Series: Sterling Biographies


BIOGRAPHY
Released: Oct. 1, 2010

A spirited biography untangles the accretion of myth and story around Pocahontas and makes clear what little is actually known and what fragments of the historical record are available. The text is rich in illustration and in sidebars (on longhouses, colonial diet, weaponry and so on) that illuminate the central narrative. Whether Pocahontas saved John Smith's life directly or as part of an elaborate ritual might not matter, argues Jones. Pocahontas and her people were certainly responsible for keeping the English settlement of Jamestown from starvation. Relations between English settlers and Native people were uneasy at best, and the author traces these carefully, relating how Pocahontas was later kidnapped by the British and held for ransom. When none was forthcoming, she was converted both to English ways and the Christian religion, marrying the widower John Rolfe and traveling to England, where Pocahontas saw John Smith once again and died at about the age of 21. An excellent stab at myth busting and capturing the nuances of both the figure and her times. (glossary, bibliography, source notes, index) (Biography. 9-12)Read full book review >
BIOGRAPHY
Released: Oct. 1, 2010

While the historical record is regrettably light on this Shoshone teenager, Berne stitches together a compelling narrative from what is known, taking care to bust myths along the way. Sacagawea had been kidnapped by the Hidatsa and sold or given to Toussaint Charbonneau as a wife before she was 14. Because she knew both the Shoshone and Hidatsa languages, she was seen as an invaluable link for communication to the Lewis and Clark expedition, which hired her French-Canadian trader husband. During the 16-month journey (1805-06), she acted as translator, located edible food and was a visible symbol of peace (no war party would have a woman), all the while carrying and nurturing her baby son, Jean-Baptiste. The author stresses the paucity of information even as she extrapolates what she can; Sacagawea's kindness and resourcefulness are evident from the Lewis and Clark records, for instance. Sidebars and illustrations enrich the account (about Native-American baby care, trade goods, Lewis's Newfoundland dog, Seaman). Some repetition could have been edited out, but this is still a good addition to this biographical series. (glossary, bibliography, source notes, index) (Biography. 9-12)Read full book review >
BIOGRAPHY
Released: Oct. 1, 2010

More a historical narrative than a character portrait, this account of Tecumseh's efforts to create a tribal confederacy in the Old Northwest focuses on the great Shawnee leader's many battles and negotiations with then-Territorial Governor William Henry Harrison and then his disastrous—ultimately fatal—alliance with the British during the War of 1812. Replete with side essays on such varied subtopics as the Northwest Territory, the New Madrid earthquakes of 1811-12 and the Battle of Lake Erie, it also boasts often-full-color illustrations from archival sources (many of these later paintings and old prints that are inaccurate, as the discursive captions often rightly note, and sometimes too small to make out anyway). In all, this will provide students a coherent view of events if not a clear understanding of Shawnee culture or Tecumseh's heroic personal qualities. If it's not the 100-page holy grail of middle-grade biographies, it is still pretty close. (glossary, bibliography, source notes, index) (Biography. 11-13)Read full book review >
BIOGRAPHY
Released: Oct. 1, 2010

Hopping wraps her cogent account of how the Nee-mee-pu (Nez Perce) were rooted out of their homeland and only subdued after a long and heroic pursuit around twin character portraits of the group and of its most renowned member. While presenting Joseph as one chief among several—and not a war chief, as sometimes depicted, but "a peace chief, a civil leader" whose greatest skill was the ability to "sway others with well-chosen words"—she places him in a peaceable, prosperous and steady society that enjoyed good relations with encroaching "So-ya-pu" until broken promises, profound misunderstanding and outright aggression escalated into violence. Joseph argued for peace before and during the tragic "War of 1877" and in later years too as he became a nationally known figure. His tale has been told plenty of times to young audiences, but this iteration comes in an appealingly compact format, with plenty of contemporary photos and maps, plus a generous selection of backmatter. (glossary, bibliography, source notes, index) (Biography. 11-13)Read full book review >