Living on a tropical
island, in 1492, the Taino people live in peaceful harmony with nature. In alternating chapters twelve year old Morning Girl
and her younger brother, Star Boy, reflect on their lives. Morning Girl loves
the aloneness of early morning and her brother loves the night. Morning girl is frustrated
with her brother's loud impulsivness and feels like life would be so much better if he were not around. Their
sibling rivalry and opposing views are reflective of brothers and sisters everywhere.
Through their eyes we learn what life might have been like at that time and place.
Living in a thatched roof hut, we learn some of the activities that filled day-to-day life on this island as their
father repairs his fishing nets and the children are free to wander and collect shells, weave flower necklaces, and swim.
Dorris respectfully represents this native culture weaving life’s triumphs with tribulations. The village endures great damage as a storm ravages the coastline and Morning Girl’s mother loses
a baby. We see a strong connection growing between brother and sister as they experience
these events. Family relationships and growth are central to the story.
Morning Girl comes upon a canoe full of Europeans
and welcomes them to her village with friendliness and generosity. She tries
not to laugh at their cumbersome clothing and manners so as not to appear foolish and reflect badly upon her people. It is only then that the reader learns through a journal entry in the epilogue that
this group of visitors includes Christopher Columbus. Columbus reveals in his journal that these natives “should be good and intelligent servants, for I see
that they say very quickly everything that is said to them…and would become Christians very easily” (Dorris). He also notes that the people are young, no more that thirty years old, go around
naked, live simply and poorly, and they have no acquaintance with weaponry
What is clear
throughout the story are the loving bonds within the family, the developing appreciation and understanding between brother
and sister, and the peaceful cooperation of the village. The community is peace
loving and neighbors live respectfully among each other. If visitors approach,
and seem non-threatening, they are welcome to come and share the hospitality of the village.
Children are named with great care and consideration by people within the community, and names can change with the
person as their personalities emerge. These attributes reflect what is known
of native cultures.
One of the most interesting aspects of this story
is to view a native culture preceding Columbus' landing and realize that this civilization existed in an organized society,
traded with other groups of people, and engaged in celebrations without benefit of outside influence. In other
words, the Taino people acted in accordance with their view of the world.
The author received the Scott O’Dell Award
for historical fiction for this book (Zuiderveen). To view the Taino culture from the
insider perspective of Morning Girl and Star Boy and then glimpse the European perspective is thought provoking. The
reader is left with lot to think about when contemplating the existing native culture and what is to come of their way of
life with the discovery of the “New World”.