By Ann McGovern
Available now from Scholastic Nonfiction
NATIVE AMERICAN HEROES is a short introduction to three warriors. Osceola, a Seminole, fought to keep his people safe from slavery. Tecumseh, a Shawnee, banded tribes together during the War of 1812. Cochise, a Chihuicahui Apache, tried to keep the peace. When I started this three-part biography, I knew a little about Osceola and Tecumseh and nothing about Cochise.
I think Ann McGovern did a good job writing these biographies for a younger audience. I wished for longer, more in-depth passages about each man, but I'm an adult reader. I liked that photographs, newspapers, and other artifacts from the time were used to illustrate the book. I also liked that direct quotes were used fairly frequently in the Tecumseh section. I did not like that NATIVE AMERICAN HEROES followed the current trend in nonfiction to project emotions onto people and make the scenes more narrative. It's probably a style that will make NATIVE AMERICAN HEROES more appealing to kids, but I just find it dishonest.
I also liked that that McGovern didn't flinch from depicting why each of these men were angry, the injustices that caused them to fight against the white settlers. Osceola, for instance, might have given in to the Seminoles moving to Florida if it didn't involve leaving the black Seminoles to be sold into slavery. It's obviously the right thing to do, because you don't just let people get sold into slavery, much less people you care about. Nor does McGovern back down from depicting the stupidity and prejudice that went into Cochise's tribe getting blamed for a crime they didn't commit.
Let's face it: the white guys are not the good guys in this book, because they weren't on the right side of this battle in history. NATIVE AMERICAN HEROES is a nice introduction for kids to three men who receive far less recognition in history class than they should. Osceola, Tecumseh, and Cochise went to extraordinary lengths, but they did it for their communities. Does anyone know of good books for kids to read next, to find out more?
Also, consider this your reminder not to dress as an American Indian for Halloween.