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Tecumseh by J. Laxer

Laxer, James. (2012). Tecumseh. Toronto, Ontario: Groundwood Books. Print.

A university political science professor may seem an unlikely author of a children’s book on the legendary native leader Tecumseh but York University’s James Laxer’s keen interest in the War of 1812 and the relationship between the Shawnee leader, Tecumseh and British Major General Isaac Brock, make him ideally suited to the task.

In 2012, the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812 was marked by the release of two books by Laxer, Tecumseh and Brock: the War of 1812, for adults and Tecumseh by Laxer and illustrated by Richard Rudnicki, for children. In this second book, the reader is presented with richly coloured and detailed illustrations and accessible text depicting the journey of Tecumseh from infancy to his death in 1813. The reader learns about the way of life of his family, the challenges faced when settlers moved into the area, and of course, the major battles in which he played a key role. The text is organized into chronological segments with headings referring to events or significant people in Tecumseh’s life. While there is not a table of contents to guide the reader, the language is appropriate for young readers, as well as a timeline, glossary and clearly labeled maps at both the front and back of the book.

Tecumseh was motivated to take action after his father was killed in 1774 by American militiamen advancing on Shawnee land. This constant fear of expropriation led Tecumseh to consider the best options for defending native territory. His military and leadership skills made him a natural choice to head a native confederacy against the determined American colonists.

By 1812, when the Americans had declared war on Great Britain, Tecumseh was ready to go into battle to fight for Native lands previously taken by force. He decided that the best choice to do this was to ally with the British under Major General Isaac Brock. Together they strategized and fought at Detroit, Queenston, and Moraviantown. During the short span between August and October, both leaders lost their lives. Their deaths would negatively impact the effort to ensure that there would be Native lands when borders were later drawn between Canada and the United States.  

Laxer concludes with these words: “In the end, the confederacy did not win. But Tecumseh’s courage, eloquence and steadiness of purpose continue to fascinate people in many parts of the world two centuries after his death. He remains a symbol of justice for the native tribes of North America” (p. 52). Ideal for children aged 8-12, grades 3-7.

Recommended: 3 out of 4 stars
Reviewer: Anne Rogers

Anne Rogers is a teacher-librarian in a K-6 school in Medicine Hat, Alberta.  She loves reading, running and cheering on her family in their pursuits.