Stone Man and the Trail of Tears
Written by Charles Suddeth
Dancing Lemur Press 0/00/2019
162 pages Ages 8—12
Genre: Middle Grade, Historical Fiction
Themes: Legends, Native Cherokee Indians
Synopsis: After U.S. soldiers attack twelve-year-old Tsatsi’s Cherokee village, his family flees to the mountains. Facing storms, flood, and hunger, they’re forced to go where Stone Man, a monstrous giant, is rumored to live.
His family seeks shelter in an abandoned village, but soldiers hunt them down. Tsatsi and his sister Sali escape, but Sali falls ill and is kidnapped by Stone Man. Tsatsi gives chase and confronts the giant, only to learn this monster isn’t what he seems.
Their journey is a dangerous one. Will Tsatsi find the strength to become a Cherokee warrior? And will they ever find their family?(from back cover)
Hoofbeats and yelling woke me in the middle of the night.
I leapt to my feet. Doda, my father, hurried to the door of our single-room log cabin.
“Yonega. Yonega,” a warrior on horseback cried, warning us about white soldiers.
Why I like this book: Stone Man and the Trail of Tears occurs in 1838, a time when U.S. soldiers invaded Cherokee villages, burned them down, and captured residents. Eventually, the Cherokees were sent west across the Mississippi River.1 To flee and be caught, as all were, meant death . . . immediate death. Yet one family found a way out, frustrating the soldiers, who never stopped hunting them down. Tsatsi and his family fled for their lives.
After fleeing by way of the icy Redbird Creek, the family of six trekked on foot for months into the mountains. Finally, they found a deserted village and a new home. Not long after, white men (soldiers or renegades, though to Cherokees the men were all the same), rode in. Tsatsi and his ten-year-old sister Sali escaped into the mountains.
Tsatsi worried about Stone Man, an old Cherokee tale no one would say if real or not. Tsatsi’s ruminations turned Stone Man into his number one fear. So when Sali fell ill, wandering off from their makeshift camp, Tsatsi became convinced Stone Man had captured her. Though terrified, as a young warrior and now head of the family, Tsatsi must be brave and do what he didn’t do before . . . save his family.
Charles Suddeth has written a hard-to-put-down story. I was mesmerized, and though the story does drag at times, I never stopped reading. At any time, Stone Man or soldiers could show up—or those nasty renegades. I refused to miss a word. Turning each page was not easy, it was mandatory. Suddeth’s descriptive tale puts the reader right next to Tsatsi, who narrates. When situations become tense, reader’s fear never lasts long. Humor lightens the dramatic.
Cherokee words are interspersed between the English, as are words from the early seventeenth century. Stumbling over these “differences” is inevitable, yet they add color to a story told during the dark and muddy rainy season. Middle graders should be learning to decipher words in context, but if they have trouble, two helpful vocabularies wait for them after the story.
Young boys will identify with Tsatsi’s desire to be a warrior his people can be proud of, especially his father. Unfortunately, Aytsi (mother), while tough and certainly brave, doesn’t shine as a role model for girls. Aytsi being in the background, deferring to her husband could be historically correct. Young Sali’s courage and daring will fill that void. Reading Stone Man and the Trail of Tears (a short 162 pages) will help kids understand the hardships and heartaches Native Americans endured when the U.S. took their lands. Schools would do well to have Stone Man—the book, not the monster—in classrooms and libraries.
Back Matter: two vocabularies will help readers understand both uncommon words and Cherokee words used in the story. An “About the Author” section explains the author’s connection to the Cherokee Indians.
1With only 2,000 Cherokees having left their land in Georgia to cross the Mississippi River, President Martin Van Buren enlists General Winfield Scott and 7,000 troops to speed up the process by holding them at gunpoint and marching them 1,200 miles. More than 5,000 Cherokee die because of the journey. The series of relocations of Native American tribes and their hardships and deaths during the journey became known as the Trail of Tears.(©History Channel https://www.history.com/topics/native-american-history/native-american-timeline)
Stone Man and the Trail of Tears. Copyright © 2019 by Charles Suddeth. Published by Dancing Lemur Press, Pikeville, NC.
Available at Amazon
Copyright © 2019 by Sue Morris/Kid Lit Reviews. All Rights Reserved