A middle-grade novel by James Bird about a boy sent to his Ojibwe family to straighten out his life.
Benjamin Waterfalls comes from a broken home, and the quickest fix he’s found for his life is to fill that emptiness with stuff he steals and then sells. But he’s been caught one too many times, and when he appears before a tough judge, his mother proposes sending him to “boot camp” at the Ojibwe reservation where they used to live.
Soon he is on his way to Grand Portage, Minnesota, to live with his father – the man Benny hasn’t seen in years. Not only is “boot camp” not what he expects, but his rehabilitation seems to be in the hands of the tribal leader’s daughter, who wears a mask. Why? Finding the answer to this and so many other questions prove tougher than any military-style boot camp. Will answers be enough for Benny to turn his life around and embrace his second chance?
James Bird's debut middle-grade novel, The Brave, was a Book Riot Best Book of 2020. He is also a screenwriter and director at the independent film company, Zombot Pictures; his films include We Are Boats and Honeyglue. Originally from California, James Bird is of Ojibwe descent, and now lives in Massachusetts with his wife, the author and actor Adriana Mather, and their son.
A 2023 Lone Star Reading List Selection
"The bravado and feigned indifference in Benny’s voice is spot-on for a kid hiding the pain of his father’s abandonment, and the times he lets himself contemplate how truly awful it felt to be left behind are heartbreakingly realistic. ....It’s a hard lesson, but it’s grounded in love, and readers will be happy to see Benny and his father get their second chances." —Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books (BCCB)
"Bird's strengths include his multidimensional characters (each of whom has flaws that they struggle to overcome) as well as the vivid descriptions of Grand Portage, Minnesota, home of the Gitchi Onigaming Ojibwe. Of equal importance is the more understated message that Indigenous ways of knowing and approaches to problems can be extremely effective, despite the dominant culture's insistence on discounting them. ... Benny's progress is heartening and sure to encourage readers." —Booklist
"A heartfelt, endearing, and inspiring story of second chances and first steps toward greatness." —School Library Journal