Children's, Family dynamics, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Social Commentary, Young Adult

#489 The Indian School by Gloria Whelan

 The Indian School by Gloria Whelan  The Indian School by Gloria Whelan

I tend to really like books about Native Americans, but this book was a little short on story.

A young girl’s parents are killed in a terrible wagon accident; it was a three wagon pile-up, joking. Her aunt and uncle write to her saying they will gladly take her in. Her aunt and uncle run a school for Native American children. The journey to the school takes a few days, but Lucy finally makes it.

There she has her own room, but is expected to behave as all the other children. She has chores. She has to do lessons. Some of the girls there are very nice. Her aunt is a strict person, but has a good heart. Not long after Lucy is at the school a man brings his two children. He doesn’t have any money to take care of them currently. The little boy is named Star Face and the girl is named Raven. Raven is older and does not like being at the school.

Lucy befriends Raven, but at one point Raven runs away to live in the woods. She only comes back when her brother is sick. In the end Lucy realizes that she has learned much from Raven.

What I liked

This book does have a bit of history in it. Native Americans were forced off of their land, just as this book says, and Native American children were often put in schools away from their parents. This practice continued way into the 1960s and 1970s. It’s important to know these things. The United States is not a shining beacon of how to treat people who don’t look like you and who act different, as exhibited by about a million examples, make that a billion actually.

There were good people who chose to treat Native Americans as people, but if you think about it I shouldn’t have to use the adjective “good” to describe these people. I should just be able to say people because everyone should treat everyone else like a person, but as it is I have to use the adjective “good” to describe these people instead of just saying they were people. People were awful to Native Americans, just awful. This book only gets into a little of that, just a small fraction actually.

I know these things are awful, but it’s in my “what I liked” section because it’s important to learn about. Little kids and young adults need to know what people before them went through. They need to know that their ancestors were oppressed or that their ancestors treated people as if they weren’t people at all. Young people have to know these things so we don’t continually repeat eras like this.

What I didn’t like

This book was short on story. There’s kind of a story here. Little girl loses parents. Little girl goes to live with aunt and uncle. Little girl makes friends with a Native American girl who runs away because she doesn’t like school. Native American girl comes back to school she hates to care for her brother. That’s it. I mean, that’s all. There isn’t really anything else in this. Lucy as a main character is rather flat. She’s kind of a bump  on a log. She’s not really in the action. Raven is a little more robust as a character, but still stereotyped.

Sure, young adults don’t really expect the details that an adult would expect in a story. Children are completely willing to overlook the fact that a baby is the sun in a television show, but adults don’t stand for that kind of thing. We need to know why. Why is the sun a baby? This story simply doesn’t have enough background. Lucy is a pitiful main character. In fact, everyone in this story just seems to be a wisp of a person. The most interesting person in this story is the guy who helps out at the school and only has one leg.


If you want a story for young adults about Native Americans try Indian Captive or Sing Down the Moon, or just anything with more meat to it.

Questions Remaining

Do you have any recommendations of other historical fictions about Native Americans?

Considering Lucy’s lack of pluck, but also the fact that she is fairly obedient, is she the type of girl you would want your little girls to look up to?

books about native americans, gloria whelan, guy with one leg, lucy, parents are dead, parents killed in a wagon accident, raven, school for native american indians, the indian school, The Indian School by Gloria Whelan
Children’s, Family dynamics, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Social Commentary, Whelan-Gloria, Young Adult


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