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Crossing Bok Chitto

Children's Literature

Box Chitto is the river that cuts through Mississippi and serves as the boundary between the Choctaw Indian nation and the plantation owners and their slaves. Martha Tom, a Choctaw girl, is sent to pick blackberries. Her quest for blackberries leads her to cross Box Chitto. She knows of a stone path just beneath the river's surface. As she discovers blackberries, she also discovers another people living in the woods--the slaves. Little Mo, a slave boy, leads Martha Tom back to the river and learns of her stone path; the two become good friends.

When Little Mo's mother is sold and the family fears separation, Little Mo realizes he can help by using the stone path that Martha Tom has shown him. The other Choctaw Indians help lead Little Mo's family across Bok Chitto and keep the guards away by appearing as ghosts. Tim Tingle, a member of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, tells a very moving story about friends helping each other and reveals a lesser-known part of American History: Native Americans helped runaway slaves. The muted and soft illustrations done by Jeanne Rorex Bridges, a Cherokee ancestor, fit the story's time and place, particularly the river's muddiness. The notes at the end also provide useful information to learn more about the Native Americans in history and the background of the story. While, this is a picture book; it would make a wonderful read-aloud for middle elementary students.

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