Title: Naya NukiNaya Nuki
Author: Kenneth Thomasma
Illustrator: Eunice Hundley
Pages: 175
Recommended Ages: 9-12
Star Rating: ★★★★

From the author of Doe Sia.

The Story.

Tomorrow is the day. Naya Nuki and her best friend, Sacajawea, are certain that tomorrow their Shoshoni brothers will harvest many buffalo. There will no longer be want among their people: they will be fat and prosperous.

But the morrow brings more than an attack by the Shoshoni upon the buffalos. It also brings an attack by enemy warriors on the Shoshoni. In the ensuing fight, Naya Nuki and Sacajawea are kidnapped and forced to travel hundreds of miles to a new “home”.

But no matter how much time passes or how many miles separate her from her people, Naya Nuki longs to return home. Will she have the courage and the cunning to escape from her captors and find her way back to the land of her people?

Discussion.

And yes, that is the real Sacajawea in the story. Apparently this incident actually did occur to Sacajawea, although no one knows the real name or eventual fate of the girl who was kidnapped with her. Sacajawea is a secondary character to Naya Nuki, but still made for an interesting historical tie-in.

Naya Nuki is an extremely brave little girl. After she is kidnapped, she determines that she will escape. She plans very carefully and leaves nothing to chance. The main motivation for escape (other than the discomfort) is her deep love for her mother. When she finally escapes and returns home, their reunion makes for a touching scene.

In the first chapter, Naya Nuki’s tribe dances a special dance around the campfire that is supposed to help the catch more buffalo in their hunt. From thence chance references are made to “the Great Spirit”.

Naya Nuki encounters a burial platform on her journey home. She sees the dead body – a young boy – as well as a dead dog. “Naya Nuki knew the custom. The dog belonged to the dead boy and was used to pull the sled and his master’s body to the burial site. The dog was killed at the burial site and left near his master. The dog’s reward was to join his master in death so that both could go to the land of the Great Spirit together.” [pg. 90]

She further thinks that to touch anything that belonged to the dead boy would be taboo and might exclude her from the land of the Great Spirit. These references did not dominate the story.

In one scene wolves attack a buffalo calf. It is not a long scene, but we are told that “the wolves made the kill quickly, tearing open the neck of the calf.” [pg. 79]

Naya Nuki eats raw meat.

Conclusion. An interesting story which features a brave protagonist.

Review © 2014 Laura Verret

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