Sunday, September 8, 2013
Ghost Hawk by Susan Cooper
This is going to be a tough review to write because I have differing views on the book. This book was actually recommended to me and then I received it from the publisher for consideration for the Maine Student Book Award. I was excited and intrigued about the book.
The book is about Little Hawk and John Wakeley who officially meet 2 times. Little Hawk is a member of the Pokanoket tribe and in the beginning of the book he is going through his proving time. When he returns home he finds his village has been ravished by a disease brought by the white men who have been arriving in the area. We continue to follow Little Hawk as he meets John Wakely the first time with his father, another man, and Squanto as they watch the Pokanoket's fish. It is many years later, and amid rising tensions between the Native Americans and Englishmen that John and Little Hawk meet again. There has been an accident and Little Hawk is trying to help rescue John's father who is under a tree. Two other Englishmen misinterpret what they see and shoot Little Hawk. Little Hawk dies and the end of part 1. The rest of the story follows John as he struggles with the growing tensions. He actually is able to see Little Hawk as a ghost and is able to learn the Pokanoket language from him. Eventually John moves to Rhode Island which is more tolerant of differing religious views and the treatment of the Native Americans.
Here's the tough part. I did like the book. Susan Cooper is a good writer. The storyline was unique with the ghost of Little Hawk conversing with John. When I finished it early this morning I wondered though what does Debbie Reese think? Debbie Reese has a blog at http://americanindiansinchildrensliterature.blogspot.com
and evaluates the portrayal of American Indians in Children's Literature. She was not impressed with the book. Her review can be found here http://americanindiansinchildrensliterature.blogspot.com/2013/06/susan-cooper-on-ghost-hawk-only-major.html
So what to do? I know that I can get offended when stereotypes are made of some of the groups I associate myself with. I can't even imagine how American Indians feel when they are yet again portrayed incorrectly. I feel I need to respect their feelings.
What is the solution to this dilemma? I guess I would encourage authors who decide to write about any group...who want to portray them accurately and not stereotypically to have as part of their research process a consultant from that group.