How I Became a Ghost: A Choctaw Trail of Tears Story

by Tim Tingle

"I am a ghost. I am not a ghost when this book begins, so you have to pay very close... read more

"I am a ghost. I am not a ghost when this book begins, so you have to pay very close attention." Isaac is a ten-year-old Choctaw boy chronicling his family's removal from their homeland in 1830. Isaac has begun having visions in which friends and neighbors die: first in the fires that white soldiers set to rout them out of their village, then from disease when blankets infested with small pox are given out. He can later see their ghosts, which become a source of comfort and guidance for him. On the forced march out of Choctaw territory, Isaac becomes a big brother to a little girl traveling with her parents. She freezes to death one night, and her ghost tells Isaac that her teenage sister is being held captive by the soldiers. With the help of another Choctaw boy, a shape-shifter who transforms into a panther, Isaac sets out to rescue the girl. Tim Tingle's breathless historical novel integrates spiritual elements as seamlessly into the narrative as they are integrated into Choctaw culture in the story. Isaac does, indeed, become a ghost along the journey, but his remarkable, compelling voice continues its telling, and his presence is no less palpable or powerful for his family and friends. Isaac's calm acceptance of his imminent death does nothing to diminish the horror of what is happening to his family and people, but another notable element of Tingle's storytelling is that he reveals that horror in a way that won't overwhelm readers the same age as his protagonist. (Ages 10-13)

© Cooperative Children's Book Center, Univ. of Wisconsin - Madison, 2014

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