Sunday, January 23, 2011

Andi's Indian Summer

My 5 year old is hooked on Susan K. Marlow's Circle C Beginnings series, so we were excited to read Andi's Indian Summer. When we finished the book, I was disappointed - but the title did lead to an interesting conversation that made the book worthwhile.

In Indian Summer, 6 year old Andi's best friend Riley introduces her to dime novels. Since this is the 19th century and Andi can't read yet, they spend a lot of time in the barn, Riley reading the adventurous tale - complete with savage Indians - out loud. Andi loves the book - but it makes her jumpy, gives her bad dreams, and overall makes her nervous. Around every corner, she imagines a Indian, ready to capture her.

Then Riley and Andi go on a horseback ride and get lost, only to encounter some Native American children. When one of the boys hops onto their horse, Andi's sure he's going to steal it. But a moment later, the Indian boy's father, Lum-pa, appears. Lum-pa fears there's not time to get Andi and Riley home safely, so he insists they spend the night in his village. Andi's afraid, but she knows she and Riley can't get home alone, either.

Lum-pa, his family, and his friends are friendly, Andi soon discovers. Lum-pa is a Christian - and it turns out Andi's deceased father is the man who lead Lum-pa to Christ. Andi develops a special bond with Lum-pa's daughter, and when morning comes, she'd rather stay and play with the girl. But Lum-pa knows Andi's family must be worried, so he walks the children home. Andi's definitely learned her lesson: Indians aren't savages. They are just people, like you and me.

What I Like: As always, Marlow's writing is clear, kid-friendly, and fun; Leslie Gammelgaard's black and white drawings (about one every 5 pages or so) add a lot of interest. Like a lot of kids, my 5 year old is fascinated with old stories about Indians, so she was especially eager to "read more, Mommy!" each time we sat down with this novel.
What I Dislike: This story offered a perfect opportunity to teach a true-to-life lesson that some Indians are good and others are not - just as is true with all people. Unfortunately, the author instead chose to paint Indians as only good. Lum-pa condemns the dime novel as entirely made up, leaving readers to assume all stories about Indians doing bad things are false. I found this really disappointing, especially when, in the author's afterward, she says that "it's true some white men killed" Indians, but fails the mention the opposite was also true.
While I would have preferred the author give an accurate representation of people - Caucasian and Indian - the book did give me an opportunity to discuss the issue with my daughter, stressing the reasons Indians and Caucasians killed each other. (Often simply because they misunderstood each other so much.)

Overall Rating:
Age Appeal: 4 - 8
Publishing Info: Kregel, 2010; ISBN: 978-0825441820; paperback, 80 pgs., $4.99.

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Special Info: Read our reviews of other Susan K. Marlow novels here. Visit the series website for free coloring pages, free activity packs, and free online puzzles.

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