By: Elaine Pease
Publisher: Filter Press
Publication Date: November 2010
Reviewed by: Ellen Feld
Review Date: February 2011
Indian lore, a dangerous journey, a brave young Indian, a plucky girl who will risk all to help her friend, a great mystery and a ghost story await the young reader who opens the pages of Elaine Pease’s debut novel, Ghost Over Boulder Creek.
Run Through Fire is a twelve-year-old Cheyenne brave who has seen a lot in his twelve winters. The child of a Cheyenne mother, Smiling Moon, and a white father, William Tull, the boy considers himself a Cheyenne and lives among his mother’s people in Oklahoma. His father used to visit as much as he could while working as a ranch hand in far away Colorado until the day he was taken away by white men who accused him of being a horse thief. Run Through Fire never saw his father again, although he hoped to one day travel to Colorado to learn his fate.
While making camp along the Washita River, Run Through Fire’s people are attacked by the soldiers of the U.S. 7th Calvary. Most of the braves are killed and the women and children taken prisoner. Run Through Fire is brought, with his mother, to the 7th Calvary’s camp. It is here that General Custer sees the boy and decides that, given his light brown hair and blue eyes, he must be a white child who was captured many years ago. The boy is separated from his mother and soon finds himself traveling with Buffalo Bill to Fort Lyon in Colorado to find William Tull.
The journey to Colorado is fraught with danger. Young Run Through Fire must use his wits and training as an Indian brave to survive dangers that include frozen rivers and attacking Indians. Along the way, he decides it might be to his advantage to take on the guise of his white relatives and so he begins to dress as a white boy and call himself Billy Tull.
While Billy’s capture and subsequent journey to Colorado comprise about half of the story, the book takes an interesting turn when the young Indian arrives in Boulder. It is here that he meets his soon-to-be-best friend Rebecca Conner. It is also where the mystery really takes hold and best of all, where Billy meets the ghost. Without giving away the ending, the adventures Billy has with Rebecca are some of the best action scenes in the book and the story really takes a surprising turn that I suspect few readers will see coming.
Ghost Over Boulder Creek deals with some important issues, namely the mistreatment of Native Americans by the ever-increasing populations of white men. Through Run Through Fire’s eyes, the reader will experience the joy and frustration of a buffalo hunt, and then see how soldiers, having no respect for the land or animals, slaughter them by the thousands. The conversations that Run Through Fire and Buffalo Bill have are quite interesting, particularly because young readers will be able to see how two people, born of different worlds, interpret the same events. Run Through Fire at first hates this famous cowboy who has been charged with his protection but after several talks, as they make their way through snow-laden fields, the relationship slowly evolves and both man and boy grow in their understanding of the other.
Billy and Rebecca are the other highlight of this book. They are an unlikely pair, a lost Indian boy and a plucky girl with a fairly stable home life, living with her father and attending school. But the duo works well and young readers should really enjoy helping the two solve the great mystery behind Billy’s father and the ghost. Is there really a ghost?
While readers will pick up this book to read the ghost story, for parents, the enticing aspect is that it is, in essence, a history lesson cleverly disguised as a wonderful adventure story. The author introduces many historical figures, from General Custer to Chief Black Kettle, along with actual events such as the Washita River Massacre that happened during the time of Billy’s travels.
Quill says: Mystery, intrigue and a great ghost story make Ghost over Boulder Creek a book young historical fiction fans should check out!
Ghost Over Boulder Creek is the recipient of a CIPA EVVY Award for Juvenile Fiction. Congratulations Elaine!
For more information on Ghost Over Boulder Creek: A Historical Cheyenne Mystery, please visit the book's website at: www.peasepodbooks.com
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