Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In this intriguing historical novel, which was inspired by the author's research into her own ancestry, an African American family in Alabama takes in an Apache runaway teenager in the late 1800s. The story centers on 12-year-old Sarah Jane Crossman, her father (a former slave turned farmer) and her part-Seminole mother. Although slavery has ended, old attitudes die hard in the South, and the three struggle daily to protect their land from prejudiced and greedy Sheriff Johnson (who relentlessly pesters them with unfair share-cropping propositions). One day they find a 15-year-old Apache named Sky in their barn, sick with a fever. They nurse him back to health and convince the authorities to release him into their care. McKissack's (Sojourner Truth: Ain't I a Woman?) multidimensional storytelling chronicles the complex relationship between Sky, the Crossmans, the African American community and the white community, resulting in an exciting, tension-packed page-turner. The novel's climax scene, in which Apaches, white Army soldiers, and African American neighbors join together to defend the Crossmans' property, seems a bit Utopian for the era, but readers will cheer for Sky as he leads the defense of "his family's land" against a white supremacist group. McKissack's skillful presentation of the obstacles confronting minorities after the Civil War makes this not only a captivating tale, but a comprehensive introduction to a pivotal period in U.S. history. Ages 8-12. (Oct.)
Children's Literature - Jan Lieberman
In a remarkable story set in 1886, Sarah Crossman, 11, an African American and her family nurse an escaped Apache boy named Sky back to health. During this time, Sarah tries to win Sky's approval, but he is sullen and fearful of the strangers. Slowly, through the family's kindness and Sarah's undaunted efforts to get responses from him, he begins to feel at ease. Patricia McKissack has written an absorbing novel that is based on historic incidents. The courage of Sarah's father when he faces the Knights of the Southern Order is inspiring. When Sky helps them fight off this white supremacist group, he truly becomes part of the Crossman family. An excellent read-aloud.
Children's Literature - Mary Sue Preissner
In rural Alabama, in 1888, Sarah finds a young Apache boy hiding in her barn and dying from swamp fever. Skye escaped from a train en route to a Florida reservation. Sarah and her mother nurse him to health. Skye becomes a member of their family and unites both the Native Americans and blacks of the nearby communities to stand against the white supremacists of that time. Using both historical documents from that time, and the oral history of her own family, McKissack has spun a compelling tale of this time period and these remarkable people.
Children's Literature - Susie Wilde
This post Civil War story by Patricia McKissack was inspired by queries about her ancestry. McKissack writes about eleven-year-old Sarah Crossman who rescues Sky, an ailing Apache boy who fled from a train headed for the reservation. This leads to a more difficult life in 1888 Alabama where Sarah's black parents already fear white supremacists, boll weevils, and losing their land. However, Sky opens hearts and minds, bringing the joy of independence to the troubled family and, later, to the entire African-American community.
School Library Journal - School Library Journal
Gr 5-8--It's 1888 in Alabama, and Sarah Crossman, the 12-year-old daughter of a Seminole woman and a freed slave, finds herself shielding an Apache boy who has escaped federal troops during the transport of Geronimo's followers to Mount Vernon. Her mother immediately sides with her and proceeds to nurse the unconscious Sky, but her father remains opposed. Mr. Crossman has already invited attention because he owns land coveted by others, refuses to be a sharecropper, and assists other blacks in passing nearly impossible voter registration tests. He relents when George Wratten, army scout and interpreter for the Apaches, gives an unofficial consent for the boy to remain until he is well enough to travel. As Sky begins to recover, his fierce, independent demeanor lessens as he warms to the girl's parents, but Sarah doesn't like sharing their attention with someone who is so aloof from her. Other challenges arise when boll weevils destroy the cotton crop, the sheriff calls in the note of debt on the farm, and a hooded white supremacist group arrives on the scene. Based on Wratten's papers and other historical sources, as well as the oral tradition of McKissack's family, the story evolves exquisitely. Attention is even given to the debate about what is most important for the empowerment of an oppressed people: political rights or economic progress. Grabbing readers with wonderful characters, an engaging plot, and vital themes, McKissack weaves a compelling story of cultural clash, tragedy, accommodation, and ultimate triumph.--Cindy Darling Codell, Clark Middle School, Winchester, KY