by Susan Cooper, published 2013
“To make a tomahawk for your son, you needed the stone blade, and the wooden shaft, and time. In my father’s day, there was still time…”
I was drawn to this book because I loved Susan Cooper’s fantasy novel, The Dark is Rising. This, however, was a historical fiction children’s book. I could only imagine the deft with which she might craft something. I was not disappointed. In fact, I was mesmerized. This is a masterful piece of historical fiction that dramatically tells the Native perspective of the events surrounding the Pilgrims and the Native Americans. Be prepared to give up your rose-colored glasses about Captain Miles Standish and others when you read this brutally honest account of their attitudes towards the indigenous people of America.
There are so many surprises in this book, and I won’t give them away. Just know that you are stepping into a magical historical fiction children’s book that doesn’t end until the whole tale has been told.
There is certainly sadness as we read the exploits of the White Man, and there is tremendous value in reading the Native American attitudes towards nature. One could argue that this historical fiction paints too rosy a picture of the two sides of the battle for land in America. Yet perhaps a pendulum must swing to the other extreme before we can come to a middle ground of understanding our heritage.
The value of this children’s book is that it invites a serious and honest look at the land and violence we have inherited. The way the book is written, it could be used simply as a wonderful historical fiction for home use. However, it would also be superb in a classroom or home school setting, especially tied to the settling of America. The emphasis on the boys and men in the story make this especial appealing for young male readers. I would say 11 and up for this one. A great book for adults as well.