Title: Trail to OklahomaTrail to Oklahoma
Author: Jim Booker
Illustrator: William Moyers
Pages: 184
Recommended Ages: 8-12
Star Rating: ★★★

A story of the Trail of Tears

The Story.

Young Deer doesn’t understand when his father, Chief Standing Bear, tells him that their family must leave their home and travel across the mountains to a new home. Why should they do this thing? It is not of their will and will not be to the benefit of the people. But it is the will of the white soldiers. They must go.

At every stage of the journey is hardship and death. First comes the fever, mercilessly beating down both young and old. Then comes the driving snow, pushing into the very bones of the weary Indians. When the fever seeks out Young Deer’s mother as its newest victim, Young Deer is scared – and confused.

Why has this evil thing happened? Will his mother live? Will they ever make it to the great plains of their new homes?

Discussion.

I don’t think I’ve ever read a story about the Trail of Tears that the Cherokee tribe was forced to walk by American soldiers in the mid 1800s. I knew about it as a historical event, but even as I acknowledged the tragedy of it, I never thought of what it would mean personally to be herded like so many sheep from my homeland to a strange country. Trail to Oklahoma was a compelling account of that story.

There is much discussion of The Great Spirit – I initially assumed that this was meant to refer to the Cherokee god, but as the story went on, it became more apparent that this name was actually being used to refer to the Christian God. Chief Standing Bear learned of this “Great Spirit” through the white man’s book, and other Indians revile the Young Deer for forsaking the old spirits. There is nothing particularly Christian about this “Great Spirit” and parents will have to judge for themselves how comfortable they are with God being referred to by the name usually reserved for a pagan understanding of the Creator.

Relationally, Trail to Oklahoma did well. Early on in the story, Young Deer’s family welcomes Little Fox into their family. Little Fox is a very angry boy – he hates the white soldiers and wants to kill them for what they have done. Despite his strong views, Young Deer’s family tries to work with him and make him feel like he is a part of their family. Over time, he softens to their warmth.

Conclusion. Not the best book of historical fiction for children, but still an okay one.

Review © 2015 Laura Verret

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