Sunday, January 22, 2006

Crooked River

Pearsall, Shelley. 2005. CROOKED RIVER. New York: Knopf. ISBN 0375823891 [Suggested Grade Levels 5-8]

CROOKED RIVER is a powerful historical fiction novel set in the Ohio frontier of 1812 that truly engages readers with its storyline of frontier justice. When 13-year old Rebecca discovers that her father has shackled a young Chippewa Indian accused of murder and awaiting trial in their loft, she immediately is terrified by the captive. Rebecca and her sister have the responsibility of feeding the prisoner, and slowly Rebecca’s fear begins to disappear. He begins to leave small gifts in exchange for the food, and Rebecca begins to leave tokens of friendship for him as well. However, as the trial draws near, Rebecca begins to realize that a fair trial for this accused man simply will not happen: “As Indian John’s trial drew closer, a gnawing dread began to grow inside me…an uneasy feeling had come over me about the trial and what was going to happen.” Although Indian John, or Amik as he is called by his people, has a lawyer who clearly produces evidence to the contrary, Rebecca realizes that her community is not interested in truth. She then makes the decision to do what she can to help her friend.

The story is told in two voice narration of Rebecca and Amik, the captured Indian. This style of writing adds much to the story as the readers get two different points of view about the unfolding events. The reader is able to experience the range of emotions that Amik feels including anger, confusion, and gratitude through his story. This is the second historical novel from this author and is based on a true story. An author’s note and bibliography are included.

Readers could write their own scripts for pivotal scenes and conduct a mock trial based on the information in the story.

Other historical novels with a frontier setting:
DeFelice, Cynthia. WEASEL. ISBN 0380713586
VanLeeuwen, Jean. CABIN ON TROUBLE CREEK. ISBN 0803725485

By Pamela Kemp

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