Soft Rain: A Story of the Cherokee Trail of Tears



Book: Soft Rain: A Story of the Cherokee Trail of Tears

Author: Cornelia Cornelissen

Cover Illustrator: Harry Shaare

Publisher: Yearling, republished 1999

ISBN-13: 978-0440412427

ISBN-10: 0440412420

Related website: http://www.randomhouse,com (publisher)

Language level: 1

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

Recommended reading level: Ages 8 – 12

Rating: ***** 5 stars

(5 stars=EXCELLENT; 4 stars=GOOD; 3 stars=FAIR; 2 stars=POOR; 1 star=VERY POOR; no stars=NOT RECOMMENDED)

Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker

Disclosure:  Many publishers, literary agents, and/or authors provide free copies of their books in exchange for an honest review without requiring a positive opinion.  Any books donated to Home School Book Review for review purposes are in turn donated to a library.  No other compensation has been received for the reviews posted on Home School Book Review.

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Cornelissen, Cornelia. Soft Rain: A Story of the Cherokee Trail of Tears (published in 1998 by Delacorte Press; republished in 1999 by Yearling, an imprint of Bantam Doubleday Dell Books for Young Readers, a division of Random House Inc., 1540 Broadway, New York City, NY  10036). It is the spring of 1838, and nine-year-old Soft Rain lives with her parents, younger brother Hawk Boy, blind Grandmother, and dog Pet, in their Tsalagi (Cherokee) community of North Carolina.  One day Soft Rain’s teacher reads a letter stating that as of May 23, 1838, all Cherokee people are to leave their land and move west. to what many Cherokees called “the land of darkness.” Soft Rain believes that her family will not have to go, because they have just planted corn for the next harvest.  However, soon after, while Father and Hawk Boy are away, soldiers arrive to take Soft Rain and her mother to be held in a stockade and then walk the Trail of Tears, leaving the rest of her family behind.

Soft Rain knows some of the white man’s language, so she soon learns that they must travel across rivers, valleys, and mountains.  They are forced to eat the white man’s food and see many of their people die.  Will they make it all the way?  Do they ever get to see Father and Hawk Boy again?  And what happens to Grandmother and Pet?  Author Cornelia Cornelissen is a former elementary school teacher whose great-grandfather experienced this journey when he was about ten years old.  One reviewer called Soft Rain a “Really good book that brings to life the pain and agony suffered by an already established civil society at the hands of greedy European settlers.”  Well, all reasonable people certainly recognize that the United States government’s treatment of the Cherokees and other Indians, especially under President Andrew Jackson, was what Publishers Weekly called “a painful period of American history” or what School Library Journal called “a shameful episode in U.S. history.”

At the same time, all the Native Americans were not always ipsy-pipsy perfect.  It would have been better if everyone had just learned to get along.  There were good and bad on both sides.  The book does show some kindness by whites to Indians along the way.  One reviewer complained that it “doesn’t depict the happenings of the Cherokee Trail of Tears very well.”  While Cornelissen does make clear the hardships which these Native Americans endured and the injustice of their exile, she does so in a way that is appropriate for children.  Yes, there is sadness along the way, but Kirkus Reviews says, “The characters themselves transform a sorrowful story of adversity into a tale of human resilience.” The historical novel is readable and would be useful as a supplement to social studies units with a good introduction to the Trail of Tears and an eye-opening glimpse of a disappearing culture.

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