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Book Review: Cady and the Bear Necklace by Ann Dallman

Cady and the Bear Necklace by Ann Dallman

Cady, a 13-year-old girl of Native American heritage, has experienced major changes in the past year-her father’s marriage to a younger woman, a new baby brother, and a move from Minnesota to Michigan where she attends a reservation school for the first time.

One school day, Cady finds an eagle feather on the floor outside a classroom and reports it to the principal. When thanking her for this act of honor, he tells her that a mystery might soon appear in her life.

Later, Cady discovers and antique Indian beaded necklace hidden under the floor of her bedroom closet. Is this the mystery the principal predicted might appear? She consults with elders who tell her it is her “job” to find out why. Helping her are her new friends Irish, John Ray and a talking blue jay.

Cady and the Bear Necklace Review

Rating: 4 out of 5.

I was compensated with a small amount for my time and effort in reading the book and writing this review. However, all thoughts and opinions expressed are my own and are based on my honest personal experience reading the book. Nor did the publisher in any way shape or form ever pressure me to give a positive review.

Ann Dallman’s Cady and the Bear Necklace follows Cady Whirlwind Thunder, a Native American girl in eighth grade overcoming the challenges of her existence in Barnesville, Michigan. After finding a buried Bear Necklace, Cady sets out on a quest despite the difficulties of a new school, her desire to play soccer, and adjusting to her blended family.

I was very excited to read this book, as I am always very open to more Native American representation in literature! I have been somewhat familiar with Native American literature ever since high school in an Advanced American Literature class, and this work reminded me of some of the works I read back then on the topic. I’m expressing this as a compliment, since I can envision this book as a valuable addition to classroom reading materials, particularly for a lecture focused on Native American content.

This novel explores the complex topics of marginalization, focusing on Native American experiences as well as the difficulties related to disabilities, as depicted by Cady’s father. I understand that this is a subjective perspective, but I couldn’t help but make the connection between Native Americans’ unique difficulties and disability based on my own knowledge of the organization for the Native American community.

Acknowledging the compounding impacts of marginalization and injustice and how it contributes to a negative cycle, I enjoyed how the story highlights the exacerbations of challenges this community may face on this issue and many more, such as scarce resources and complaints being dismissed. Including but not limited to disabilities. Instigating a contemplative analysis of the interconnectedness of these matters, Cady and the Bear Necklace can enhance the narrative and challenge readers to contemplate the wider societal ramifications.

Of course, besides delving into real-world commentary, there’s an enticing mystery for readers to unravel—the heart of it being a captivating bear necklace (hence the title). This kicks off a central element of the book’s plot, making it the driving force behind the main storyline. As a core contributor to the book’s entertainment value, I enjoyed the balance between its presence and the more serious themes the book occasionally touches upon based on the real world. I think it positively contributed to the reading experience and all worked out great from a technical writing standpoint.

Aside from that, I also appreciate the book delving into more ‘down-to-earth’ topics that young adults can relate to, such as navigating crushes, alongside the more fictional, mysterious, and serious themes. This approach makes Cady feel more relatable as a young adult female protagonist, and I can envision many other young adult female readers resonating similarly.

Overall, I’m impressed with this author’s debut work. This is a solid book. The plot is well-developed, the relationships are skillfully constructed, and the theme is significant. It’s an admirable and strong basis. Maybe the author’s past experiences help her to have a more sophisticated knowledge of what appeals to this specific age group. In any case, I think it’s decent reading for readers in middle school and young adults to read.

If you liked this review and want to see other book reviews like this one, check out my book reviews collection!

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About the Author of Cady and the Bear Necklace

I have lifelong roots in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and more than two decades of teaching experience. One of my main achievements is producing and editing an anthology of my students’ writing, compiled over 10 years, on the Hannahville Indian Reservation where I taught high school English classes. There, I was immersed in the reservation community for 15 years, was invited to and attended ceremonies and learned the importance of storytelling, beadwork and honoring all life. I participated in native language classes for several years out of respect for my great-grandmother. I also served as the school’s oversight person for language instruction.

I’ve presented workshops at the national meetings of Creating Sacred Places for Children, the  National Indian School Board Association, and the International Reading Association. 

Other relevant work includes the publication of “Writing Power: Opening Doors to Self-Expression” in Winds of Change (published by American Indian Science and Engineering Society), lesson plan contributions to Creating Sacred Places for Children, and creating a Language Arts curriculum using Native Authors, grades 9-12, for tribes on the west coast under the direction of Dr. Sandra Fox. Additionally, I  worked with a traditional language instructor (Hannahville) to develop a Native American Literature class which we co-taught for several years. This class was also broadcast to other schools in the Upper Peninsula over the ITV Network. Other broadcast work includes facilitating the Hannahville Poets students and school principal interview on Native America Calling radio program, co-teaching the Rezz Radio program (produced at Hannahville Indian School/Nah Tah Wahsh PSA) using only Native American music.

I continue to freelance for several publications while writing additional Middle Grade novels about my favorite character, 13-year-old Cady, and the challenges she faces—and overcomes—while solving mysteries.

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