A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
The story of how the Iroquois tribes stopped warring among themselves and became one nation -- more than a century before Columbus set foot in North America -- will be new to many readers of all ages. Even kids too young for the vocabulary will appreciate the sound of Robbie Robertson's language and the vivid storytelling of David Shannon's images, and they'll be moved to return when they can read it for themselves (and play the accompanying song by Robertson). A historical note in the back of the book explains the origins of the story and the history of the Six Nations.
Forgiveness, kindness, and perseverance all are part of delivering the Great Law: "Fighting among our people must stop. We must come together as one body, one mind, and one heart. Peace, power, and righteousness shall be the new way."
Positive Role Models
The Peacemaker, who overcomes his disability to help his people, and Hiawatha, who overcomes hatred and his need for revenge, work together to make life better for many. Often skeptical at first, the tribal leaders are moved to seek peace by the needs of their people.
Violence & Scariness
Hiawatha and the Peacemaker brings a strong antiviolence message, but young or sensitive kids might find some elements upsetting or scary. The tale begins as Hiawatha discovers that his family's been slain, and though we don't see the bodies of his wife and children, his lost loved ones appear from time to time in ghostlike images. Some images of the evil Tadodaho, who, among other things, has snakes coming out of his head, may be nightmare fodder. The Peacemaker's distinctive, mask-like face paint is benign, but clown-phobic kids may have issues here.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Hiawatha and the Peacemaker has nothing to do with the hero of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's poem but instead is about two legendary 14th-century men who united the warring Mohawk, Cayuga, Onodaga, Seneca, and Oneida tribes into the People of the Long House -- one family who could live together in peace. Noted musician/songwriter Robbie Robertson, himself descended from Mohawk and Cayuga ancestors, first heard the tale as a child from a tribal elder. He retells it in strong, stately language, while Caldecott Honor winner David Shannon's rich, colorful illustrations bring the characters compellingly to life. Some images (such as the monstrously evil villain) and situations (the killing of Hiawatha's family) may be too intense for some kids.
Is It Any Good?
A long-overlooked, still-timely story, which Robbie Robertson first heard as a child from an Iroquois elder, comes to life in stately language and rich, brilliantly colored illustrations. Robertson complements the book's strong, poetic narrative with an audio track, "The Peacemaker," in which he tells another version of the legend. Kids too young to read the book themselves or to understand all the vocabulary will be drawn in by the sound and rhythm of the words, as well as by David Shannon's magnificent illustrations.
Sensitive or nightmare-prone kids may have trouble with some situations, especially the killing of Hiawatha's family, or images, especially of monstrous villains and characters in face paint.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.