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Two Roads
Cover of Two Roads
Two Roads
A boy discovers his Native American heritage in this Depression-era tale of identity and friendship by the author of Code TalkerIt's 1932, and twelve-year-old Cal Black and his Pop have been riding the...
A boy discovers his Native American heritage in this Depression-era tale of identity and friendship by the author of Code TalkerIt's 1932, and twelve-year-old Cal Black and his Pop have been riding the...
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  • A boy discovers his Native American heritage in this Depression-era tale of identity and friendship by the author of Code Talker
    It's 1932, and twelve-year-old Cal Black and his Pop have been riding the rails for years after losing their farm in the Great Depression. Cal likes being a "knight of the road" with Pop, even if they're broke. But then Pop has to go to Washington, DC—some of his fellow veterans are marching for their government checks, and Pop wants to make sure he gets his due—and Cal can't go with him. So Pop tells Cal something he never knew before: Pop is actually a Creek Indian, which means Cal is too. And Pop has decided to send Cal to a government boarding school for Native Americans in Oklahoma called the Challagi School.
    At school, the other Creek boys quickly take Cal under their wings. Even in the harsh, miserable conditions of the Bureau of Indian Affairs boarding school, he begins to learn about his people's history and heritage. He learns their language and customs. And most of all, he learns how to find strength in a group of friends who have nothing beyond each other.

Excerpts-

  • From the book

    Chapter One

    Keeping Up

    The red road stretches out before us, a long ribbon of light.

    “Keep up, Cal.”

    I am the right size for my age, which is twelve—this being 1932 in the year of Our Lord. I can run as fast as the Dickens. But when it comes to marching I always fall behind. Despite Pop’s limp, he always gets a few steps ahead of me.

    I cannot help but sigh.

    Pop doesn’t hear that. Though he can still catch the songs of the birds in the trees above us—like the redbird he pointed out a mile back—real low noises escape his ears. It has been that way since the sixth of June in ’18 when he was partially deafened by the booming of the big guns.

    We keep marching along. I’m doing a better job now of keeping up. I don’t mind walking like this, mile after mile, just as long as it doesn’t start my father remembering.

    Pop looks up at the sun. “It was hot like this that day. It was about this time,” he says. “Exactly three forty-five p.m.” There’s a faraway look on his face now. He’s telling the story to himself, almost unaware of me listening.

    “‘Over the top and take that wood,’ General Hartford orders us. And then the whistle blares. So over the top we go. Every one of us as green as grass.”

    It’s the place where Pop always pauses. Sometimes we’ll walk as much as a mile before he says more.

    “And then the Devil’s Paintbrushes opened up and down we went, like a wheat field being mowed.”

    Another silence as another mile passes.

    “No,” he says. “Not like wheat nor rye. Mown grass does not bleed or make the ground so slippery you can’t hardly stand.”

    He pauses, shakes his head, as if trying to wake up from a bad dream. Then he starts walking again. That faraway look is gone from his face. I’m not sure he even knew that look was there. He’s finished that story for now, leaving it behind.

    Which is what I would like to do. But almost as soon as he started the story, as it sometimes happens, something took over. This happens to me now and then. I’m drawn backward. I find myself in the middle of someone else’s life. Not remembering it or seeing it. But living it moment by moment.

    I’m no longer walking down a Southern road in the here and now of 1932. It’s years ago—over there. I’m someone else in full uniform. Crouched next to my father in the muddy trench. I’m holding a gold pocket watch in my left hand, looking at the letters inscribed on the back.

    S.K.E.

    My heart’s pounding like a drum as we wait for the signal. Sweat is beading my forehead. That loud shrill whistle sounds. We scramble up over the top, stumble forward through the broken strands of barbed wire, the half-buried bodies of men who took part in the last wave. We leap over craters left by shells. The only sounds are heavy breathing, the thudding of feet on the frozen ground, the rattle of our canteens against the metal buckles of our belts.

    Then the Huns open up with their MG 08 machine guns—the Devil’s Paintbrushes. Bullets hiss around us, moving faster than the speed of sound, followed by the cracking of the air. Men start bowing their heads and dropping to their knees as the earth beneath us is painted with blood. Their blood. Our blood. My father falls, but I pick him up, throw him over my shoulder to carry him . . .

    “Cal? Cal?”

    I’m so lost in that vision of a France I’ve never really seen that...

Reviews-

  • Kirkus

    September 1, 2018
    Twelve-year-old Cal Blackbird trades the freedom of hobo living with his father, a World War I vet, for the regimented world of Challagi Indian Boarding School.Set in spring and summer of 1932 Depression-era America, Bruchac's (Abenaki) historical novel sees narrator Cal and his father riding the rails, eking out a meager and honest life as inseparable "knights of the road." But when Pop reads news about fellow veterans gathering in Washington, D.C., to demand payment of promised bonuses, he decides to "join [his] brother soldiers." To keep Cal safe while away, Pop tells him about their Creek heritage and enrolls him at Challagi. Even though he's only "half Creek" and has been raised white, Cal easily makes friends there with a gang of Creek boys and learns more about his language and culture in the process. Though the book is largely educational, Creek readers may notice the language discrepancy when their word for "African-American" is twice used to label a light-skinned Creek boy. Additionally, Cal's articulation of whiteness sounds more like a 21st-century adult's then a Depression-era boy's. More broadly, readers accustomed to encountering characters who struggle along their journeys may find many of the story's conflicts resolved without significant tension and absent the resonant moments that the subject matter rightly deserves.A lesser-known aspect of Native American history that promises the excitement of riding the rails yet delivers a handcar version of the boarding school experience. (list of characters, afterword) (Historical fiction. 10-14)

    COPYRIGHT(2018) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Booklist

    October 1, 2018
    Grades 5-8 Multiple compelling Depression-era histories converge in Bruchac's latest, about a boy attending a government boarding school for Native Americans in 1932. Cal enjoys being a hobo with Pop, riding the rails and doing honest work. But then Pop gives Cal two pieces of life-changing news. The first is that Pop, who Cal always thought was white, is a Creek Indian. Second, Pop is going to D.C. to protest with other WWI veterans for their bonus payments. While Pop is gone, Cal will attend the Challagi Indian Boarding School, where Pop went as a boy. Challagi is a bleak and often brutal place, but, while there, Cal befriends other Native boys from various tribes for the first time. Pop's recollections of the abuses he witnessed at Challagi are so harsh that readers might initially wonder why he sends his son there?a question Bruchac also thoughtfully addresses in the afterword. But the students' utter subversion of Challagi's mission to sever their ties with Indian culture soon becomes apparent, as does Cal's powerful, growing understanding of his identity.(Reprinted with permission of Booklist, copyright 2018, American Library Association.)

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