Middle School (9 - 14) Books

POCAHONTAS: GIRL OF JAMESTOWN, Kate Jassem, Troll Associates, 1979, grades 3-5

most white Americans. The little that is actually known about this young woman can be covered in a few short paragraphs, yet she has been the subject of countless articles, stories, and works of non-fiction. (At least half a dozen children's titles based in one way or another on her life are currently available.) More than any othr individual, with the possible exception of Sacajawea, Pocahontas is the embodiment of whites' romantic mythology of the American Indian.

Although most historians now acknowledg that John Smith lied when he told of having been saved by Pocahontas, the popular conception remains unaffected. Jean Fritz's "biography" will do nothing to chang this. She reproduces the standard version, intact, with enough chunks of history of the Jamestyown colony to make it book-length. There is plenty of speculative padding: "she would have" and "she must have" are common phrases. John Smith is portrayed as a hero, and there is more about him in this book than about Pocahontas.

There is considerable emphasis on the trickery, savagery, and childish naivte of the Native people. And surely it should not still be necessary to point out that there has never been such a thing as an Indian king, queen, or princess?

It would serve no useful purpose to go through this book page by pag separating fact from fantasy. Suffice it to say that Fritz has added nothing to the littl already "known" about Pocahontas, and that this little is treated with neither sensitivity nor insight. Review abridged from Through Indian Eyes 1992, by Beverly Slapin and Doris Seale

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Native American BOOKS, text and graphics copyright Paula Giese, 1996

Last Updated: Saturday, April 13, 1996 - 9:17:41 AM