A friendship between an enslaved black boy and a Choctaw girl leads to freedom.
Lil Mo is one of two children in a black family enslaved on a Mississippi plantation in 1808. He meets Martha Tom, a Choctaw girl, when she crosses the Bok Chitto River to pick blackberries. Martha shows Lil Mo the secret river crossing, a shallow underwater pathway made of stones the Choctaw laid long ago. When the plantation owner decides to sell Lil Mo’s mother, Martha’s family helps Lil Mo’s family escape across the river, where they are adopted into the Choctaw nation. Thus Lil Mo inherits an uncle, an elder by the name of Funi Man, whose humor and wisdom lighten the air of vigilance maintained to protect Lil Mo’s family. As Lil Mo’s family learns the language and way of life of the Choctaw, all seems well until an old witch lays a curse that impels Funi Man onto a dangerous journey to once and for all save Lil Mo’s spirit. As he did in his picture book Crossing Bok Chitto (illustrated by Jeanne Rorex Bridges, 2006), Tingle (Choctaw) captures a rarely explored bond that formed during colonization between enslaved Africans and Native Americans, an alliance of survival under white colonial tyranny. He evokes a 19th-century Southern landscape, presenting it through the lens of Americans whose perspectives are too rarely shared.
This vital story will deepen readers’ understanding of the nation’s complex history. (Historical fiction. 10-14)