Friday, July 18, 2008

Naya Nuki: Girl Who Ran by Kenneth Thomasma


In the fourth grade my elementary school had Kenneth Thomasma come to our school to do a talk on his new book: Naya Nuki. I remember being enthralled by his speech (I was also incredibly into Native Americans at the time) and my sweet mother must've given me money to buy the book that day, because my copy is signed by the author and it says "To Corinne 3/25/87". I bet I read it a half dozen times while in elementary school.

I was digging through my box of old books recently and when I found my copy, I thought my kids would love it. I was absolutely right.

Naya Nuki is a Shoshoni who is captured, along with her friend Sacajawea, and taken a thousand miles from home. When she realizes that she will be a slave and possibly sold to the white men, Naya Nuki decides to escape and somehow rejoin her own people.

Never will you meet a more resourceful 11 year old. When I asked my daughter about this book, she told me she liked it because Naya Nuki was "courageous." I couldn't agree more - she's an excellent example for modern day kids, making her own shoes, killing and skinning animals, creating shelters, knowing what food is safe to eat and escaping from all kinds of danger. It's quite a lesson in Native American abilities and culture, as well as an nearly extinct way of life. My kids ate it up.

The thing is, the writing is really just marginal, which is a shame. If the book was written to engage adults, it probably would've gotten three stars. While the story itself is inspiring, the author is unbelievably repetitive and things dragged on (to me, my kids didn't seem to mind). I feel like Naya Nuki could've been a beautifully illustrated picture book and I would've gotten as much out of it. I think, however, for Thomasma's intended audience, this book can expand kid's horizons and introduce them to an incredibly heroic character from real life.

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