The Heart of a Chief book cover

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The Heart of a Chief
Joseph Bruchac 
1998. Dial Books

pages 153

Grade 5 +

Rating: Good



The Heart of a Chief was a fairly quick read and fairly good.  The main character, Chris Nicola, has a lot to deal with.  This sixth grade Native boy not only has to deal with the fact that he will have to travel from the Penacook Indian Reservation to a boarder town middle school, that is using a stereotype image for a mascot, that his parents have abandoned him, and that the tribal people are in a heated debate over building a casino on Ceremonial land.  Which seems like an awful lot for an eleven year old to be actually aware of.

I like the idea behind the book, Bruchac is trying to set the story in current times and show what Native kids are dealing with issues beyond compare to most students, but how many Sixth grade boys are going to take up the fight on so many issues? The fact that Chris is dealing with racial issues in school, as well as mascot issues, poverty, abandonment (by his parents), being raised by his aunt & grandfather, and tribal politics, is overwhelming even for me as an adult reader. 

I enjoyed reading the book and I think Chris would give Harry Potter a run for his money and with out a wand or the concerned teachers at Hogwarts!

Marlette Grant-Jackson – ITEPP-CRC

More Resources

Joseph Bruchac

Teaching Young Children about Natives

NA Children's Lit in the Classroom