Cover image for Hidden roots
Hidden roots
Bruchac, Joseph, 1942-
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Scholastic Press, [2004]

Physical Description:
136 pages : illustrations ; 22 cm
Although he is uncertain why his father is so angry and what secret his mother is keeping from him, eleven-year-old Sonny knows that he is different from his classmates in their small New York town.
Reading Level:
830 Lexile.
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader AR MG 4.8 3.0 77125.

Reading Counts RC 3-5 5 7 Quiz: 36771 Guided reading level: T.
Format :


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Acclaimed author Joseph Bruchac makes his Scholastic Press debut with a powerful story of family and identity.

11-yr-old Sonny lives with his mother and father up near the Canadian border. Theirs isn't a peaceful household, given his father Jake's sudden rages, which can turn physical in an instant. Sonny's refuge is his mother, and his uncle Louis, a quiet, wise old man who seems to always appear when Sonny and his mother need help most. Jake hates when Louis comes around, but luckily he works long hours at the nearby paper mill. Through an unexpected friendship with a new school librarian, Sonny gains enough confidence to stand up to his his father, and to finally confront (cont'd)

Reviews 2

Publisher's Weekly Review

Reprising his signature themes, Bruchac sets up this taut novel to reveal a chilling bit of history: according to an endnote, the Vermont Eugenics Project, signed into law in 1931, enabled the state to incarcerate and sterilize many Abenaki Indians, on the grounds that they had "bad genes," leading other Abenaki to conceal their Indian identities. This revelation comes only near the end, although fans of Bruchac's writing and attentive readers will suspect much sooner that 11-year-old Sonny, the narrator, is related to the Indians whose customs and beliefs his Uncle Louis relates with such passion and insight. Sonny has plenty to contend with. The dawning Cold War, in 1954, means air-raid drills and talk of nuclear bombs. Yet even the bomb may not be as scary as his father, an abusive man so volatile that Sonny vows, "I will never be as angry as my father." Why does Sonny's father get so angry at Uncle Louis, and why does he have to work at the paper mill, where the machines mangle workers' limbs and chemicals poison the river? A terrible accident that costs Sonny's father part of his right hand, and a friendship with the town librarian, who shares the news that she lost her German Jewish parents in the Holocaust, reminds everyone to value what will always belong to them, namely, their identity. The author doesn't quite master all that he introduces, but the climactic shocker has the intended effect, and is certain to have a searing impact on the audience. Ages 9-12. (Feb.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

School Library Journal Review

Gr 5-9-Small for his 11 years and the last picked for playground games, Harold doesn't much care that he's friendless. His mother is also a loner; his father works at the paper mill and everything about his job makes him angry-chemicals spilling into the Hudson, the gnashing cogs of machine Number Three that will rip off a limb if you're not careful, and the double shifts that never bring in enough money. Life is hard in this upstate New York town during the early 1960s. Harold knows that his family has secrets; some are too threatening to make sense of while his mother tries to hide others. Uncle Louis visits mostly while his father is at work, showing Harold the wonders of this Adirondack wilderness. Bruchac's story takes its roots in the 1930s Native American sterilization program known as the Vermont Eugenics Program. This chilling reality haunted the Abenaki people, threatened their annihilation, and drove them into hiding for three decades. As Harold learns near the end of the story, his family, victims of that program, escaped to New York and claimed a French heritage. "Uncle Louis" is actually his mother's father. This purposeful but discerning book will prompt discussion and further research into the plight of the Native people from the Green Mountain State. Yet within this historical framework of the shameful deeds of man, pride and integrity hold the family together.-Alison Follos, North Country School, Lake Placid, NY (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.