Reviews for Journal of Jesse Smoke : A Cherokee Boy


Booklist Monthly Selections - #1 July 2001
Gr. 5-8. Sixteen-year-old Jesse Smoke records the events leading up to the Trail of Tears as well as the excruciating journey west in this diary-format novel that comes alive with details of everyday life and of Cherokee spirituality and world view. Bruchac integrates a Cherokee creation story, the political issues surrounding the forced removal, and tribal practices into this compelling story about a young adult's struggle to understand what is happening to his people and their way of life: "At the end of each day I see how my mother stands, her eyes on the setting sun. That direction, the direction of the Darkening Land, is the way the whites wish us to go. It is also, in our old beliefs, the direction of death." Concluding historical notes summarize the issues and provide background information, enhanced with black-and-white photos. Bruchac demonstrates his extensive knowledge of the Cherokee people in this outstanding addition to the My Name Is America series. ((Reviewed July 2001))Copyright 2001 Booklist Reviews

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Horn Book Guide Reviews 2001 Fall
Sixteen-year-old Jesse records the experiences of his family as they are relocated by the U.S. government and walk the ""Trail of Tears."" Though a historical note provides background information, the fictional text also includes additional factual material that strains at the confines of the journal format and slows the pace of Jesse's story. A selection of historical reproductions is included. Copyright 2001 Horn Book Guide Reviews

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Kirkus Reviews 2001 May #1
Sixteen-year-old Jesse narrates in journal form the events leading up to the forced relocation of the Cherokee Nation from its ancestral (and treaty-granted) territory to Indian Country in 1838. Jesse is a thoughtful boy who has had to give up his mission schooling in order to take care of the family farm after the murder of his father at the hands of white thugs three years earlier. Earnestly he informs his journal of the internal politics of the Cherokee Republic, the cultural history of his people, the economics of ethnic cleansing, and the appalling conditions of the forced march of 17,000 men, women, and children across 800 to 1,200 miles of unforgiving terrain. As with all of the My Name Is America entries, the need to tell a story vies with the imperative to educate, all within a patently artificial format. The text here becomes acutely self-conscious: when asked for whom he is writing the journal, Jesse stumbles for a moment and then says, "Anyone"-which excuses a lot of the xposition that would not likely occur in an actual journal. The writing is mostly formal, but by and large a real and likable character emerges, and Bruchac (How the Chipmunk Got His Stripes, 2000, etc.) packs in an extraordinary amount of information about a painful (and shameful) chapter of American history that rarely rates more than a paragraph in history books. Lengthy notes at the end describe the author's research methods and his approach to writing the book. The requisite appendices include a historical note, archival photographs, and a tear-stained pullout map of the Trail of Tears. (Fiction. 9-14) Copyright Kirkus 2001 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved

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School Library Journal Reviews 2001 July
Gr 4-6-Fully researched, written by an outstanding Native American author, and without minimizing the horror and the genocidal nature of the Cherokee removal on the Trail of Tears, this story about Jesse and his mother and sisters has many strengths. Unfortunately, while being praiseworthy and authentic in terms of the history, the characters are bland. Bruchac is capable of lovely language and biting metaphor, but often simply recites the continuing horror in ways that numb rather than touch readers' hearts. Several references to attachments (such as between a slave and Jesse's sisters) are made just as they end. Because readers never see the relationships unfold, the separation isn't affecting. The characters are names only. Jesse's family seems forgotten by him for long periods of time as the agonizing details of the preparations for the journey and the trek itself are cataloged. Readers who have become used to making a personal connection to moving events in American history will find this diary more historical than personal. There is a good section of notes at the end, most of it repeating facts Jesse has shared.-Carol A. Edwards, Sonoma County Library, Santa Rosa, CA Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.

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VOYA Reviews 2001 August
Jesse Smoke is a fifteen-year-old Cherokee living in Tennessee with his family and tribe during the uncertain times of 1837. Part of the Dear America series, this novel is presented as a journal wherein Jesse records his thoughts, views, and experiences. Although many Cherokees with missionary education embraced Christianity and were tolerated by southern whites, politicians pushed for their relocation to the West. The Treaty of New Echota, signed by only a few Cherokee, allowed for the group's containment by white soldiers, leading to the tribe's eventual emigration, now known as the Trail of Tears. Jesse thoughtfully presents issues from multiple viewpoints, but when recording the emigration and its factual brutality, his descriptions are sparse and short, which unfortunately mutes the Long Walk's historical and emotional significance. Jesse portrays his fellow Cherokee as almost saintly, eschewing liquor forced upon them by whites and refusing to travel on Sundays, because as converted Christians, to do so would be sinful. Along the way, the tribe continually encounters whites who view the Long Walk as wrong. Although Jesse is an appealing character based on a real person, balance through hearing other voices would have provided a better understanding of the era. The book includes character synopses, photos, and a historical section on the era and the Long Walk, which also is journalized in Ann Turner's The Girl Who Chased Away Sorrow: The Diary of Sarah Nita, a Navajo Girl (Scholastic, 1999/VOYA February 2000) and could be used as a companion novel. History-loving middle schoolers might enjoy Jesse's journal, but educators should provide supplemental reading for accuracy and detail.-Lisa Hazlett. 2Q 3P M Copyright 2001 Voya Reviews

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