________________ CM . . . . Volume XVIII Number 41. . . .June 22, 2012



James Lazer. Illustrated by Richard Rudnicki.
Toronto, ON: Groundwood Books/House of Anansi Press, 2012.
54 pp., hardcover, $19.95.
ISBN 978-1-55498-123-6.

Subject Headings:
Tecumseh, 1768?-1813-Juvenile literature.
Shawnee Indians-Kings and rulers-Biography-Juvenile literature.
Indians of North America-Wars-Northwest, Old-Juvenile literature.
Indians of North America-Wars-1812-1815-Juvenile literature.
Canada-History-War of 1812-Participation, Indian-Juvenile literature.

Grades 4-7 / Ages 9-13.

Review by Suzanne Pierson.

*** /4



Tecumseh thought long and hard about the fact that all of the native peoples, not just his Shawnees, were losing their land to the settlers. And he realized that unless the native peoples came together to form a great confederacy, they could never halt the theft of their land. The tribes would simply be picked off, one by one. But if they dealt with the United States with a single voice, things could be different. Tecumseh saw the land of native peoples as a common meal needed by all to nourish them. He believed they must treat this meal as “a dish with one spoon.”


Tecumseh is another of the books about the War of 1812 being released to coincide with the 200th anniversary commemorations. This book focuses on the life and accomplishments of the best known Native American leader during the War of 1812, Tecumseh.

internal art     Author James Laxer presents a well researched, informative depiction of the man who formed and led a confederacy of tribes against the westward expansion of European settlement.

     Laxer’s text, although written for junior age students, still manages to evoke a sense of the magnitude of Tecumseh’s accomplishment. At a time when there was no CNN or social media, Tecumseh’s skills as an orator and a warrior earned him the respect and trust of people who had previously lived and functioned as autonomous tribes. His insightful recognition of the vulnerability of individual tribes led Tecumseh to dedicate his life, and to eventually lose his life, fighting for justice for Native Americans.

     Richard Rudnicki’s illustrations are both a strength and a weakness of this book. Rudnicki’s well researched pictures portray rich details of the time period. He depicts the plants and animals, homes and buildings that make up the background of the pictures, as well as details of the apparel of the native people and the soldiers and administrators. Not surprisingly, given that this is a book about a war leader, the illustrations depict a lot of violence. The weakness of the illustrations is their failure to effectively depict the non-violent aspect of Tecumseh’s leadership. For example, there is something unsettling, even slightly sinister, in the portrayal of Tecumseh’s meeting with General Brock.

     Tecumseh begins with an explanation of the primary sources of information about Tecumseh’s life.

One way we know about Tecumseh is from the reminiscences written by Stephen Ruddell, a white boy who was raised by the Shawnees. We also know about him from the oral traditions of the Shawnees and other native peoples, and from accounts written by many people who met him over the course of his life, including officials in the United States government and British military officers. Together these accounts create an extraordinary life story…

     Included in the “For Further Reading” resources is a link to a digital copy of Stephen Ruddell’s Reminiscences of Tecumseh’s Youth in Ruddell’s own handwriting. This provides an excellent opportunity to teach the distinction between primary source material and other resources.

     Tecumseh also includes a “Table of Contents”, “Events in the Life of Tecumseh”, a glossary, a detailed list of sources, a map of the original Thirteen Colonies, 1733, a map of European claims to North American lands, 1800-1809, and a map of the lands defended by Tecumseh’s confederacy, 1810-1813.

     Tecumseh ends with an epilogue which summarizes events following Tecumseh’s death on October 5, 1813 in the Battle of Moraviantown near London, Ontario. The Treaty of Ghent, signed by the United States and Britain, resulted in no territory changing hands.

Both sides agreed to restore the rights of the native peoples as they had existed before the start of the war. But the Americans largely ignored this agreement.

Under the peace treaty they signed, the British did not live up to the promise they had made to Tecumseh.

     Inexplicably, the final sentence in the book describes Tecumseh as “a symbol of justice for the native tribes of North American.” A symbol of the struggle for justice would be more accurate and more fitting.

     Although the text of Tecumseh portrays the man as a visionary leader, the illustrations focus on the violence of the times. Your money would not be poorly spent if you choose this book, but you may want to see what else is available before you settle for this book.


Suzanne Pierson, a retired teacher-librarian, is currently instructing Librarianship courses at Queen’s University in Kingston, ON.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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