The book features modern-day Indians living in Upper Michigan and the importance of preserving their heritage. Cady takes a 20-minute bus ride to attend an Indian school even though a public school is located only minutes from her home. Her father isn’t knowledgeable about their tribe’s history but he thinks it’s important for Cady to learn. Cady is respectful of her Indian past and is open to this learning, an attitude not shared by all young people. She jumps at the chance to interview a friend’s grandmother for a school project, and that’s when the book jumps into the meat of the plot.
The mystery of an old beaded necklace with a bear figure attached consumes Cady’s character. The conflict arises while she’s interviewing John Ray’s grandmother. The woman happily answers all of Cady’s questions until she asks about a photograph that had dropped to the floor. The woman becomes terse and agitated and tells Anna she needs to leave. This severe contrast in moods creates confusion for readers and Cady spends the rest of the book trying to uncover the story behind the necklace. Why won’t anyone talk about it? Readers will learn more about Cady’s family history as well as the tribe’s heritage and customs.
Cady is the main character and the story faces many challenges. Her relationship with her father changes after he remarries and her stepmother seems more like an older sister. Cady loves her baby brother but his presence changes the family dynamics, as he demands constant attention. Also, Cady has feelings for John Ray but she’s not sure how he feels about her. Her principal tells her that finding an eagle’s feather might be a sign from the spirits that she needs to complete a special task or solve a mystery. There are too many clues to be a coincidence and Cady is confused as to why she’s been given the task. The grandmother’s reaction to the photograph and Cady finding a hidden necklace make her determined to understand the history behind it.
What didn’t work as well:
An effective hook in the opening chapters of this short book would help grab readers right away. Sharing Cady’s problems with school, living with a very young stepmother, a new baby brother, and learning about her Indian heritage don’t do it. Once the bear necklace is introduced, the story becomes a mystery and carries the rest of the plot, although the conflict lacks strong emotions and tension.
The Final Verdict:
Trust the power within yourself. The most enjoyable part of the book is the emphasis on Indian heritage and culture. Times are changing and it’s important to honor the history of our ancestors. Resolving the mystery of the necklace feels more like a personal project than an actual conflict, so the story would be improved with more suspense or drama. Overall, I enjoyed the book and recommend it to readers who like Indian storytelling
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Ann Dallman has won numerous awards for her writing and has presented her work at national conferences. She graduated from the University of Wisconsin- Madison (Journalism Education) and received her MA from Viterbo University. A former teacher, she has written for Marquette Monthly, Country, Farm and Ranch, Winds of Change, Chess Life, Salon Today, and American Salon magazines, and the Green Bay Press Gazette. She was the writer and organizing force behind the book Sam English: The Life, Times and Works of an Artist, 2009 PEAK International Award winner, and compiled/edited The
Hannahville Poets. She resides in Menominee, Michigan.