he must fast until he sees his Manitou, or spirit guardian. Little Hawk manages to survive, even fending off a wolf who has eaten much of his food stores, but when he gets back to his village, everyone but his grandmother has died of a disease brought by the English. Little Hawk's friend, Leaping Turtle, also comes back to the village, and the three survivors regroup and eventually combine forces with another village. Things are not going well, however, and the English are not treating thePokanokets fairly. At one point, Little Hawk and Leaping Turtle are on an errand in the woods and come across a young boy whose father has been trapped under a tree. John knows Little Hawk, but by calling to him and asking for help, he is instrumental in Little Hawk being shot. Little Hawk's spirit becomes trapped in the area, tied to the ancestral tomahawk he carried. John is devastated by the death, and spends the next several years as an apprentice trying, in small ways, to make things better for the indigenous people he meets. He also sees Hawk's spirit, and learns his dialect from him, so that he can communicate with Hawk's people and hopefully avoid other deaths. When his servitude is over, John marries Huldah and goes to join Roger Willams, who is trying to get people to deal fairly with the various tribes. Throughout his travels, Hawk is nearby, seeing how the English are treating the New World.
Strengths: This is well written and seems well researched, and the notes at the back are helpful in understanding Cooper's need to tell this story. She herself says that this is a fantasy set in historical time periods. I especially liked how John was trying to understand the point of view of the Native Americans while trying not to run afoul of his own people. This is a complex and nuanced treatment of the issues that Native Americans faced after the arrival of the English.
Weaknesses: While there haven't been that many books recently on Native Americans, I can't see this as being one that students will pick up for fun. The time period covered is very vast, and there's little indication of when exactly events are taking place. While I can see why Cooper chose to have a ghost as a narrator, the fantasy element complicates using this in a classroom as a historical book.

I know that Heise Reads and Recommends adored this, and Book Sandwich considered it fun to read, but also pointed out that Debbie Reese, of American Indians in Children's Literature, took issue with many things in this book, especially with the theme of a "white savior" in the book. I just thought it rambled too long, but definitely consider all of the angles before purchasing this one.


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