Sweetgrass Basket by Marlene Carvell
Current Mood: thirsty
Current Song: Lament from Evita
After the death of their mother, two Mohawk sisters, Mattie and Sarah, are sent away from their reservation to the Carlisle Indian School in upstate New York. Sarah is quite shy and quiet, while Mattie is bold and outspoken. Despite their different personalities and perceptions, the girls share a very strong bond.
Soon, though, that bond is tested. The girls have difficulties adapting to their new school, where the dominant language and culture are not their own. Mattie speaks up whenever she feels a teacher is being unjust, while Sarah would rather not cause any trouble and hesitates to draw attention to herself. Mattie makes a new friend in a classmate named Gracie, while Sarah becomes more and more homesick. The narration alternates between the sisters with every other chapter, allowing readers to see both of their perspectives and hear two distinct voices. Though this is a verse novel and takes place at the turn of the century, those who are apt to shy away from poetry need not pull back from this book: as with many contemporary verse novels, the words are always expressed with a realistic meter, without rhyming or being obvious poems.
The title, Sweetgrass Basket, refers to a beautiful basket woven by the girls' mother. Not wanting to give too much away, I'll simply say that the basket plays a subtle but important role in the story, as it serves not only as a memento of their family and their old home life but also factors into a few key points of the story.
Sweetgrass Basket will be the spotlighted titled for the readergirlz book group in November 2009. Join us at http://www.readergirlz.com and http://readergirlz.blogspot.com/ to discuss the book with other readers. The author, Marlene Carvell, will be chatting live at the readergirlz blog on Wednesday, November 24th at 6 PM PST/9 PM EST. See you there!
Readergirlz Roundtable: Sweetgrass Basket by Marlene Carvell
Bildungsroman Booklist: Verse Novels