Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Book Review: Crooked River

Crooked River

by Shelley Pearsall

We picked up Crooked River at the library used book sale. 
Xyra and I chose it because one of the main characters is Native American (Ojibwe). I knew...well, I'll get into that later. I'm really glad we chose this book. Let's check out what everyone has to think.


Yep, using my full name today to honor Amik and everyone he represents. Those whose names were changed by people who couldn't spell or pronounce the real name (and that goes for all; not just Native Americans). This was a hard book for me to read. The heartless cruelty of the "powerful men." However, I loved Rebecca, Mr. Kelley, and Laura for all they did to help and bring hope. 

I also liked the chapters where Amik spoke. We got to see how he was making the best of a desperate situation. Staying calm and having hope and being kind.

It was really neat to read, after the main story, about the research and heart that went into telling this story. I appreciated the author's efforts to get Amik's character true and not cartoony.


The men who captured Amik are really mean and not just to Amik. 
I liked reading this book even though it wasn't as fun as most of the books we read. Made me think.


This is a thin but heavy book. Made me think about what has happened in the past and what is happening now. 
I wish Rebecca could have done more, but given her circumstances for that time period I understood why she couldn't.


This book is set in 1812 just like American Girl Caroline. I'm moving her books up on my to read list. Considering the tiny house and all the chores Laura and Rebecca had to do, I am grateful to be living now.


I had to put this book down a couple of times. It made me mad. But I really liked Rebecca and Amik and Mr. Kelley. Laura had her moments too. So I went back to read more. Amik's knowledge of the truth and his hope and faith were really cool. 

Xyra's Review

Crooked RiverCrooked River by Shelley Pearsall
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This is one of the very few books where I read everything from the dedication to the very end including acknowledgements, about the author, bibliography (yes, there is a biblio on this one), about Crooked River, and Reader's Theater.

In this book, Shelley Pearsall weaves a new story from reports, diaries, and events from spring 1812. The blurb tells of a Native American held captive in the log home of an Ohio settler family. The story is mostly told from the point of view of Rebecca (aka Reb), the 13-year-old daughter of Indian John's captor. However, the author chose two voices for this book and several chapters are Amik (Indian John) speaking.

Given the time frame of the book and the circumstances of the setting - Ohio settlement 1812, Indian accused of murdering a white trapper, impending trial - I had very little hope for Amik's life. On one hand I was correct, though the evidence proved Amik innocent he was convicted to death. On the other can be thwarted in many ways.

This slim volume is very well written and filled with not only the hatred in prejudice of the time, but also compassion and understanding and knowledge. The antagonists are hard hearted and cruel filled with prejudice. Even Reb's nice brother Amos...

"But what if -" I paused and took a deep breath. "What if it comes out in the trial that maybe he ain't guilty?" [Rebecca]
Amos sighed loudly. "Why don't you ever use your head, Reb? If he wasn't guilty, there wouldn't be a trial, now would there? there wouldn't be no need for a jury or lawyers if he was innocent, right? What kind of sense would that make?"

To him the trial was just an event where Major Carver and his cronies could show power and pray on fear with their hateful thoughts.

There is a wonderful lawyer who comes to help Amik. We do hope he falls for Rebecca's sister Laura, but he is too focused on his friend Amik's trial and trying to gain enough evidence to save him (plus this is not a romance). He does. In today's court there would be enough reasonable doubt to acquit. Laura tells Rebecca about the closing argument...

"He told the jury that there were good Indians and bad Indians, the same as white people or any other people," Laura repeated, "And he said that the men in the jury were sworn to give Indian John as fair and full a trial as any white man. He told the men that no human life, not even an Indian's, ought ever to be taken away unless the accused was guilty of the crime. And the evidence proved without one shred of doubt that Indian John was as innocent as any one of them."

[This paragraph struck home. It is quite sad that we as a society and people has not evolved beyond this.]

While the book is filled with hatred and cruelty, it is also filled with love and friendship. Rebecca does everything she can to help an innocent man get justice and freedom. Sadly, fear of her abusive father keeps her from telling Amik's lawyer about the fabricated evidence the prosecution presents. In the end, she still follows her heart and conscience to help Amik.

The poem chapters in Amik's voice show us a kind and observant and peaceful man. He is the truly civilized one.

I am very glad I picked this up (I'm not even sure I know exactly where I got it anymore). In my humble opinion, it should be on school reading lists (if it isn't already). It shows that even in the face of prejudice and defeat there can be hope. It also shows how much we can learn from each other if we take the time to listen.

Kid Lit Blog Hop

Definitely wanted to get Crooked River in the hop! Spread the news about looking for evidence and innocence and justice. About doing what's right in one's heart. Check out other books and authors in the hop.

Happy reading.



  1. I love your use of your adorable and well read dolls! Thanks for bringing this book to the attention of your readers as it is an important book. I have put it on my TBR list.

    1. Hi, Darlene! Thank you for stopping by and thank you for your comment. :) I'm glad we could add to your list. :-D

  2. Crooked River sounds like a wonderful story with a beautiful message. Thank you for sharing it on the blog hop.

    1. Hi, Stacie. Thank you for stopping by and commenting. It is, especially if you think along the lines of the Little House books.

  3. Wow, what a wonderful review, from so many points of view. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this and thank you for bringing it to our attention on the Kid Lit Blog Hop

    1. Hi, Jambo! Thank you for stopping by. We're glad you enjoyed our review. :)