A 10-year-old Choctaw boy recounts the beginnings of the forced resettlement of his people from their Mississippi-area homelands in 1830.
He begins his story with a compelling hook: “Maybe you have never read a book written by a ghost before. I am a ghost. I am not a ghost when this book begins, so you have to pay very close attention.” Readers meet Isaac, his family and their dog, Jumper, on the day that Treaty Talk changes everything. Even as the Choctaw prepare to leave their homes, Isaac begins to have unsettling visions: Some elders are engulfed in flames, and others are covered in oozing pustules. As Isaac and his family set out on the Choctaw Trail of Tears, these visions begin to come true, as some are burned to death by the Nahullos and others perish due to smallpox-infested blankets distributed on the trail. But the Choctaw barrier between life and death is a fluid one, and ghosts follow Isaac, providing reassurance and advice that allow him to help his family and others as well as to prepare for his own impending death. Storyteller Tingle’s tale unfolds in Isaac’s conversational voice; readers “hear” his story with comforting clarity and are plunged into the Choctaw belief system, so they can begin to understand it from the inside out.
The beginning of a trilogy, this tale is valuable for both its recounting of a historical tragedy and its immersive Choctaw perspective. (Historical fiction. 8-12)