Title: GHOST HAWK
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books (a Simon & Schuster Children's imprint)
Release Date: August 27, 2013
Number of Pages: 336
Age Recommendation: Ages 10-14, grades 5-9
Source of Book: ARC sent from publisher
From Newbery Medalist Susan Cooper, a story of adventure and friendship between a young Native American and a colonial New England settler.
On the winter day Little Hawk is sent into the woods alone, he can take only a bow and arrows, his handcrafted tomahawk, and the amazing metal knife his father traded for with the new white settlers. If Little Hawk survives three moons by himself, he will be a man.
John Wakely is only ten when his father dies, but he has already experienced the warmth and friendship of the nearby tribes. Yet his fellow colonists aren’t as accepting of the native people. When he is apprenticed to a barrel-maker, John sees how quickly the relationships between settlers and natives are deteriorating. His friendship with Little Hawk will put both boys in grave danger.
The intertwining stories of Little Hawk and John Wakely are a fascinating tale of friendship and an eye-opening look at the history of our nation. Newbery Medalist Susan Cooper also includes a timeline and an author’s note that discusses the historical context of this important and moving novel.
First Thought: A magnificent treasure of a book. Quietly powerful story sews its threads into your consciousness and doesn't unravel.
Disclaimer: I work at a private K-8 school for Native American Indian students living in an urban area. The school is modeled on the values and beliefs of the Native culture. GHOST HAWK is exactly the kind of book I hope to find for my students because it connects them to their culture in a positive way, and is a readable and very well-written story. All of that is to say, this background may have colored my feelings about this book. It's a book I want every teacher and student at my school to read and share with their families.
GHOST HAWK is a beautifully written book that is quiet in its impact, but leaves an deep impression. The gripping tagline on the cover is Memory ~ Mystery ~ Murder, is fitting (and the cover is stunning). The descriptions are rich, the text is accessible, the story is epic. The plot follows a circle of life flow starting with before Little Hawk is born, in the 17th century set in Colonial New England, with everything coming full circle many many years later. The elements of the Native culture are embedded in an unobtrusive way because that's just how life is, yet explained for those unfamiliar with them.
Narrated by Little Hawk whose voice hooked me into the story from the beginning, GHOST HAWK provides a Native perspective of an unimaginable, controversial, and tumultuous time in United States history, a historical perspective many don't know, and one that's important to tell. His voice stays strong, even after a shocking moment that changes the trajectory of the story, and his gentle ways provide the calming presence necessary to process the events that occur. Seeing events from his perspective, feeling his love and fear, living his friendships all help the reader connect to the story in a meaningful way.
I have not previously read anything by Susan Cooper, but based on this, I can see why she was a Newbery medalist, and I would not be surprised if GHOST HAWK is on the shortlist this year. It just feels like it's that kind of book. Powerful, meaningful, surprising, endearing, hopeful, beautiful. I felt utterly connected to this story and the characters in it. Although not a quick read, it was a book I needed to keep reading.
Final Thoughts: This is the book I'm going to be proclaiming everyone should read this year. And I really hope you do.