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Pocahontas
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About the Author

JOSEPH BRUCHAC is a poet, storyteller, and author of more than sixty books for children and adults who has received many literary honors, including the American Book Award and the PEN Syndicated Fiction Award. He is of Abenaki and Slovak heritage, and lives in Greenfield Center, New York.

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Gr 7 Up-As he has done with Crazy Horse, Sitting Bull, Squanto, and Sacajawea, Bruchac again brings an authentic voice to a greatly mythologized and misunderstood Native American historical figure. None of these other figures, however, carries the baggage of Pocahontas, with two Disney films worth of "creative license" to correct. As a result, this book's greatest strength, its accurate and authentic portrayal of the characters and events, may unfortunately limit its appeal among mainstream readers exactly because it is at such odds with the popular image. Bruchac's preteen Pocahontas eventually looks up to the adult John Smith as an adopted big brother, a far cry from the young adult Native Juliette figure who falls in love with a Colonial Romeo. Alternating the chapters between Pocahontas's voice and John Smith's, the author gives both Colonial and indigenous perspectives on the events that take place, providing valuable insights into many sources of misunderstanding between the two cultures. As an added bonus, each of Smith's chapters begins with a quote from a primary source of the period, while each of Pocahontas's chapters begins with a portion or a paraphrase from a traditional Powhatan story. The novel concludes with the couple's first actual meeting, following a ceremony in which the Powhatan chief, Pocahontas's father, adopts Smith as a "werowance" and family member. Though it may rightly be heralded as a long-overdue response to erroneous popular myth, Bruchac's Pocahontas is first and foremost excellent and enjoyable historical fiction.(Note: While CIP catalogues the book as 975.5, it is clearly designated as fiction by the author and publisher.)-Sean George, Memphis-Shelby County Public Library & Information Center, Memphis, TN Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.

Repeating the narrative structure he used to great success in Sacajawea, Bruchac alternates between two stylized voices for this less involving story. The uneven narrative follows 11-year old Pocahontas, the favorite daughter of Chief Powhatan, and Captain John Smith of the James Town settlement in the Virginia colony as their destinies cross in 1607. Pocahontas's story possesses greater immediacy, partially because the author develops her character more fully and because her observations sketch a more complete world (e.g., she tells readers, "One of the strange things about Coatmen [European settlers] is that many of them seem to value their possessions over friendship or human lives"). Smith's words, meant to echo the cadences of the actual diaries and records that introduce each of his chapters, sound stiff and passive, even when chronicling what should be dramatic tales of infighting (a selfish president hoards food while others starve and mutiny). The back-and-forth stories document clashes of culture, such as when a gift-bearing Powhatan envoy innocently picks up and admires a shiny "tomahak" and a European strikes him for attempting to steal his "hatchet." But the two protagonists do not meet until late in the novel, and readers may be frustrated to find that the most compelling and complex action occurs at the end, when the Chief and Pocahontas attempt to broker friendship while Smith harbors hidden ambitions-an intriguing plot development that trails off abruptly. Ages 12-up. (Aug.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.

Both characters come to life instantly, and the daily accounts are rich with details of everyday life . . . A first choice for those interested in exploring the topic.--Kirkus Reviews

Brings an authentic voice to a greatly mythologized and misunderstood Native American historical figure.--School Library Journal

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