During the summer of 1876, fourteen-year old Asa Senger learns haunting details about his family’s history after his mysterious aunt Hazel comes to live with him. Hazel informs young Asa about the reasons the Senger family settled on the Minnesota prairie, the hardships his parents and grandparents endured, and the tragic unfolding of the Dakota uprising. A surprising revelation forces Asa to understand that he is more closely tied to the uprising and ensuing mass-hangings of Dakota warriors than he ever imagined.
Thomas Maltman does an excellent job of describing a harrowing and disturbing period in American history from multiple perspectives. Fans of historical fiction will appreciate the details of nineteenth century prairie life intermingled with the fictional accounts of Asa and Hazel. Though there are violent scenes described in the book, readers of Young Adult literature may like that much of book revolves around adolescent characters, and is told in an accessible manner. Maltman earned several awards for The Nightbirds, including the ALA Alex Award (2008).
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