Living on his Cree mother’s Aboriginal reserve but looking like his redheaded Irish father, narrator John McCaffrey struggles to discover where he belongs.
Often people can’t tell that John’s related to his Cree mother. Years ago a teacher accused him of lying. It doesn’t help that his younger sister, Jen, looks like their mom’s clone, with her dark hair and eyes. Now in high school and a skilled soccer player, John struggles to keep his grades up so he won’t be benched. When John stumbles upon a powwow dance class at the rec center, something in the drumming speaks to him. The instructor, Santee, tells her students to “feel the music….This is the dance of your ancestors!” Soon he’s her student, though he works to keep it secret. Upon transferring to a group of boy dancers in the nearby city, he is teased for his red hair and accused of appropriation. When a soccer mate secretly records John dancing, the video goes viral. Not only must John grapple with racism and cyberbullying; he needs to find the resolve to persevere in what he loves. Scottish-Cree author Florence effortlessly creates a very real and loving biracial family for her thoroughly modern protagonist. John’s fast-paced tale twines universal teen concerns with specific cultural issues.
This novel allows young readers to embrace their own heritages and realize they stand on the shoulders of all their ancestors. (Fiction. 12-16)