Eagle Song


Image Credit: Puffin Books (Penguin Group), Joseph Bruchac/Dan Andreasen

Okay! To close out Native American Heritage Month, my last pick is Eagle Song. Did you that Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) people, especially Mohawk, built New York City? They have a long history of iron working in the city and many Native families moved down to the Big Apple to make a new life. The transition from traditional communities/reservations to the cold, concrete life of the big city can be a hard for Native peoples and in this book, Danny Bigtree experiences this struggle.

Danny has trouble adjusting to his new life in Brooklyn and it doesn’t help that his peers bully him for being Indian and different. He misses his green home of Akwesasne. His dad travels around the country doing iron work, leaving him alone with his mom and his frustrations. His father comes home from Boston and tells him the story of the Peacemaker and this story gives him strength, especially when he tells it to his son’s class; teaching cultural awareness and respect. Danny keeps his strong father’s words of peace with him as he faces his bully, Tyrone and he slowly becomes stronger and more confident in his new home in the city.

Change is never easy and in Eagle Song, Danny Bigtree has a lot of challenges to overcome. This story isn’t very long but it packs a punch and teaches several lessons. Dan Andraesen’s pencil illustrations bring the story to life, especially the loving scenes between Danny and his parents. I love how Bruchac (Abenaki) weaves in Mohawk words and culture into the story. Eagle Song is a short and easy to read chapter book that touches on a lot of important issues for young children like friendship, loneliness, change, bullying and respect.

For more information about Mohawk Ironworkers, check out these great resources:

To Brooklyn and Back: A Mohawk Journey– Documentary by Reaghan Tarbell

Mohawk Council of Awkesasne- Ratiristakehron: Mohawk Ironworkers

Sky Walking: Raising Steel, A Mohawk Ironworker Keeps Tradition Alive

Booming Out-Mohawk Iron Workers Build New York City– Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI) Exhibit

Recommended for: Ages 7-8 and up
Great for: Family, Discussion, Native American Heritage Month, Iroquois, Bullying, Cultural Diversity, We Need Diverse Books
Book Info: Eagle Song by Joseph Bruchac, 1997 Puffin Books (Penguin Group), ISBN: 9780688009144



Hiawatha and the Peacemaker

Image Credit: Abrams, Robbie Robertson/David Shannon

Image Credit: Abrams, Robbie Robertson/David Shannon

November is Native American Heritage Month and to kick off the month right, I’m paying homage to a place that’s special to me. I attended Cornell University in Ithaca, NY and the campus sits on Cayuga land. The Cayuga are one of the Six Nations of the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois Confederacy). I learned a lot from Haudenosaunee people and I love their land (it is gorges up there). So the first book I’ll review to celebrate this month is an AMAZING new picture book called Hiawatha and the Peacemaker by Robbie Robertson and illustrated by David Shannon.

This book tells the story of how the warring nations of the Haudnosaunee came together in peace. Hiawatha is a sad man with anger in his heart because the evil Onondaga Chief Tadadaho killed his wife and children; he is hell-bent on revenge. One day, a man called the Peacemaker comes and tells Hiawatha that he needs him to carry his message of Peace, Power and Righteousness to all the nations. Hiawatha has to look inside himself to realize the power of forgiveness.

This story will be familiar to some readers and brand new to most but what shines about this book is not only its powerful message, but that it’s by a Native American author (Robertson is Mohawk and Cayuga) and Shannon’s oil paintings are beautiful. There are many books about Native peoples by non-Native authors; some are well researched and are respectful but many are not. Robertson tells his people’s story and that in and of itself gives power to this book. David Shannon worked with Robertson to create bold illustrations that carry the power of the story. They are so very strong. This book will appeal to artists, lovers of Native Studies and history, and any child or adult who craves a great story.

Recommended for: All ages, especially 4th grade and up
Great for: History, Native American Heritage Month, Cultural Diversity, Discussion, We Need Diverse Books
Book Info: Hiawatha and the Peacemaker by Robbie Robertson/Illustrated by David Shannon, 2015 Abrams, ISBN: 9781419712203