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Saturday, January 14, 2012

Crossing the Panther's Path, by Elizabeth Alder

I decided to read this because its cover picture caught my attention several times on different visits to the library. I also wanted to read it before letting my young readers loose on it, to make sure it would be worth their time, and because I was worried it might present a too-biased view of a particular period of history.

It is a juvenile, fictionalized account of historical people and events. Young Billy Calder is part Indian, part Irish, and a talented linguist. He sides with Tecumseh against the Americans, acting as interpreter, but his young man's heart wants to aid the Indians with his arms, not his tongue. He does become a warrior eventually, and a trusted ally of Tecumseh. The story follows him up until, and shortly after, Tecumseh's death.

I liked Billy as a character. I disliked the author equating, through Billy, the Roman catholic God (Billy is taught by some Jesuit missionaries) with the Great Spirit of the Indians. Tecumseh seemed both larger than life and unaccountably foolish at the same time (why did he tolerate the continued presence and influence of his treacherous brother?).

I thought the book did not live up to the promise of its cover. I will neither steer my girls toward reading it, nor deny them permission to read it.

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