Morning Girl



Book: Morning Girl

Author: Michael Dorris

Cover Illustrator: Peter McCarty

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion, reissued in1999

ISBN-13: 978-0780742338 Hardcover

ISBN-10: 0780742338 Hardcover

ISBN-13: 978-0786813582 Paperback

ISBN-10: 078681358X Paperback

Language level: 1

(1=nothing objectionable; 2=common euphemisms and/or childish slang terms; 3=some cursing or profanity; 4=a lot of cursing or profanity; 5=obscenity and/or vulgarity)

Recommended reading level: Ages 9 and up

Rating: **** 4 stars (GOOD)

Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker

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Dorris, MichaelMorning Girl (published in 1992 by Hyperion Books for Children, an imprint of Buena Vista     Books Inc., 114 Fifth Ave., New York City, NY  10011; republished in 1999 by Scholastic Inc., 555 Broadway, New York City, NY  10012).  It is 1492 and Morning Girl, a twelve year old Taino, lives on a peaceful, tropical Bahamian island with her father Speaks to Birds, mother She Wins the Race, younger brother Star Boy, and others in their village.  The two siblings are as different as night and day.  Morning Girl says, “I don’t know how my brother came to see everything so upside down from me.  For him, night is day, sleep is awake.”  In alternating chapters, Morning Girl and Star Boy tell about their island, their family, and their simple yet enjoyable lives, including a newborn sister who never comes home and a huge storm which devastates their home.  Then one day, not long after the storm, Morning Girl is out swimming and sees strange-looking visitors in an oddly shape canoe headed for her island.  Who are they?  And what will happen?

This book won the Scott O’Dell Award for Historical Fiction.  The biggest complaint I saw about it, which usually came from kids, is that it has no plot and is very boring.   It does have a plot, but even a fifth-grade teacher admitted that it offered too much reflection from isolated points of view and had very awkward pacing which didn’t allow for a good read-aloud experience.  She noted, “It has a maturity that makes it feel like it is a book written to appeal to adult reviewers of children’s books – not to appeal to real children.  Just the fact that the main characters are children doesn’t mean children will relate!”  I can understand that children whose attention span is dictated by bang, bang, shoot ‘em up movies and television shows might not care for the slowness of narration, but there is still a place for children’s books which are leisurely and thoughtful.

Because the back of the book pointed out that the Native American’s life, which was said to be rich and complex, was also soon to be threatened, and one reviewer wrote, “The excerpt from Christopher Columbus`s journal provides an ominous footnote: these gentle people, who seem so very much like us, will not be permitted their idyllic existence much longer,” I was prepared for the modern leftist message of “that evil Columbus and his greedy Christianity are responsible for all the troubles and problems that ever developed in the New World.”  Perhaps that is what author Michael Dorris believed and intended; I don’t know, but I didn’t necessarily get it from the story itself, so it may just be that anti-dead white European male reviewers read it into the book.  I enjoyed reading it.

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