Author: Jodi Lea Stewart
Title: Silki, the Girl of Many Scarves: Summer of the Ancient
Genre: Fiction / YA Fiction / Adventure-Mystery
This short, fast-paced novel introduces readers to Silki, a young girl growing up on the Navajo reservation who loves her horse and using her creative imagination. One day, when a dark shadow passes over her out near Concho Mountain, she’s certain it’s the Watchman for the Kingdom of the Ants, an ancient who is upset at her and her friend for taking the ants’ relics.
She figures, if they return the relics, everything will be fine, but her friend isn’t all that interested in her story—or in hunting down the bits of pottery they once treasured, now scattered through a volleyball-themed bedroom.
The narration presents the setting with great detail, noting the feeling, smells, and tastes of being on the land. The story is told from Silki’s perspective and thus nicely lets readers explore her imaginative wanderings directly, and it frequently indicates what the people around her look like as well.
Sometimes, though, like with her parents, the details are more absent. This could be a deliberate attempt to show how Silki is more interested in her horse, her friend, and meeting a newcomer than her immediate family, but it does create a bit of a visual void. Still, her attitude toward other people is that of respect, honoring her family and friends even when she is frustrated with them or doesn’t understand their decisions.
The characters themselves are vibrant—joking, encouraging, scolding, disagreeing, and interacting with each other in very believable ways. The author not only shows us how they act but creates memorable ways of understanding their quirks and perspectives to where readers can readily grasp Silki’s world and her changing place in it.
The plot keeps things moving nicely, with plenty of worries for Silki, and as her friend changes, her concerns about the ancient increase, and she finds herself asked to help out more and more instead of enjoying her summer on her horse like usual. However, the ending can feel incomplete, to where this story seems more like a launching point for the rest of the series than a complete story by itself.
The story is relatively short, and at one point seems to jump over what could feel like a pertinent moment in Silki’s growth, rushing into an ending that seemed short on resolution. One could easily feel that progress was made with the various story arcs, but nothing definite seemed to be achieved in this volume, urging one on to the next book in a way that some readers might find frustrating.
Summer of the Ancient addresses themes of growing up, friends’ interests changing, and taking on responsibility with humor, believability, and deep appreciation for the Navajo culture. Those who enjoy a coming-of-age series with heartfelt characters, a dash of creativity, and a unique, detailed setting will enjoy this book.
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