Children's Literature - Krisan Murphy
Fourth grader, Danny Bigtree, wishes he were back on the reservation with other Indian children like himself where no one teases him or misunderstands his family's heritage. Danny and his parents have contact with various Indian groups, but have had to move off the familiar reservation for his parents' employment. But wish as Danny might, his circumstances do not change and bullies at school ignore, tease, and shove him around. When Danny confides his struggles with his father, his father tells his son an ancient story about Aoinwahta. With the inspirational legend on his mind and his father's empathy to strengthen him, Danny faces the challenges at school. Danny's father shares cultural stories at his son's school, but that alone does not help Danny gain friendships. It is Danny's own wisdom and restraint that eventually help him gain acceptance, and prepare him for even more difficult times in his family. The author-read CD is not only a consoling story of a brave struggle in harsh surroundings, but it is an educational essay that enlightens the listener about cultural history and differences. Reviewer: Krisan Murphy
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
It's a shock for fourth-grader Danny Bigtree to move to Brooklyn from his Mohawk Nation reservation: suddenly he has no friends, and his classmates taunt him, asking him where his war pony is and telling him to go home to his teepee. After his charismatic father makes a class visit to talk about Iroquois culture, his peers begin to warm up to him. Bruchac, author of numerous books with Native American themes, weaves into the story the legend of the great peacemaker Aionwahta, who united five warring Indian nations into the Iroquois Confederacy and turned an enemy into an ally. Can Danny be, like Aionwahta, an agent of peace, and find a way to transform the school bully into a friend? This appealing portrayal of a strong family offers an unromanticized view of Native American culture, and a history lesson about the Iroquois Confederacy; it also gives a subtle lesson in the meaning of daily courage. Illustrations not seen by PW. Ages 7-9. (Mar.)
Children's Literature - Christopher Moning
It's not easy being an Indian in the city. And when Native American, Danny Bigtree, moves from the Mohawk reservation to a Brooklyn tenement, Danny feels like a fish out of water. Everyone in fourth grade teases Danny, calling him Chief and telling him to go back to his teepee. Danny's father is about the only one who, with his gentle, wise words, can make Danny feel settled. But Mr. Bigtree's job as an ironworker keeps him on the road most of the time. When Danny's father visits Danny's school, he tells the children the legend of Aionwahta, know also as Hiawatha, and the courageous Indian's quest for The Great Peace. Danny can only hope his father's words will bring some peace to Danny's school.
School Library Journal
Gr 3-4Danny Bigtree, lonely for the Mohawk reservation he left two months ago and alienated from his fourth-grade classmates in his Brooklyn school, yearns for acceptance. When his father returns to their city apartment from his construction job, Danny opens up about his persecution at school. By sharing the Iroquois legend of Aionwahta (Hiawatha), Richard Bigtree guides his son toward traditional sources of strength and peacemaking. The man visits the classroom where he shares the same tale, eliciting positive responses. Then Danny's schoolyard nemesis throws a basketball right at his face, bloodying his nose and lips, and Danny wonders if this act was intentional. Then his father is injured in a high-steel accident. Peaceful resolution comes on the schoolyard, and reassuring signs from his recuperating dad round out the narrative. Stock characters carry the didactic story. The father "elder" figure becomes one-dimensional: all noble, wise, and patient. This story lacks dialogue and character development and has far too much exposition. There is a heaviness to the teachings. Murky, dark, black-and-white prints have no child appeal. Craig Kee Strete's The World in Grandfather's Hands (Clarion, 1995) deals with an angry, modern Indian boy in urban America through far more complex characters.Jacqueline Elsner, Athens Regional Library, GA
A rare venture into contemporary fiction for Bruchac (The Circle of Thanks, p. 1529, etc.), this disappointing tale of a young Mohawk transplanted to Brooklyn, N.Y., is overstuffed with plotlines, lectures, and cultural information. Danny Bigtree gets jeers, or the cold shoulder, from his fourth-grade classmates, until his ironworker father sits him down to relateat lengththe story of the great Mohawk peacemaker Aionwahta (Hiawatha), then comes to school to talk about the Iroquois Confederacy and its influence on our country's Founding Fathers. Later, Danny's refusal to tattle when Tyrone, the worst of his tormenters, accidentally hits him in the face with a basketball breaks the ice for good. Two sketchy subplots: Danny runs into an old Seminole friend, who, evidently due to parental neglect, has joined a gang; after dreaming of an eagle falling from a tree, Danny learns that his father has been injured in a construction- site accident.
A worthy, well-written novellabut readers cannot be moved by a story that pulls them in so many different directions.