Author: Michael Dorris
Grade Level Equivalent:
Guided Reading Level:
Historical Fiction, Multicultural
Native American, Exploration and Discovery, European Colonization, Communities and Ways of Life, Caribbean Islander
This brief, lyrical novel explores the world of a sister and brother living on a lush island in the Bahamas just before the arrival of Columbus. Morning Girl and Star Boy narrate the story in alternating chapters, giving readers a view into the Taino Indian culture of which they are a part. That they must live in harmony with nature is a given; that the children recognize the power of that harmony is elegantly drawn. Says Morning Girl: "I like the aloneness of the early morning. I try to step gently on the path so that the sounds I make will blend into the rustle of the world." Her brother also feels it: "The first thing the wind moved was my blood. It ran faster in my arms and legs, pushing against the skin, warning me."
Although Morning Girl takes place at a moment in time that changed the lives and culture of a people forever, Dorris never lets the global scope of history take over his story. His characters defy stereotyping, and are not called upon to symbolize or represent their people. Morning Girl and Star Boy are themselves, fully developed, with concerns that even modern kids can understand: how to reconcile feelings of love and anger toward family members (including each other); how to discover their individual identities. The ultimate arrival of Columbus is a minor footnote in their story, but the epilogue, an excerpt from Columbus' journal, reminds us that the coming of Europeans to the island will eventually mean the nearly complete destruction of the Taino and their way of life.
Winner of the Scott O'Dell Award, Morning Girl is a moving work of fiction with a multitude of cross-curricular possibilities. Consider using it to supplement units on Native-American history and Columbus Day.