Starfish – James Crowley


Reading level: 6.9

Genre: Historical fiction

ELL-Friendly: Yes

Library recommendation: Middle school, although I’m keeping it off my shelves (see below)

I read this book about a year ago, and I don’t remember much except for being bored. Upon reading other reviews, I found that other people found it quite dull while others loved it. What concerns me isn’t whether the book is exciting (students can always stop reading and find another book) but the historical inaccuracies that it apparently has. Not many reviewers commented on the book being factually inaccurate, but some people did, and that’s enough to get my attention. I mean, the book is published by Disney (which publishes books, now?), and we all know how well Disney does with historical facts.

The story follows the adventures (using “adventures” very loosely here) of two Blackfoot Natives (Lionel and Beatrice, brother and sister) as they flee their boarding school/reservation. The story opens with a frozen, drunken Native. While alcoholism among Natives is “epidemic” as Sherman Alexie has said, it is also rather insensitive to open the book with this image. But that’s up for debate.

What I don’t want is Native students reading the book and being upset due to inaccuracies. And I don’t want parents being mad at me, either. What are the lies in this story? I don’t know. I really have no clue, and I doubt many students will know, either. This lady goes into detail in her blog, if you are so inclined.

I think I’ll be donating this book to the library so that it doesn’t find its way into my classroom. It doesn’t sound like this book has the endorsements from any Native community or any Native reader I could find on the Internet. It also has a scene where the young kids get drunk. Again with the “drunken Indian” stereotypes. Okay, that’s enough. Not in my classroom. Lastly, according to my vague memory and several online reviewers, the plot just stops after a while. Not problem = no plot = not interesting.

Here is a link to a list of age-appropriate books about American Natives (I avoid using the word “Indians” unless it is in reference to people from India). Or search the Internet for “American Indians in Children’s Literature.”


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