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THE SONG OF HIAWATHA by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow


by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow & illustrated by Margaret Early

Age Range: 6 - 12

Pub Date: Dec. 1st, 2003
ISBN: 1-59354-002-7

This beautifully designed book, although wrought with problems, will attract many wishing to have an accessible version of Longfellow’s classic epic. Virtually nothing in Longfellow’s poem relates in any way to the real Hiawatha, but was drawn on the writings of Henry R. Schoolcraft, who had confused the real Hiawatha—a Mohawk known as a great Iroquois reformer and statesman, with a Ojibwe/Chippewa tribal trickster Naanabozho (Manabozho). While explanatory notes on each page make the poem more comprehensible, Early’s illustrations contribute to the stereotypes perpetuated in this American literary fantasy. For example, the living structure shown in the illustrations is a teepee (tipi), a common dwelling of several Plains Indian Tribes but not of either of the tribes to which Hiawatha or Naanabozho belonged. Lastly, this is an abridged version with “linking text” to carry the story. The elegance of the book will not redeem the problems with the poem itself, or with the authenticity of the images. (Poetry. 6-12)