Children's LiteratureWhen seven-year-old EdNah's beloved Pawnee grandmother dies, she reluctantly travels to Crown Point, on the Eastern Navajo Reservation in New Mexico, to live with her Navajo father and other relatives. Although miserable at first, she soon makes friends with two other children with whom she attends a relaxed one-room schoolhouse. After school the children spend many happy hours having humorous and exciting adventures that often take place at nearby Rattlesnake Mesa. A year later EdNah is uprooted again when her father sends her to the Phoenix Indian School, which like other Indian Boarding Schools of the early and mid-1900s, existed to kill the Indian culture of its young students/prisoners. About one half of this fascinating memoir describes young EdNah's first difficult year at the Phoenix Indian School. The author skillfully recreates the strict militaristic life with its drudgery, harsh and abusive punishments, and scary nuns, interwoven with more lighthearted accounts of visiting the Arizona State Fair, riding the tram downtown, and indulging in childish pranks and games. When she returns home near the end of the book, EdNah feels an even stronger appreciation for her Navajo family, friends, and culture, and the reader will surely feel a greater appreciation and understanding for the many Native American children who endured similar boarding school experiences. While the story is exciting in itself, the author/storyteller's dramatic, colorful style really makes young EdNah and her experiences come to life. The many evocative black-and-white photos enhance the text in an unusually striking way. This memoir could be enjoyed by a wide age rangefrom about ten-years-old to adult.Nevertheless, it should be supplemented with discussions of its harsher aspects, especially with younger readers or listeners. The book would make a great addition to social studies and history units. 2004, Lee & Low Books, Ages 10 up.
Gisela Jernigan, Ph.D.