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A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Ghost Hawk by Susan Cooper, Newbery Award-winning author of the five-novel The Dark Is Rising fantasy series, realistically and unflinchingly depicts the harsh realities of wilderness survival and war-like conflict, none of it glorified, with beautiful prose that pulls the reader into the intimate moments of everyday life during a time of tremendous political and social upheaval. Sad things happen that are simply and gracefully told, including the deaths of major characters. Readers of all ages are likely to shed a tear or two throughout the story. There's no sex or swearing. Little Hawk and John are worthy men who become unforgettable heroes in different but praiseworthy ways.
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What's the story?
Little Hawk is a member of the Pokanoket tribe at the time European colonists are first establishing a foothold in the Americas. When he returns to his village after the three months alone in the wilderness, he finds it deserted except for his grandmother. Everyone else has died from a plague believed to have been brought by the white settlers. As he struggles to rebuild his life, he meets and befriends a young white boy. The two don't see each other again for many years, but when they do both their lives are profoundly changed. Their friendship blossoms and endures during a time of tremendous upheaval, as each must make his way in his own world, forever shaped by the other.
Is it any good?
GHOST HAWK is so moving, and so eye-opening, it belongs on every bookshelf. It's a story that deserves the widest possible audience, touching as it does on the beginnings of our nation and the fate of the indigenous people at the hands of those seeking freedom themselves.
As expected from the Newbery-winning author of the five-novel The Dark Is Rising Sequence, the writing is simple, elegant, and flawlessly constructed. Susan Cooper creates the larger historical backdrop and keeps it understandable for young readers. But it's the straightforward, unabashed intimacy of life's small moments as they flow from one to the next that elevates this moving tale beyond genre into the ranks of great literature.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about stories set in the past. Why are they so popular? What can we learn from them, and from Ghost Hawk in particular?
Susan Cooper says in her Author's Note that Ghost Hawk is not historical fiction, but rather a fantasy in a historical setting. Do you agree? Why do you think she makes that distinction? Do you notice any fantasy elements to the story?
Why do we follow John's story through Little Hawk's point of view? What do we learn about him that we wouldn't if John himself were the narrator? Do you think we get a balanced view of both colonists and American Indians?
Themes & Topics
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