STARFISH by James Crowley


Age Range: 10 - 13
Email this review


Lionel, a Blackfeet boy orphaned at three, has grown up with his older sister Beatrice at Chalk Bluff boarding school in the early 1900s. When Beatrice must defend herself against abuse, the two flee and seek their grandfather, spending a winter alone in the mountains. Crowley, a first-time novelist, is a practiced screenwriter and filmmaker, and he adeptly establishes setting and narrative arc but unfortunately relies on a Hollywood-esque portrayal of Indians. Orphaning Lionel at an early age allows the (inconsistent) third-person-limited perspective to be totally naïve of Blackfeet culture, but it's a crude device: “Lionel...definitely did not understand how [the old traditions] could possibly be worth the trouble they caused.” Grandfather saves them with laughable Indian boot-camp philosophy: “They’re powerful, ya know. Dreams. You should pay attention to them like ya pay attention to all that’s around you.” In the appended Q&A, the author indicates a desire to acknowledge the "resilience and adaptability" of the Blackfeet culture—but the “starfish” metaphor he uses for this purpose calls to mind a dead and hollow shell, which is how this depiction of the culture reads. (Historical fiction. 10-13)
Pub Date: Nov. 9th, 2010
ISBN: 978-1-4231-2588-4
Page count: 352pp
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15th, 2010