Ely, a Seneca Indian, has been sent to a boarding school to learn the ways of white people in hopes that he can become an effective representative for his people.
It’s not an easy path to tread. He has to deal with ample prejudice in many forms: the less-troublesome lowered expectations of whites, the disdain and abuse of a group of unruly British soldiers, and rejection when he steps out of “his place” and shows interest in a white female classmate. Bruchac is especially effective when he depicts the period of time, around 1840, when Ely goes to live with an uncle who keeps his people’s old ways. The tale is related in simple, straightforward language that persuasively portrays the boy’s growing awareness of the complexity of his—and his people’s—position. A brief, informative afterward provides factual information about the real Ely Parker, who became an ambassador for the Senecas and helped prevent further loss of tribal land to greedy whites. Notably missing are suggested sources for further reading about the historical Parker; the depiction of his teen years is so intriguing that many readers will want to learn more.
Captivating and brief enough to be an easy sell for reluctant readers, this effort combines a snapshot of history with a skillful multicultural portrayal. (Historical fiction. 9-14)