Krista Reviews: Susan Cooper’s – “Ghost Hawk”

Cooper_ghost hawkFrom Newbery Medalist Susan Cooper, a story of adventure and friendship between a young Native American and a colonial New England settler.

On the winter day Little Hawk is sent into the woods alone, he can take only a bow and arrows, his handcrafted tomahawk, and the amazing metal knife his father traded for with the new white settlers. If Little Hawk survives three moons by himself, he will be a man.

John Wakely is only ten when his father dies, but he has already experienced the warmth and friendship of the nearby tribes. Yet his fellow colonists aren’t as accepting of the native people. When he is apprenticed to a barrel-maker, John sees how quickly the relationships between settlers and natives are deteriorating. His friendship with Little Hawk will put both boys in grave danger.

The intertwining stories of Little Hawk and John Wakely are a fascinating tale of friendship and an eye-opening look at the history of our nation. Newbery Medalist Susan Cooper also includes a timeline and an author’s note that discusses the historical context of this important and moving novel.

Hardcover, 336 pages  Published August 27th 2013 by Margaret K. McElderry Books (first published August 1st 2013)

ISBN  1442481412 (ISBN13: 9781442481411)


This story was a good representation of the arrival of the first Europeans into, what is now, the U.S. We are first introduced to a small Native American tribe, and we follow Little Hawk on his solo adventures through the woods: a quest that all boys must make to challenge themselves and grow into stronger men. He thinks a lot about his family and the training he has received so far to survive the trek, and we come to know his family through this, as well as some of the stories he has heard about the ‘white man.’ He returns to a very different home than the one he left, and his further travels eventually lead him to a young white boy named John Wakely. They become friends, and this friendship will shape their views of colonization forever.

As we follow their stories, we get an idea of some of the interactions between the tribes and the new settlers, and these culture clashes and business dealings set the grounds for future trading. As not all interactions were the same between areas, this story focuses on the northern colony areas. A lot of time passes from their initial meeting to the end of the story, so we see John travelling and becoming older, witnessing different interactions in different areas.

The story is written for younger readers and does cover a lot of information in a small book. I was impressed by how many different ideas were explored while still having a smooth and interesting story. The author was able to show both the Native American and the white men’s views in each situation throughout the book. It really made me think and was represented in a very easy to understand way.

What I loved most about the book was the honesty and trust of children. The power of being raised in a social setting, rather than coming into it as an outsider, gave them a better understanding and ability to see both sides and think for themselves.

I recommend this story, firstly, to those who enjoy reading about Native Americans and the history of the first U.S. colonies, but also for those who enjoy the culture clashes brought on by immigration.

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