Book Review: Night of the Full Moon

Rating: ★★★☆☆

This is the story of Libby Mitchell, a young European-American girl in Michigan during the mid-1800′s, whose best friend is Potawatomi.  When other settlers become jealous the Potawatomi’s wealth, they force them to leave their ancestral lands.  Because she is visiting her friend when this occurs, Libby is accidentally taken away with the tribe.

The novel is appropriate for intermediate readers, so character development is rather cursory and the story is limited in its complexity.  There is some romanticization of the Potawatomi characters, who are described as having a physical resemblance to elements of the natural world.  For example, Tawcumegoqua, Libby’s friend, is nicknamed Fawn by Mr. Mitchell because “She’s like a young deer… graceful, with those long legs and big eyes.  Wary, too” (7).  When Libby sees her friend’s new brother she describes his eyes as being “like black pebbles you see shining in a streambed” (20).  No Potawatomi people are portrayed as unkind or immoral: when Libby wonders to her father whether a Native marking for a bee tree will be honored, her father responds, “No Indian would rob another man’s bee tree.”  Yet while there seems to be an inclination toward a “noble savage” stereotype, there is a genuine effort to convey Potawatomi cultural elements that would have been observed by outsiders, including some Potawatomi words that are integrated into the dialogue.  The Mitchell family is admirable in its genuine friendship toward Fawn’s family, and their friendship is returned in kind.

The premise of a white girl being mistaken for Potawatomi is implausible, but it does provide the reader with a view into this dark season in American history.  The story ends as the Potawatomi expulsion begins, with the Mitchell’s friends having escaped from the soldiers in order to bring her home.  Because of this, the reader only catches a glimpse of the horror involved with the tribe’s enforced journey, ending over 500 miles away in Kansas.  This journey is referred to by historians as the Trail of Death because so many people died along the way.

This is a very nice story involving loyal friendship, duty, and courage.  Historical events are basically accurate, and the danger is exciting without being overwhelming to younger readers.  The Mitchell family, particularly Libby’s father, evidence strong interfamily relationships and genuine friendship with the Potawatomi family.  This would make  a nice addition to a home library, or at least a good supplement for a history lesson.  Because of its limited scope in plot and characters, it probably will not become a frequent read-aloud.

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Publication Information: Whelan, Gloria. Night of the Full Moon. Bowman, Leslie. . 2006. ISBN: 0679872760.
Categories: 3 Stars, Age 04-08, Honey For a Child's Heart, Transitional Readers
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Posted on May 10, 2009


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