SOON TO BE A NETFLIX SERIES

A YA novel that has it all

Angela Boulley has a series-worthy hit that resonates in her YA thriller, The Fire Keeper’s Daughter. Eighteen-year-old-high school senior, half French, half Ojibwe, Daunis Fontaine, finds herself in the middle of a murder, and is recruited as an undercover operative for the FBI. An award-winning novel, this 2021 publication was also a recent pick for Reese Witherspoon’s YA Book Club.

The characters were handled beautifully, speaking and acting like realistic eighteen to twenty-year-olds.. This includes the language they use, their sexual feelings and activities and their feelings of hopelessnessg that life on the reservation (or in its nearby town) bring. Daunis dreams of the new start that going to college next year will provide. Levi, her all-star hockey player older brother; Jamie, the twenty-two-year-old love interest; and her best friend, whose boyfriend killed her in front of Daunis, are all drawn excellently. Memorable characterization is the main thing I look for in a novel, so I was very impressed with this author.

As advertised on the cover, this YA offering is “rare and mesmerizing.” It celebrates the Native American experience as Daunis builds relationships with her relatives, coaches, and other adults involved. She learns that some of the investigators she assists are more concerned with their case than in protecting the victims. A second murder heightens the suspense and confirms Daunis’s fears. The ending is action-packed and leaves the reader holding their breath as they follow the central characters into perilous situations.

I recommend it for older teens and young adults.

SATURDAY MORNINGS FOR KIDS

Thanks, Carla, for loaning me your illustration.
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Today’s recommendation comes from books I read that were novels in verse, which were Cybils nominees.

This book was one of many great contenders.

An enlightening, heart-warming story

This is what was written about Rez Dogs.

****Four starred reviews!****
 
From the U.S.’s foremost Indigenous children’s author comes a middle grade verse novel set during the COVID-19 pandemic, about a Wabanaki girl’s quarantine on her grandparents’ reservation and the local dog that becomes her best friend

Malian loves spending time with her grandparents at their home on a Wabanaki reservation. She’s there for a visit when, suddenly, all travel shuts down. There’s a new virus making people sick, and Malian will have to stay with her grandparents for the duration.

Everyone is worried about the pandemic, but Malian knows how to keep her family and community safe: She protects her grandparents, and they protect her. She doesn’t go outside to play with friends, she helps her grandparents use video chat, and she listens to and learns from their stories. And when Malsum, one of the dogs living on the rez, shows up at their door, Malian’s family knows that he’ll protect them too.

My opinion:As an adult who loves good poetry, I loved the format of this 2021 publication. Each poem continues Malian’s story all the while using verses, rather than paragraphs. For example, when she first sees Malsum, a stray dog outside, she consults her grandfather,

” ‘Can I go outside and

see what he does?’ Malian said…

‘Seems to me

if you step outside

and then move real slow

whilst you watch what he does

you’ll be ok.

But just in case,

I’ll be right behind you…’ “

As Malian stays through the pandemic with her grandparents, she learns from them about her Native American heritage, many parts of which are hard to read and were things I knew nothing about including government programs to sterilize Native American women in order to reduce their numbers, and even the diseases the Native Americans were first exposed to by white settlers which wiped out a large part of their population, freeing up to land to ownership by whites. I always knew our government had given Native Americans a “raw deal” pushing them back, westward, and taking over their lands, finally containing them on reservations, but I had never considered their “side” of things. This children’s book was an eye-opener and gave me an empathy for Native Americans I’d never felt before. In this area, especially, the author did an excellent job. It is a book parents or grandparents and kids need to discuss after reading, and one teachers should read for themselves as well. I highly recommend Joseph Bruchac’s Rez Dogs.

THE ABSOLUTELY TRUE DIARY OF A PART-TIME INDIAN: A Review

Published in 2007 by author Sherman Alexie, this YA novel was our Third Tuesday Book Club selection for the month of May.  The group’s discussion is tomorrow night. Other than some pretty rough language (but then that’s the way some teenagers talk), the book was a good read.  It was funny, sad, heartbreaking, uplifting–all at one time. The author is also a cartoonist and a poet, and the story is filled with insightful cartoons and poetic expressions in places.  It is the story of a boy who overcomes poverty, a medical condition from birth, fear, and loneliness as he comes of age.

The story is well told, and characters range from stereotypes to unique individuals. Arnold Spirit (his Reardon School name) aka Junior (his reservation name) is a protagonist who puts his “raw emotion” out there for the reader to experience. Rowdy, his best friend since earliest childhood is his protector and confidant, which makes his refusal to go off the reservation to the “white school” with Junior/Arnold and his hate directed towards him all the worse. Gordy is his new, nerdy friend at the white Reardon high school, and Penelope, the gorgeous white girl becomes Junior/Arnold’s girlfriend.  The clash between the characters is more than troubling to the protagonist. His family, a alcoholic but loving father, a smart mother, and a spiritual, tolerant grandmother round out the cast of characters.

The novel gives insights into Native American folklore and superstition as well as “Reservation Philosophy” and thought. For a boy born with hydro-encephalitis and who has “been to 42 funerals by the time he is fourteen,” there is a lot to overcome. The humor is typically adolescent male humor and raunchy at times, but not to the point of offending.

I do not know if I would recommend this book to a younger teenager, but a young adult with his/her “head on straight” might really enjoy this book. It will be interesting to hear what older adults thought of it tomorrow night.