Sweetgrass Basket

Sweetgrass Basket

4.5 2
by Marlene Carvell
     
 

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In prose poetry and alternating voices, Marlene Carvell weaves a heartbreakingly beautiful story based on the real-life experiences of Native American children. Mattie and Sarah are two Mohawk sisters who are sent to an off-reservation school after the death of their mother. Subject to intimidation and corporal punishment, with little hope of contact with their

Overview

In prose poetry and alternating voices, Marlene Carvell weaves a heartbreakingly beautiful story based on the real-life experiences of Native American children. Mattie and Sarah are two Mohawk sisters who are sent to an off-reservation school after the death of their mother. Subject to intimidation and corporal punishment, with little hope of contact with their father, the girls are taught menial tasks to prepare them for life as domestics. How Mattie and Sarah protect their culture, memories of their family life, and their love for each other makes for a powerful, unforgettable historical novel.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"[R]eaders will be deeply moved by the sisters’ loving connection in a world of cruel authority….[A] gripping drama of displacement and forced assimilation…." -Booklist, starred review
Children's Literature
After the death of their mother, their father sends two Mohawk sisters, Mattie and Sarah, to an off-reservation boarding school. There they face a rigid structure, marching to and from classes designed to teach them to read, cook, and sew—all in training for life as domestic servants on the outside. Mattie, the elder sister, runs afoul of a harsh teacher and later is wrongly accused by the teacher of stealing a silver brooch. The brooch disappears the same day as Mattie's sweetgrass basket, a gift from her mother that she has kept hidden. Mattie runs away, trying to reach home, but she is eventually caught and returned to the school. She becomes ill from exposure and dies, leaving Sarah to carry on without her. One day Sarah finds the missing brooch but decides not to return it to the teacher. Instead, she makes sure it is never found. A worker who has befriended Sarah returns her sister's sweetgrass basket and she tucks it in her drawer for safekeeping. Told in two voices, the book captures the struggles the girls endure to survive in a hostile environment, preserve their cultural heritage, and support each other. The author drew inspiration for the book based on the experiences of her husband's great aunt, who attended the Carlisle Indian Industrial School in the early 1900s. 2005, Dutton Children's Books/Penguin Putnam Young Readers Group, Ages 10 to 14.
—Valerie O. Patterson
School Library Journal
Gr 5-8-In alternating free verse, two Mohawk sisters tell of their lives at the Carlisle Indian School near the turn of the 20th century. Carvell uses the experiences of her husband's family, and research from the Cumberland County Historical Society, to relate the stories of Mattie and Sarah. After their mother's death, their father sadly dispatches them to the boarding school, where the siblings cling to their language and a few precious items as the rest of their culture is stripped away from them. They long for family, for friendship, and for home, but their attempts to obtain any of these things result in a tragic and true-to-life ending. The inner-thought narratives allow readers to connect with the characters. Though the voices are nearly identical, making it difficult sometimes to tell the girls apart, and the voice of African-American Mr. Davis is awkwardly and inconsistently colloquial, Carvell has put together a compelling, authentic, and sensitive portrayal of a part of our history that is still not made accurately available to young readers. All libraries will want this title on their shelves.-Nina Lindsay, Oakland Public Library, CA Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
In her second novel, Carvell (Who Will Tell My Brother?, 2002) employs alternating voices to create a poignant verse novel telling the historically sensitive story of Mohawk sisters who were sent to the Carlisle Indian School after the death of their mother. Forced to abandon their language and all things from home, the sisters and the other students at Carlisle struggle to be true to their heritage. Marching wherever they go, learning menial tasks, being punished for displaying any remnants of their Indian life and strict enforcement of stringent rules create a disparaging environment. Mattie's and Sarah's struggle to survive amid intolerance and cruelty brings about a bittersweet ending. This satisfying read will awaken young readers to a situation often ignored in our history. (Fiction. 9-14)

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780525475477
Publisher:
Penguin Young Readers Group
Publication date:
09/22/2005
Pages:
256
Sales rank:
521,465
Product dimensions:
5.80(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.00(d)
Lexile:
1000L (what's this?)
Age Range:
10 - 11 Years

What People are saying about this

From the Publisher
"[R]eaders will be deeply moved by the sisters’ loving connection in a world of cruel authority….[A] gripping drama of displacement and forced assimilation…." -Booklist, starred review

Meet the Author

Marlene Carvell is an author and former teacher from New York State.

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Sweetgrass Basket 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
The_Bluebird More than 1 year ago
I never knew about the industrial schools where Native American children were sometimes sent. It was enlightening to learn about these schools through these two sisters. It makes me sad to think that children like them were taken from their families sometimes forever.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The style of writing Carvell uses to characterize these little Indian girls absolutely grabbed my attention. I could not put down the book! I recommend this book to all ages, especially those who are interested in the way people lived their lives in the past from a different cultural background!