Rich with historical details, Twelfth Winter is a coming-of-age novel in which a boy navigates two different worlds.
In J. Arthur Moore’s historical novel Twelfth Winter, a boy adapts to a new life while holding on to his heritage.
Though he was born to pioneers, Michael is not used to their world. Even that name, “Michael,” feels strange to him. He grew up as Prairie Cub, the adopted son of Thunder Eagle and Prairie Flower. After his tribe is forced from their land by soldiers, Michael ends up with with trusted train engineer, Jay, who teaches Michael how to run the trains and becomes his mentor.
Later, Michael is taken in by the kind Tyler family. He navigates his new circumstances while wrestling with his old identity and what it means to be a part of two worlds. But there’s little action present at the beginning of the story, which is slow and longer than necessary. The story’s pace only picks up when the Tylers facilitate plans for a summer reunion between Michael and his tribe.
The story’s main focus is Michael’s emotional progress. He struggles with the fear of forgetting where he came from as he begins to love his new family. But his thoughts and feelings are only an occasional feature: his emotional side, which is supposed to be front and center, is thus elusive. Still, in action Michael is brave and kind, even though he often feels overwhelmed. He even befriends a lonely school bully, and his other friends are gentle with him, accepting him, and his differences, without pressuring him to discuss his past.
Though it is marred by grammatical and structural errors, the writing is descriptive. Michael and his friends are pictured twice in period clothes, including deer hide jackets. Bold details about the trains and town appear throughout. Indeed, the railroad plays a major part in the novel: on a symbolic level, it represents Michael’s ties to two worlds; on a more concrete one, it provides him a means of escape from his worries. The importance of family is also emphasized, and here, it’s not just about blood ties. Michael was found, alone in the wilderness, by Thunder Eagle when he was small; he’s later taken in by the Tylers. He never knew any of his blood relations, yet he never doubts his place in his families. He comes to understand that loving the Tylers does not mean betraying his first family, though he still wrestles with who he is.
Rich with historical details, Twelfth Winter is a coming-of-age novel in which a boy leaves his Native American family behind to find his place in an unfamiliar world, but instead learns that he can hold his differing identities in tandem.
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