Kitty Schlick is apprehensive about starting sixth grade on Oregon’s Warm Springs Indian Reservation, home to Paiute, Warm Springs and Wasco people, where her father’s job has taken the family in 1962.
After a rocky start with the local kids—especially sullen Raymond and his sister, Jewel—Kitty’s brothers moved on and made friends. Kitty’s having a harder time. One of the school’s few white students, she feels isolated until she’s befriended by Pinky, a Wasco classmate whose mother, like Kitty’s dad, staffs a fire lookout. As Kitty finds her footing, she’s troubled by the preferential treatment teachers give white students and the casual racism of the white girls attending her church. She comes to appreciate the quiet strength of Raymond and Jewel, abused by their white stepfather but sheltered by their Warm Springs grandmother. Kitty, who’s felt isolated, finds she has a place in this community. Noe, who bases the narrative on her childhood years in Warm Spring, resists didacticism. Kitty’s discoveries and ethical dilemmas are age- and era-appropriate, the characters affectionately portrayed, rounded individuals.
The ever-present threat of forest fire makes a grimly effective backdrop to the gentle foreground of this engaging tale, chronicling how tolerance of difference engenders mutual respect and opens the door to necessary change. (author’s note, glossary) (Historical fiction. 9-12)