Ghost Hawk by Susan Cooper

Published: 2014

Genre YA historical fiction

Length: 352 pages

Setting: around the Plymouth colony of Massachusetts, early 1600s

Interest: I chose it as our second book on colonial America for American History Club.

Summary: Little Hawk is finally old enough to undergo the quest to seek his Manitou. He is sent into the woods in winter to survive on his own. It is difficult, but he manages. However, when he comes back to his village, he is horrified to discover his village has nearly been wiped out by a white man’s disease. What’s left of his village combines with another village and they have to survive the changing world as European colonists push farther into their territory. Little Hawk is killed by colonists who thought he was threatening the child John Wakely. John knows Little Hawk was killed unnecessarily, but the adults hush up the truth. John is in the minority in Massachusetts when he sees Native Americans as equal to the colonists. He is apprenticed to a cooper and learns the local Native American language from Little Hawk’s ghost (who can only appear to John in one location at dusk and dawn). As an adult, John moves to Providence for more freedom of worship and better relationships with the Native Americans.

Final thoughts: I loved this book for so many reasons. For one thing, it did a great job showing life as a Native American and a colonist and then contrasting the two. Personally, I thought the Native Americans lived a much happier life, at least until the Europeans came over and starting being greedy. The book also brought out how awful most of the colonists were to the Native Americans. I was also interested in the conflicts between colonists over how to treat the Native Americans and how to worship. Massachusetts set up a very strict set of rules for worship that I didn’t realize.

The book was perfect for our American History Club because there was so much to discuss and yet quite a bit of action. However, I definitely felt this was a YA instead of a middle grade book because of the complex relationships between the colonists and the Native Americans. Mr. Curiosity found the book too sad because Little Hawk dies in the middle and refused to finish the book without confirmation that nothing as sad would happen again. Unfortunately, John Wakely is eventually killed in a conflict between Native Americans and colonists.

Title comes from: Little Hawk is killed and comes back as a ghost in the middle of the book. It’s not until a little present day coda that his ghost is laid to rest.

Reading challenges fulfilled: 72/100 in my Finally to 100 Challenge

If you’re interested in purchasing the book, you can click on the cover image to follow an Amazon affiliate link to the book and thanks for supporting my blog!


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