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*Children of the Dawnland* by Kathleen O'Neal Gear and W. Michael Gear- young readers book review
Children of the Dawnland
by Kathleen O'Neal Gear and W. Michael Gear
Ages 9-12 336 pages Starscape July 2009 Hardcover    

The Gears are long-time writers, well known for crafting stories of ancient American peoples. Now they’ve dipped their toes into the pond of young adult writing, inviting children and teens to explore the world they know so well. Children of the Dawnland is a new collaboration, introducing us to the world of a twelve-year-old girl who is meant to save her people. Although it is set 20,000 years ago, kids are kids everywhere - and in every time.

The main character is a strong, brave girl who has no time left to be a child, no time to allow fear to slow her down. Twig sees the future, though she doesn’t always understand what she sees. She is a “spirit dreamer,” seeing visions in dreams rife with confusing and often scary images.

To learn more about her prophetic dreams, she treks up to pay a visit to the old hermit in the mountains who the rest of her tribe shuns for his craziness. Somewhat against his will - for he does have a good healthy fear of the old man - her best friend, Greyhawk, ends up helping with Twig’s quest to learn more about their shared future.

“Twig suddenly felt lost and frightened, like her insides were melting.” The other dreamers all eventually became unwelcome and sent away. They had to live their lives alone, as outcasts, the tribe having grown to fear the power on which they had once relied. How is a twelve-year-old girl to handle the weight of her dreams? If she backs away in fear, it will mean the end of her people. And she knew that if she continues on in her quest, she could lose herself.

So young Twig, along with young warrior Greyhawk, faces down her own fears and starts down the path to fulfill her destiny to save her people from the end of the world. In the process, we get a colorful peek into a world long gone through the eyes of a young girl.

The short introduction piques the reader’s interest fully, subtly inviting the next page to turn of its own accord. It is entirely engaging and fun from the very first page. Even better is that the writing style is easy to understand without talking down to the Gears’ new, younger audience.

While it is ever-so-slightly simpler than the books that the authors have written in the past, it seems to be only to make the reading and events age-appropriate. Kudos to them for creating a world that is interesting, characters who kids will relate to, and real problems for the young tribesmen to solve while still imbuing the story with everything one has come to expect from the Gears.

Scary but fascinating stories handed down by the tribe elders and terrifying dreams that may shed light on their future all serve to draw a story that begs to be explored right to the conclusion. Kathleen O’Neal Gear and Michael Gear live up to expectations, giving the gift of an exciting, well-rounded story that will introduce the next generation of readers to prehistoric America. Children of the Dawnland is definitely a must-have for budding history buffs.

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  Carolynn Evans/2009 for curled up with a good kid's book  

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