Thursday, April 5, 2007


(EDITOR'S NOTE: The recommendations (age and appropriateness) for this title have been revised since the original publication. JOURNEY TO MOHAWK COUNTRY now carries a "Recommended with Reservations" rather than a "Not Recommended" label, and the recommended age for the classroom has been increased to "Middle School". Upon review, we felt a label of "Not Recommended" was unfair as this is an authentic piece of history and the literary significance of which outweighs the one panel of nudity from the side.)

PUBLISHER: First Second
GENRE: Historical Non-Fiction

Native Americans (Iroquis)
Early American Settlements
Trade Routes

Harmen Meyndertsz Van den Bogaert

Young Dutch trader, Harmen Meyndertsz Van den Bogaert, set of on an adventure to explore the Northeast area and establish trade agreements with the Mohawk Indians, who controlled the trade routes in 1634.

What makes this story amazing, what sets it apart from other historical accounts, is that it is in the words of the Dutch trader himself (translated into English). The words are his own and the story is true. This is an exploration of real non-fiction and should appeal to students as a way to explore history outside of a textbook or lecture. There isn’t a lot of action in the book, besides walking from one community to another, eating, sleeping and trading. There are no great action-adventure scenes and no war parties. Even still, I think students will be interested in it, if they know about the lack of action to begin with.

George O’Connor has taken Van den Bogaert’s words and then created a pictorial account of his journal. O’Connor utilizes a minimalist approach in the inks and colors, yet the story is rich and interesting. The quality of the book is excellent and at 141 pages, is very interesting.

There is one scene in the book where three Native American ladies are topless. The picture is not obscene, but it does raise concerns about the appropriateness of the book for children.

This art is bright
and colorful.

Panels are easy
to understand and read.

Notice the brief nudity
on this page. It is tastefully
done, but could cause
problems in the classroom.

My Rating (in general): Ages 10 and older
My Rating (for the classroom): Middle School
Comics in the Classroom: Ages 10 and older

Once again, you may notice that there is a discrepancy in the ratings. In fact, I have split my rating up into two categories: “In General” and “For The Classroom”. This is because the book is hard to rate. As stated above, there is a panel where some women are topless. There is another scene where a Native American and Van den Bogaert get drunk. The intoxication is obvious through the illustrations.

I have no issues with either the toplessness or the alcohol. Both are cultural. In the case of the women, the illustration is tasteful. Drunkenness has been a part of American culture for many years and is nothing new to children of today. When my daughter is old enough to read, understand and be interested in this book, say 10 years old, then she can read it. I have no objections, which is why I offered a general rating.

For the classroom, however, I have a different opinion. Many classrooms, especially in the midwest, are very sensitive to sexuality and alcohol. For classroom use, I think the ages need to be older, at least in more conservative communities.

(NOTE: Comics In The Classroom has updated it's recommendation to "Ages 10 and Older".)

You might think that I would have little to say in this section; however, I think that some communities could use this book in the classroom. Specifically, this could be used when discussing Native Americans and their culture. Many times, we think of the Plains Indians when we think of Native Americans, with teepees and males wearing nothing but a broadcloth. There are many other Native American cultures from different areas. This book gives a great look at the Iroquois culture, specifically the Mohawks. I think students would enjoy reading a real account of a trader in New York and how he survives the journey.

George O’Connor has written several pictures books for children including some on the New York Times bestsellers list.

Recommended with Reservations
The nudity, albeit quick and partial, is a problem for a classroom, especially for elementary or middle school students. At least that is true for many parts of the country, including many parts of Missouri. I would recommend it to my own child when she is around 10-years-old or so because I think the book is worthy of being read.

No comments: