The Lynching of Louie Sam by Elizabeth Stewart, Paperback | Barnes & Noble
The Lynching of Louie Sam

The Lynching of Louie Sam

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by Elizabeth Stewart

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Murder, racism, and injustice wreak havoc in a frontier town. The year is 1884, and 15-year-old George Gillies lives in the Washington Territory, near the border with British Columbia. In this newly settled land, white immigrants have an uneasy relationship with the Native Indians. When George and his siblings discover the murdered body of a local white man,


Murder, racism, and injustice wreak havoc in a frontier town. The year is 1884, and 15-year-old George Gillies lives in the Washington Territory, near the border with British Columbia. In this newly settled land, white immigrants have an uneasy relationship with the Native Indians. When George and his siblings discover the murdered body of a local white man, suspicion immediately falls on a young Indian named Louie Sam. George and his best friend, Pete, follow a lynch mob north into Canada, where the terrified boy is seized and hung. But even before the deed is done, George begins to have doubts. Louie Sam was a boy, only 14—could he really be a vicious murderer? Were the mob leaders motivated by justice, or were they hiding their own guilt? As George uncovers the truth, tensions in the town begin to rise, and he must face his own part in the tragedy. Inspired by the true story of the lynching, recently acknowledged as a historical injustice by Washington State, this powerful novel offers a stark depiction of historical racism and the harshness of settler life.

Editorial Reviews

Canadian Children's Book News - Christina Minaki
A chilling, captivating novel about an innocent scapegoat, a searing injustice and the far-reaching damage secrets and lies do.
Library Media Connection - Karen Perry
Based on a true story, two white teenage boys witness the lynching of an innocent Indian boy named Louie Sam when a mob is whipped into a killing frenzy... After a local man is murdered and his cabin set on fire, there is testimony that a teenage Indian was seen on the road nearby. As George and Dave watch from the edges of the proceedings, they see that some facts don't add up. But it is only after Louie Sam is dead that George tries to stand up for the truth. This novel is a powerful fictionalization of a poignant story... valuable for middle school units on westward expansion or for the study of discrimination against Native Americans. Recommended.
Resource Links - Patricia Jeremy
Stewart's experience as a screenwriter enables her to create vivid characters and effective dialogue.
VOYA - Anjeanette Alexander-Smith
In 1884, living in the American frontier brings to mind the image of brave, adventurous families taming the unknown. For George's family, it means owning a piece of land in the Washington territory and enjoying the freedom that comes with it. His discovery of Mr. Bell's dead body may put an end to their American dream and the town's plans for statehood. The town believes that Louie Sam, a Native American teen from Canada, committed the murder. The local sheriff asks the Canadian authorities to transfer custody to him. They notify him that it would take a few days. Some of the local men decide to take matters into their own hands. George rides along with the group to Canada and witnesses the men lynching Louie Sam before they cross the border. The killing leaves George ambivalent. After he returns to town, the Canadian government presses for an investigation. George discovers more information about Mr. Bell's murder and realizes that maybe they were wrong about Louie Sam. Elizabeth Stewart's narrative voice transforms the characters in the readers' minds. Even though she depicts a historical setting, Stewart draws readers into the characters' lives and makes them forget the time period. Adolescents will identify with George's dilemma of deciding whether to be an individual or succumb to group pressure. This book would be a wonderful addition in libraries and classes that focus on issues and themes in American literature or American history because it shows lynching happening outside of the U.S. Reviewer: Anjeanette Alexander-Smith
School Library Journal
Gr 6–9—George Gillies, 15, witnesses a lynching the night he follows a mob of settlers to the International Border between the Washington Territory and Canada. Intent on justice for the murder of a white man, the mob seizes an Indian boy who is in the custody of Canadian officials and suspected of the crime. It is February 27, 1884, and the relationship between the Native tribes and settlers is tense. George, moved by the anger and excitement of the mob, ignores observations that support Louie Sam's innocence, choosing to believe that justice has been served. After the lynching, he encounters rumors and pieces of evidence that leave him confused. Has the mob murdered an innocent 14-year-old? Almost everyone in his town seems determined to bury the truth: Who actually murdered Mr. Bell, who led the mob, and what actually happened the night of the lynching? Eventually George cannot continue to conceal what he knows, and the consequences for him and his family are severe. Stewart takes on the daunting task of reflecting the period's social history through a single incident, and sometimes her characters must represent large and disparate groups of people. This can lead to didactic moments, especially when the Native American characters speak, but it also serves as context for a little-known and disturbing true story. The plot moves quickly and should interest many readers, even those not usually drawn to historical fiction. The violence and tragedy are balanced by a bit of romance, which will make this title a good recommendation for middle school and early high school readers.—Caroline Hanson, Thurgood Marshall Academy Public Charter High School, Washington, DC
Kirkus Reviews
The title tells readers most of what they need to know. In 1884, in Washington territory, very close to the Canadian border, a white man of questionable character was found murdered. A 14-year-old Native American boy named Louie Sam was framed for the crime, tracked down by a group of over 100 vigilantes and hanged--by happenstance, on the Canadian side of the line. Louie Sam's death remains the only lynching on Canadian soil. Stewart takes all the history she can find and works to craft a novel from it, but she's only partially successful. Her narrative character, a 15-year-old white boy named George Gillies, is a real-life person known to have witnessed Louie Sam's death. Her writing is clean and fluid and her attention to historical detail admirable. However, this story, constrained by history, does not follow a narrative arc, and Louie Sam cannot emerge as a character, in part because the author hesitates to express the feelings of the Native Americans. George seems to accept automatically the party line that Louie Sam must be a criminal. His very gradual conversion to Louie Sam's probable innocence isn't emotionally moving and has no effect on the story, which, because it follows historical truth, ends without any satisfying resolution. No doubt it's historically accurate, and it is certainly honestly told; however, it doesn't quite succeed as fiction. (Historical fiction. 11-15)

Product Details

Annick Press, Limited
Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
4.90(w) x 7.40(h) x 0.70(d)
840L (what's this?)
Age Range:
12 - 14 Years


Meet the Author

Elizabeth Stewart's writing credits for film, television, and the Internet include the TV movie Luna: Spirit of the Whale (2007) and the series Falcon Beach, Edgemont, and The Adventures of Shirley Holmes. This is her first novel. She lives in Vancouver, British Columbia.

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