This slim adventure tale is rooted in Cherokee culture.
Billy Buckhorn, 16, is surrounded by his Cherokee heritage—he's a "full-blood" Cherokee, and his grandfather Wesley is a respected medicine man. When Billy is struck by lightning, he gains psychic abilities, which warn him that the new gym teacher, Mr. Ravenwood, isn't who—or even what—he seems. Aided by Cherokee folklore and improbable events, he must stop “the Birdman’s” evil spirit from hurting kids. The snippets of Cherokee lore are interesting, but Robinson's didactic style makes Billy more prop than character. Billy's age is incongruous with his young-feeling dialogue and the book's simple prose, and his Cherokee heritage is mentioned so frequently that it feels forced rather than organic to his identity. Nearly everything happens through exposition. Present-tense explanations of Cherokee customs such as stomp dances and trances interrupt the past-tense narration, and potentially powerful scenes pass in a few declarative sentences. Even the mystery is explained by another character, and awkward dialogue spoils the Birdman's power. Readers will learn a little folklore, but it's unfortunate that the earnest information about Cherokee culture and values doesn't integrate naturally into the story.
For a creepy thriller based on Native American lore, Joseph Bruchac's Skeleton Man (2001) is a much stronger choice. (Paranormal adventure. 10-14)