CM . . . .
Volume VI Number 15 . . . . March 31, 2000
Their horses were straining as they raced up the steep embankment. Black Eagle was out in front on his white and black pinto, then came Kate on her buffalo pony, and Jamie was close behind on his brown mare. They raced to get to the top of the hill with every muscle and nerve in their bodies.The year is 1876, and Black Eagle needs help. His father has been killed, and his mother has been captured by the Sioux. The Assiniboine boy must rescue his mother, Spotted Bird, in the Montana Territory while avoiding the United States Army which is at war with the Sioux. Because the Assiniboine, the sworn enemies of the Sioux, do not support Black Eagle in his quest, he turns to his only other friends, Jamie and Kate Bains, who live on a homestead in Portage la Prairie. The mission is a dangerous one. Winter approaches, and there is little food to be found. The three teenagers must elude the North West Mounted Police, the United States Army and the roving bands of Sioux warriors to find Spotted Bird and bring her back to her people. They must also survive in the harsh environment of the Montana Territory.
Black Eagle, Kate and Jamie's journey is about alliances and conflicts. They must learn to trust themselves and each other in order to survive, to rescue Spotted Bird, and to get back home. The journey also presents readers with an understanding of some of the real life conflicts that faced Native and Non-native people who lived in both Canada and the United States during these times.
The novel is fast-paced and written in clear language appropriate for readers in the age range given. The characters are multi-dimensional, and their development throughout the story is very believable. The inclusion of actual photographs from such places as the National Archives of Canada, the Saskatchewan Archives Board and the Montana Historical Society provides readers with a real sense of the land and the people and supports the plot. This is Bill Freeman's eighth historical novel for young adults involving the Bains family.
Jennifer L. Branch is a PhD candidate and Sessional Instructor in the School of Library and Information Studies at the University of Alberta, Edmonton, AB.
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