In her first book for The Royal Diaries, Patricia Clark Smith introduces the teenage Weetamoo, who will succeed her father to become chief of the Pocassets in seventeenth-century New England.
It is 1654 in New England, native land of Algonquin tribes, among them the Pocasset, Wampanoag, and Narrangansett people. The pilgrims -- called Coat-men by the Wampanoag -- have settled here in the natives' territory at Patuxit, a place that the Pilgrims have renamed Plymouth. Weetamoo's father, Corbitant, is sachem, or chief, of the Pocassets. He is mistrustful of the colonists and imparts his beliefs about them to his daughter, who is next in line to become chief. Weetamoo must learn the fundamental values and disciplines of a true Pocasset chief, but she must also be prepared for
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Grade 4-7-Using a diary format, Smith describes Weetamoo's life as a young teen in Massachusetts and Rhode Island in 1653. Constantly struggling with gender roles, she wants to hunt, and challenges boys to contests of skill. She surreptitiously follows her father as he meets with the Coat-men, or white settlers, at Plimoth Plantation. Eventually, she goes through a coming-of-age ceremony that involves a sweat lodge, fasting, and visions that foretell of later conflicts between the settlers and the Native Americans. Before the narrative comes to an abrupt end, she has matured into a future leader, or sachem, of the Pocasset tribe. A foreword explains that the real Weetamoo could not read or write, and would never have kept a diary. In the novel, Weetamoo makes line drawings on birchbark to illustrate her points, and often ponders learning to write as she observes the Coat-men, but she is not willing to convert to Christianity to do so. The final 50 pages provide further factual information, and readers may find Weetamoo's adult life more interesting than the fictionalized account of her youth. Michael Dorris's Morning Girl (Hyperion, 1992) provides a more original portrayal of early Native Americans.
Debbie Whitbeck, West Ottawa Public Schools, Holland, MI
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Gr. 5-8. The latest addition to the Royal Diaries series explores the everyday life of a 14-year-old Wampanoag girl in the mid-1600s. The oldest daughter of Corbitant, sachem of the Pocasset band of the Wampanoag Nation, Weetamoo was born around 1641. Aspiring to be sachem after her father, Weetamoo struggles with her impatience while trying to learn the skills that she will need to lead her people, and she attempts to understand the visions of "bitter wars" that come to her during her spiritual fasts. Filled with details of daily life, this "diary" offers a comprehensive look at seventeenth-century Wampanoag culture, including the tribe's disagreements over how best to deal with the white-skinned "Coat-men." A foreword explains more about the Wampanoag, and endnotes offer detailed information about Weetamoo's family and her later life, interactions between the pilgrims and the Wampanoag. A glossary, illustrations, and maps are included, as well. The author, part Algonquin of Micmac descent, has translated her long fascination with Weetamoo into a lively yet ultimately tragic tale that vividly evokes the time period. Karen Hutt
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