Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Journey into Mohawk Country

Journey into Mohawk Country by George O’Connor

This is an ambitious and fascinating project in which O’Connor uses as his text the 1634 journal of a Dutch trader in North America, creating all the visuals based on research and a creative interpretation of the trader’s own words. The story does have a beginning and an ending, but the storyline is not its allure. The difficulty of traveling many miles by foot in the winter, the size and configuration of native buildings, Mohawk healing traditions, the keeping and eating of bears – this may not be the most exciting graphic novel ever created, but it’s fascinating for its everyday details.

This is definitely a book that should be used in classrooms studying early American history – it’s amazing how we like to focus on the pilgrims, when so much more was going on in North America in that time. Journey into Mohawk Country is also a must for classes studying Native American culture, as there is a wealth of information about Mohawk life. This book could also provide the basis for a study on the interpretation of historical documents. Students can read the actual words written by Harmen Meyndertsz van den Bogaert (albeit translated into English) and discuss O’Connor’s interpretations as well as the comedic additions he made via the illustrations, most likely in the name of making the story more interesting. Anyone with even a passing interest in history will enjoy it, and kids are certainly going be more interested in Journey into Mohawk Country than a textbook.

As to age-appropriateness, there is one depiction of topless women from behind (it’s in the preview) but it’s certainly not racy in any way. Due to the subject matter, I’d say this book is most suited to upper elementary students and older, only because younger kids might not be interested (unless, of course, they are history buffs like Sarah).

Sarah says: Journey into Mohawk Country is about a guy from the Neverlands (sic) that trades with Indians in New York. The Dutch guys mostly got beaver skin or other skins from animals. I think it was interesting that the Mohawks kept bears as pets. They waited for them to get fat and then they ate them! I like it when the Dutch guy watches some Indians try to heal a sick man traditionally. My favorite characters are the Dutch guy’s two friends because they are funny. They always mess around and in the beginning they fight and fall in the water. Once at night the large guy’s pants accidentally fell into the fire – that was funny. It’s not violent, but some little kids might be scared of the parts when the Indians try to cure the sick guys – it’s gross. I think that people who want history with a bit of funniness would like this book.

Shelby says: I like the fact that the author figured out how to turn the writings of the Dutch guy into pictures. It’s interesting that he used all of the writings from the journal and didn’t change a single thing. I think I would like this better than a textbook because it’s much more interesting!


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