Brief Description: 12 yo boys, one Native American Miami and one white, are friends. They tell, in alternating verse points of view, of the Siege of Fort Wayne during the War of 1812.
Date Range: 1812
Original Publication: 2013
Suitable for Grades: 5-9th
Target Audience: Middle Grade, Teen, Young Adult
Two boys, both twelve years old, live side-by-side, but not together, in the wild Indiana frontier. Anikwa is a Native American Miami and his family has lived in Kekionga for generations. James is a more recent arrival, the son of the trading post proprietor at Fort Wayne. The boys don’t speak the same language, but nevertheless become friends, teaching each other words and communicating largely through gestures as they roam in the forest. The relationship between the families is friendly too. James’s parents have more sympathy for their indigenous neighbors than most of the other fort residents. But tensions between the settlers and the Miami are rising in 1812 as talk arrives to Kekionga village from neighboring peoples of Britain’s promise to stop America’s westward push in exchange for indigenous help in the war.
The novel in verse is written in alternating first person points of view of the two boys. Don’t skip the author’s introduction, which gives very important historical context for the novel; the boys themselves are unaware of the bigger political picture. Scenes in the book quietly foreshadow the impending fate of Native Americans, such as an exchange between James’s parents referencing the pressure to sell more goods to the indigenous than they can afford. The native villagers have witnessed a constant flux of different indigenous peoples cross their lands on their own way west, after being pushed from their eastern territories. Additional educational material includes a map, a character list, a glossary of Miami words (important because they are used throughout the text), and a translation of what the indigenous characters’ names mean in English.
This book offers a sensitive portrayal of Native American Miami people and their way of life against the backdrop of the War of 1812. The contrast between cultures is quietly observed by the two friendly boys, as they teach and learn from each other.