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Sees Behind Trees

Sees Behind Trees

3.6 6
by Michael Dorris, Linda Benson (Illustrator)

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No matter how hard he tries, nearsighted Walnut just can't earn his adult name the way other boys do, by hitting a target with a bow and arrow.


No matter how hard he tries, nearsighted Walnut just can't earn his adult name the way other boys do, by hitting a target with a bow and arrow.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Dorris's (Morning Girl) eloquent, beautifully crafted coming-of-age tale centers on Walnut, a near-sighted Native American boy whose uncanny ability to use his other senses earns him the adult name Sees Behind Trees. Set in the distant, pre-colonial past, the story finds the boy moving hesitantly into adulthoodgradually gaining confidence in himself and his perceptions; learning humility when he prizes his talents too highly; earning the respect of his tribe when he escorts an elderly wise man on a dangerous journey. Both sharply and lyrically observed, fraught with emotion, the first-person narrative should connect strongly with a young audience, who will quickly learn that, no matter the century or the culture, the fundamentals of growing up remain very much the same. The authenticity of the characterizations and setting will ease readers toward acceptance of the quasi-mystical adventure that crowns the story. It's a thrilling read, with the pleasures compounding at every turn of the page. Ages 8-up. (Oct.)
Children's Literature - Susie Wilde
Walnut, a fifteenth century Powhatan Indian, dreads the warrior's test to prove his manhood because of his limited vision. It is his other, extremely acute senses of hearing, smelling and intuition that earn him the name Sees Behind Trees. Once he receives this great name and acknowledgement, he wonders how his name fits him. This leads him, finally, on a grand adventure where discovers a miraculous land of water, and goes through losses that transform him from boy to man. Dorris' portrayal of the humor, warmth, and wisdom through experience of Native American life vividly shows a different era and way of being.
Children's Literature - Mary Sue Preissner
Set in the 16th century, this is a steadily-paced story with wonderful character development. It is now time for Walnut, along with the other boys of the tribe, to earn their adult names. For Walnut this may be a difficult task as he cannot see as well as the others. However, with the help of his mother, Walnut has developed his other senses and, during the naming contest, earns his adult name of Sees Behind Trees. While struggling with this new identity as an adult, he befriends the elder Gray Fire, and they embark on a journey to find the elusive land of waters. This trip becomes a test of his manhood and endurance, and he learns to turn his handicap into an advantage.
School Library Journal
Gr 4-8This compelling coming-of-age story set in pre-Columbian America is rich in imagery and chock-full of wisdom. The novel begins as Walnut, a bright and earnest, but seriously myopic boy realizes that, try as he might, he will never master the skills he needs to become a competent hunter. His mother, who is responsible for his training, takes a different tack and encourages him to "look with his ears." The boy hones his unusual talent so well that he earns the right to his grown-up name. Because of his ability to "to see what can't be seen," he is given special status within the tribe and is selected to accompany Gray Fire, a respected village elder, on a pilgrimage to find the land of water, a place that has eluded the old man since his youth. Much of the book deals with their journey, during which Sees Behind Trees learns a great deal from Gray Fire about the nature of dreams and gains some valuable self-knowledge in the process. The young man encounters "strangers" for the first time, is tested physically and spiritually, and ultimately proves himself a man by finding his way home. There's a timeless quality to this 15th-century adventure that will be meaningful and immediate for young people today. Dorris takes on some meaty existential issues here; he does so with grace, bighearted empathy, and always with crystal-clear vision.Luann Toth, School Library Journal

Product Details

Publication date:
Product dimensions:
5.75(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.37(d)
Age Range:
9 - 12 Years

Customer Reviews

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Sees Behind Trees 3.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 6 reviews.
SecondhandMoon More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed this book and think it would be great for preteen readers. The story and characters are well-developed with a warm depth, but Michael Dorris achieves this with fairly simple and unadorned writing. The story moves quickly without feeling rushed. There may be a few words that trip younger kids up, but for the most part it is a straightforward text. Don't let its simplicity fool you, though; there are complex lessons to be learned about identity, love, jealousy, and taking care of others. I found nothing objectionable about the book, but parents of younger kids might want to read it just to be able to discuss the lessons of the book with them. Also, some kids might be annoyed that there are some mysteries left unsolved.
Ashley92G More than 1 year ago
tells a story of a near sighted child learning and earning credit for becoming an adult and he acknowledges it throughout the story with his special skill. this is a short story that shows a young boy's special gift that he can "see" beyond his poor eyesight, shows his potential courage, and cope with loss. a historical fiction book for children from 5th-8th
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I was forced against my will to read this book for school, and it was the absolute worst book I ever read! The story was dumb, and the plot didn't make sense, Michael Dorris writes books no one can understand, and the characters weren't very creative either. This is a pretty interesting idea, but leave it to Michael Dorris to make it slow, boring, and awful!
Guest More than 1 year ago
It is a challenging book for young second or third graders, too many descriptive words but the story was good.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book isn't too good, but it's not bad either. It is too short and they could make it longer, more interesting and overall better. Also the names were too confusing. The theme and plot could also have been changed for the better. On the positive side, i could hardly put it down, until i finished it.
Guest More than 1 year ago
It was about a boy named Sees Behind Trees who couldn't exactly see, but he used his other senses to get through the forest with his friend GrayFire. GrayFire is looking for the Land of Water, a place he has seen before, but had a bad experience there. On their way, they found a family from a different tribe, with a baby named Checha. Later in the book, GrayFire dies, and Sees Behind Trees has to find his own way back with his other senses. He finds Checha and goes home.