What’s interesting about this book on the surface is the mystery – Who wrecked the canoe? Who stole the furs? Who will win the contest? What will happen to Suzette’s father?
I liked the character of Suzette – a mixed-race child (French / Ojibwe) – and a strong, female protagonist. She’s trying to navigate the life of a Metis -a girl of mixed blood. Is there a way for her to respect the traditions of her grandmother and be a strong, independent female at the same time? I think this is the question that ultimately proves more powerful and holds the book together. Like a lot of teenagers, she’s trying to figure out where she belongs.
I don’t know enough about the Ojibwe culture to vouch for the authenticity of this book, but what I see her seems right to me.
The characters are nuanced. There are no stereotypes. There is some minor name calling, but it serves the plot. No one is completely innocent here; no one is completely guilty.
And since I am rarely able to figure out whodunnit, it’s not much to say that I fell for one of the red herrings here.
The writing is good and keeps you turning the pages. The Ojibwe language and customs are explained in a subtle way that maintains the flow of the story. The explanation of how the fur trade works – and the possible consequences for all involved – these elements are central to the story.
Recommended for grades 3-5.