Today is Multi-Cultural Children’s Book Day, and as a strong believer in diverse fiction, I am participating by posting this review. Please go to Twitter, hashtag #ReadYourWorld to join in!
Little Boy is the first in the Saga of a Comanche Warrior series, by Max Oliver. Instead of a Eurocentric lens, Oliver’s book shows us Native Americans as people going about their own lives. Little Boy is born to a woman named No Talks, named so for her calm reserve. He is a scrawny baby, the weaker twin, but eventually uses his both mind and body to make a name for himself.
What really works for this book is the humanity and normalcy given to Comanche life. The men go on raids, bringing back goods and captives, and both are used as badges of honor or to impress the wives at home. No Talks is a brave mother to Little Boy, and goes through the mundane and extraordinary with grace. Each character is three-dimensional and no one is exoticized.
Some things I had trouble with:
– The reader is 75% through the book before Little Boy shows up in a significant way. For a young adult novel, that is far too long to wait for the arrival of the main character. While I enjoyed being immersed in Little Boy’s world, I found myself wondering when Little Boy would make his entrance.
– There are many paragraphs where the words and actions of two characters are put together. I found this confusing, as I didn’t know who was doing what until I re-read it.
– There is very little white space on each page. Here is an example:
As an adult, I found so many blocks of narrative daunting. A younger person will likely be even less inclined to read a book with this kind of typesetting.
– While I found the descriptions and daily events of Comanche life very interesting, I did not feel especially compelled to go on reading. There did not seem to be a solid plot, which is vital to a young adult novel. I understand that the series is called a Saga, but I felt the descriptions could have been woven in with action that directly related to the plot.
-For a YA novel, there seemed to be a lot of lingering descriptions of women bathing, being naked, and how dresses fit over their breasts and hips. It came across as a little creepy.
Overall, Max Oliver’s writing style is perfectly matched to the setting, without needless adjectives or narrator intrusion. I felt for the warriors lost, the women taken captive, the wives who worked just as hard as the men. Oliver’s picture of Comanche life sweeps away the lies and stereotypes used to excuse the atrocities committed against them and all Natives.
Here is a link to the Multi-Cultural Children’s Day event http://multiculturalchildrensbookday.com/todays-day-multicultural-childrens-book-day/