Morning Girl

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by Dorris, Michael. (Hyperion, 1992 ISBN 1-56282-284-5. Order Online) Novel. 74 pages. Grades 4+.
This book was reviewed by Carol Otis Hurst in Teaching K-8 Magazine.
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Review

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The writing in this brief novel (80 pages), set on a Carribean Island just prior to the arrival of Columbus is clear and evocative, making it almost a mood piece rather than a story. Morning Girl and her brother are anxious about change, but the change isn't the cataclismic one that will come after the story; it's their mother's miscarriage. The closeness of this family, the life lead by the villagers are the focus of this affecting book. We begin to care about Morning Girl and Star Boy as they begin to care about each other. That's why her innocent cordiality to the new arrivals -- the Europeans -- in the last chapter is so touching. The author's afterword contains ominous excerpts from the diary of Columbus and we are all too aware of the destruction that awaits.

The book is told in alternate chapters by Morning Girl and Star Boy. This technique might be found in other books such as Alice Childress' Rainbow Jordon. Ann Turner's picture book The Christmas House uses many different speakers and viewpoints and makes this technique even more obvious.

Readers of Morning Girl might like to talk about the reasons why Dorris might have written the book this way. Just listing his possible choices can put the readers in the chair of the writer for a change: could have started with the arrival of the Europeans; could have shown the island life to be idyllic; could have continued the book beyond the arrival of the Europeans.

Larger themes such as that of the destruction of innocence might interest some readers and they might find parallels in such books as Weasel by Cynthia DeFelice.

This book goes very well with Jane Yolen's Encounter, a very sensitive picture book in which the European arrival is viewed through the eyes of a Taino boy on one of the islands.

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