Crooked Riverby Shelley Pearsall
Captured and shackled in leg irons and chains, Indian John awaits his trial in a settler’s loft. In a world of crude frontier justice where evidence is often overlooked in favor of vengeance, he struggles to make sense of the white man’s court. His young
The year is 1812. A white trapper is murdered. And a young Chippewa Indian stands accused.
Captured and shackled in leg irons and chains, Indian John awaits his trial in a settler’s loft. In a world of crude frontier justice where evidence is often overlooked in favor of vengeance, he struggles to make sense of the white man’s court. His young lawyer faces the wrath of a settlement hungry to see the Indian hang. And 13-year-old Rebecca Carver, terrified by the captive Indian right in her home, must decide for herself what—and who—is right. At stake is a life. Inspired by a true story, Crooked River takes a probing look at prejudice and early American justice.
From the Hardcover edition.
- Random House Children's Books
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- Age Range:
- 9 - 12 Years
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By Shelley Pearsall
Random HouseShelley Pearsall
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Pa never told us he would capture an Indian and bring him back across the river. Never breathed a word that he would march an Indian right into our cabin and make him a prisoner while we were gone away. Now, if our poor Ma had been alive, I don't expect he would have ever dared to do such a shameful thing. But Ma was gone, and me and my sister Laura had set out in pouring rain to help the Hawleys, who had all taken sick with a fever.
"You coming, Laura?" I hollered as we made our way toward the Hawleys' cabin. I pushed back the hood of my cloak to look for my sister, who was lagging somewhere behind me in the rain. Laura was seventeen, four years older than me, and she had always been big for a girl. No matter how much our Ma had added and mended, Laura's clothes kept up a never-ending tug-of-war around her body, and her dresses were always too short to cover up her thick ankles and wide white feet. Pa called her "our horse." That's what he said when folks came to visit.
"This here's Laura. Our big horse," he'd laugh, in that loud way of his. "Gonna have to turn her out to pasture if she keeps on growing like she is." Then he'd nod at me. "And this here's Rebecca," he'd say. "She looks like her Ma did, but she's slow in the head, and lazy, and don't do a quarter of the work."
I was not slow in the head. Or lazy. But we would just keep our heads down and not say a word whenever Pa was talking to folks. No matter what he called us. Since our Ma had died, me and Laura had only ourselves for company. Breakfast, noonday dinner, and supper. That's all we were to them.
As me and Laura drew closer to the Hawleys' log house, I noticed there wasn't a whisper of smoke coming from their chimney, a bad sign, surely. "No fire going." I pointed. Laura tugged her wet cloak tighter around her shoulders. "Well, we are just gonna knock on that door and see what we find," she said, casting a jumpy look at the cabin and taking a deep breath.
Turned out, poor Mrs. Hawley was nearer to death than life. I reckon it was a good thing we had come when we did because she couldn't even stir from her bed to fetch a cup of water or a crust of bread for her ailing husband and children. And the smell in that place could have nearly kilt you.
My brother Lorenzo was sitting inside our cabin when I returned. He had been left to keep an eye on little Mercy, but he had himself pulled up to a big platter on the table, and he was picking out the leftover pieces of cold pork from breakfast with his fingers instead. Pick. Chew. Pick. Chew. One of the fresh loaves that me and Laura had baked the day before was sitting on the table with its end all crumbled in where he had tunneled through it with his fingers.
I glared at him. "We was saving that bread for supper."
Lorenzo was eleven, two years younger than me, and he was named after my Pa, so that showed you something right there. He could do whatever he pleased. Always acted like he was the biggest toad in the puddle. Always grabbed the biggest piece of meat from the supper table and took the warmest part of the hearth for his seat. "No one told me a thing, and I was hungry," he said, sticking his greasy fingers back into the pile of pork again. Pick. Chew.
It would serve Lorenzo right if my feet got tangled in my skirts and I fell down the steps, cracked my head on the plank floor, and died. Below me, I could hear the sound of Lorenzo's chair scraping back from the table. "You best take care," he called out.
Although I went up to the chamber loft nearly every day to fetch something, I never took much of a liking to it. The long, low-ceilinged room had only two small windows, one at each end, and you could hear mice rustling about in the shadows. Each time I reached my hand into an apple barrel, I was tormented by the thought that one of those mice would go skittering up my arm. I squinted into the shadows of the loft, figuring that Lorenzo had hung an old coat from one of the rafters. Or fixed up a hat with goose feathers. That would be just the sort of thing he would do. But I was wrong. There in the loft, not more than a few steps away, was a real Indian staring straight back at me.
"Indians!" I shouted, and belted out every name I knew. "I seen an Indian, Pa. There's an Indian hiding up in our loft."
Pa's eyes narrowed. "One Indian?" he said sharply. "That all you saw? One Indian?"
I nodded. "Yes sir."
At this, one of the men gave a big snort of laughter and some of the other men started to chuckle and exchange glances among themselves, as if they all knew something I didn't.
"I ain't lying," I hollered in a voice that was choking up fast with tears. "You go on back there and see. I ain't lying." I waved my arms in the direction of the house. But the men just kept on chuckling and rolling their eyes at every word I said.
"Course you ain't lying, girl. We know there's an Indian in your Pa's house, 'cause we the ones who put him there."
This was the first I realized what my Pa and the men had done. I imagine that my face went as white as a wall right then. I didn't understand a thing.
From the Hardcover edition.
Excerpted from Crooked River by Shelley Pearsall Excerpted by permission.
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Meet the Author
A former teacher and museum historian, Shelley Pearsall is now a full-time writer. Her first novel, Trouble Don’t Last, won the Scott O’Dell Award for Historical Fiction. She lives in Silver Lake, Ohio.
From the Hardcover edition.
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This great historical fiction book takes place in 1812 on the Ohio Frontier. The author really makes you feel like you are there living in the settlement with Rebecca, a young girl, and Amik, the Indian chained in her attic who is accused of murdering a fur trapper. As the time for Amik's trial approaches, the suspense keeps you on the edge of your chair wondering if Rebecca is going to be able to help Amik. This book helps you understand more about prejudice and frontier justice.
After reading the first few pages of Crooked River, it seemed like it was going to be an alirght book which it turned out to be. Personally, I dont like reading as much as other kids do but I enjoyed this book. It started out 'slow' but then I got more into it and couln't put it down. Overrall i give it 3 stars out of 5.
Dreaming of seeing my own books in bookstores one day, I find myself consciously wondering sometimes, what makes me pick a book up from the shelf? What makes me look at the blurb on the back? And then what makes me buy? Unfortunately what makes me buy is all too often influenced by whether the book is cheap, and some of my most treasured finds have been remaindered hardbacks. Crooked River was a hardback remainder with a beautiful cover. Purple clouds (I like purple) loom in a black-lit sky and jagged lightning stabs at a woven earth-toned patterned thread. That's why I picked it up. The back blurb lists the awards received for Shelley Pearsall's previous book, Trouble Don't Last, convincing me she must be a good writer who tells a good tale. And the inside flap reveals the voice of Indian John in prose poetry, coupled with this introduction, "The year is 1812. A white trapper is murdered. And a young Chippewa Indian stands accused." I was hooked. The story is told in two voices, that of Indian John with flowing words likes streams of living meaning, and that of Rebecca Carver, a thirteen-year-old slowly learning just how wrong the world can be. Her halting steps, from obedient acceptance of everything she's told, to human concern and thankfulness and thought, are beautifully told. Her words reflect the language of the time-the author says she mined old documents and diaries for authentic turns of phrase. The passages grow to reveal the mind of a genuine girl with a thirteen-year-old's passion for truth and joy under the burden of a settler's needs. I learned how justice was conducted on the frontier, how judges travelled from town to town, how decisions were made and lives ended with the aid of a jury of somebody's peers. I learned of human frailty, of good people believing falsehood and closing their ears to truth, and also of hope. I longed for the right ending to the book, though I couldn't see how it would come. And then I read an ending that was righter than right and delighted me. I hope I might read Trouble Don't Last one day. But for now, Crooked River was a wonderful introduction to an author whose research astounds and convinces, and whose writing voices inspire.
This book was a very good book! I sometimes made me mad at what the people would say. The book was about a 13 year old girl who has a Indian living in her house. The only thing is the Indian was acused of mudder! Rebbcca is scared to death and has to live with people coming to the house all the time to see the Indian. She has to live with the Indian until his trail is held. If you are looking for a good summer reading book this is the one you should choose!
One of the worst books I have ever read. I hated the book from the beginning. Rebecca Carver, a 13-yeah old girl, has a murdering Indian living in her loft until the trial begins. I personally don't suggest this book to anyone.