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Crescent Blues Book ViewsHarper Collins (Hardcover), ISBN 0-06-029531-7
Cynthia Leitich Smith brings contemporary Indian culture to the forefront in Indian Shoes, a collection of six multicultural short stories targeted at the middle grade reader. Orphaned when a tornado kills his parents, a young Seminole Cherokee named Ray Halfmoon leaves his native Oklahoma to live in Chicago, Ill., with his grandfather. Together, Ray and Grampa share laughs, tears and tender moments as they walk through six chapters of life in their Indian Shoes.

Book: Cynthia leitich smith, indian shoesSmith strives to fill an almost empty niche in Native American literature and aptly portrays life of a thoughtful and compassionate mixed-blood youth and his devoted and heart-strong grandfather. Indian Shoes deals with important adolescent problems like poverty, homesickness, loss and love. However, while strong in character and rich in spirit, the storylines in Indian Shoes pale in comparison with Smith's previous children's literature contributions -- Jingle Dancer, a picture book about an ambitious young girl who wishes to be part of her tribe's celebration and Rain Is Not My Indian Name, a compelling story about how a heartbroken teen from a "patchwork" tribe copes with loss.

Perhaps because of its short and choppy presentation, the character-driven Indian Shoes walks too quickly (and sometimes, because of the repetitious rhythms, too slowly) through the lives of these heartwarming characters. It never allows us the chance to dig deeper and find out more about what makes themn tick.

Although marketed for Young Adults (nine to 12) on Amazon and middle graders (seven to 10) on its jacket flap, Indian Shoes seems more appropriate for ages seven and eight. The large type, episodic chapters, fairly easy vocabulary and easy to understand plot appear just right for this younger age group and yet an unlikely favorite with young adults. Smith writes well, but regretfully, this commendable and worthwhile effort misses the mark.

Lynne Remick

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