This has been the shortest Newbery winner, by far. I believe it took me about 30 minutes to read it.
In the beginning, it was ok. A boy is left with an old-timey gun to protect his mom and sister during the French-Indian War. It’s kind of exciting, the type of a book that boys love. I have some students that would probably still read and enjoy this book.
I’m ok with a book about hostilities between Native Americans and European settlers. It happened. It’s history. I’m even kind of ok with the racist Native American stereotypes. No, I don’t think that books like this one or Daniel Boone would be or should be published today, but I do understand that this was how white Americans viewed Native Americans, both at the times when the books were set, and in the 1940’s when the books were published. It’s a shame, but it is how they viewed them, and if we ignore history, we can’t learn from it.
My main problem was with the end. They boy had just shot three Native Americans. Three human beings. Yes, they were attacking his farm, and yes, they did just hit his mother with a tomahawk, but still, he killed three people, and instead of being even a little bit remorseful or traumatized, or even worried about his wounded mother, he was just like, “That was so cool. I just killed three Injuns. I can’t wait to show my kids this gun and tell them the story when I’m a grown up.” I don’t think that anyone, much less a little boy, can take someone else’s life without being at least a little concerned about it. That made the ending really unbelievable, and bit distasteful for me.
I think the real problem is that the author (and the author of Daniel Boone) doesn’t view the Native Americans as people at all. They are more like really intelligent animals, and killing them isn’t any worse than killing a bear or a mountain lion. It’s sad, but that’s the vibe I got.
I reluctantly give it two Newbery Pies.