The Heart of a Chief

by Joseph Bruchac

The Heart of a Chief is a novel, but it is based on the realities of contemporary... read more

The Heart of a Chief is a novel, but it is based on the realities of contemporary Indian America and on the many years I've spent working with Indian kids," writes Joseph Bruchac in an author's note that preceeds this story set on a fictional Penacook Indian reservation and in the neighboring community. Chris Nicola lives on the Penacook reservation with his grandparents and younger sister. Observant and thoughtful with a dry sense of humor, Chris has learned from both his father, who is currently seeking treatment for alcoholism, and his grandfather the importance of patience, of listening, of learning, but he doesn't know if this understanding will help him survive his first day of sixth grade, let alone the entire year. He is worried about starting at a new school off the reservation and worried about fitting in without making waves ("I think I can recognize the other sixth graders because we are the ones trying not to be noticed"). But Chris soon finds himself making waves regardless, both in town, where he leads the fight to get his school to stop using an Indian mascot, and at home, where a proposed casino supported by some of the tribal leaders threatens to develop land that Chris and his family hold sacred even as it promises economic opportunity for the impoverished people living on the reservation. Joseph Bruchac sheds light on these and many other challenges facing American Indian communities today in this issue-oriented novel that maintains its narrative tension without becoming too didactic thanks to Chris's heartfelt, convincing first-person voice. (Ages 10-13)

© Cooperative Children's Book Center, Univ. of Wisconsin - Madison, 1998

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