JACKIE FRENCH KOLLER is the award-winning author of numerous books for children. She lives in Westfield, Massachusets.
When the Puritans came to the New World hoping to discover a new Eden, they called themselves saints. At 16, however, Rebekah finds the primitive living conditions and ill treatment of the native peoples of Massachusetts a far cry from a godly paradise. The girl comes to question her faith and her society, and she finally resolves to run away with her Indian boyfriend, Mishannock. While Koller presents a vivid, fact-based portrait of New England in the mid-1600s, her characters lack a sense of immediacy. Rebekah emerges as a colorless heroine with an anachronistic understanding of the exploitation of the surrounding people and natural resources. Her love for Mishannock unfolds in cliches that make even the girl's happy ending seem flat. Fans of period romances might find the proceedings rather tame, but Koller's substantial bibliography and glossaries lend her book some historical value. Ages 12-up. (Oct.)
Gr 8 Up-- Puritan Rebekah Hall, 16, joins her father in the settlement of Agawam in the New World in 1633. There the independent girl be friends Qunnequawese, a Pawtucket girl. Re bekah develops a respect for her friend's way of life and spiritual values, falls in love with one of Qunnequawese's kinsmen, and must choose between two cultures. Koller is at her best when describing the dreary living conditions and the religious and social constraints of the Puritans, especially in relation to the glorious scenery and the simple lifestyle of the Native Americans. As in Speare's The Witch of Black bird Pond (Houghton, 1958) and Farber's Mer cy Short (Dutton, 1982; o.p.), these contrasts are made clear by the young narrator. Issues about separation of church and state, the scan dalous idea of thinking for oneself, etc., are thoughtfully raised here and would provide provocative discussions in the social studies classroom. Koller's carefully researched book incorporates authentic language in a readable text. Glossaries, a pronunciation guide, bibliog raphy, and an afterword are all helpful. The message about female freedom and the ideal ized image of Native American culture and be liefs are strikingly modern, but these are justi fied in the story. The seeds of the destruction of the Pawtucket are movingly conveyed. Readers may find the ending unrealistic, but highly satisfying. This novel, along with Speare's The Sign of the Beaver (Houghton, 1983), could be used for discussions of the his torical clash of cultures in the U. S. --Barbara Chatton, College of Education, Univ . of Wyo ming, Laramie