Monday, January 22, 2007

Crossing Bok Chitto

Tingle, Tim. 2006. CROSSING BOK CHITTO. Ill. by Jeanne Rorex Bridges. Cinco Puntos Press. ISBN 9780938317777 [Suggested Grade Levels 3-6]

Choctaw storyteller Tim Tingle spins this tale in what he calls a new format—a “book way of telling.” The quiet drama unfolds on both sides of the Bok Chitto River in antebellum Mississippi. Choctaw people live on one side, plantation owners and their slaves on the other. By law, slaves who make their way to the Choctaw side cannot be pursued by their owners.

A stone path just beneath the surface of the river facilitates a forbidden friendship between a Choctaw girl, Martha Tom and a slave boy, Little Mo. When Little Mo’s family learns that his mother has been sold and that she will leave them the next day, they are forced to flee. His friend Martha Tom, it turns out, paves the way for their almost magical escape.

Paintings by Jeanne Rorex Bridges, an artist of Cherokee ancestry, fill two pages at once with soft earth tones that mysteriously convey the drama of the story’s final night. This picture book, that celebrates friendship, faith and freedom, provides young readers a satisfying mix of literature, and history. Tingle includes a page on Choctaws today and a section on the tradition of Choctaw storytelling in general and the background for CROSSING BOK CHITTO.

While the events of the story may seem remote to children, the experience of finding a friend should strike a familiar chord. Prompt each reader to reflect on a time when a friend’s actions made a difference. Children can record their experiences in journals, letters, essays, poems or through art.

Another book for young readers in which runaway slaves find sanctuary with Native Americans:
Siegelson, Kim. ESCAPE SOUTH. 0307265048

By Suzy Parchman

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