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Book cover of A Dirty Deed

A Dirty Deed

by Ted Stenhouse

Publisher: Kids Can Press, Limited
Pages: 192
Paperback
ISBN: 9781553373612






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Overview of A Dirty Deed

In this novel by Ted Stenhouse we return to the community of Grayson first introduced in Across the Steel River. It's 1952 and in this small prairie town not too many white kids have an Indian for their best friend. Will tries not to care what the townsfolk think. No matter what anyone says, Arthur's been like a brother to him. So when they witness a young Indian being hunted down like an animal by Old Man Howe, the town's richest man, they set out to find the facts — only to uncover dirty dealings that hide generations of disgrace in the Howe family. As a story of deception and cruelty unfolds, Will discovers that everyone has something to be ashamed of — and that no amount of money or power is enough to ease that shame.

Two boys uncover a plot to cheat the rightful owner out of a tract of land.

Synopsis of A Dirty Deed

This novel by Ted Stenhouse is the sequel to Across the Steel River. This time, the boys uncover generations of disgrace and realize that everyone has something to hide.

Paula Rohrlick - KLIATT

Willy and his Indian friend, Arthur, are out late one night stargazing when they see three white men chasing an Indian youth. The youth manages to hide some papers before he is caught and beaten; the boys snatch up the papers, which turn out to be a land deed from 1917, and set out to solve the mystery of why they are so important. In the process, they find themselves up against the richest white man in town, Mr. Howe, and discover his dirty dealings and family secrets. Despite the danger to themselves, they help to reunite a family and undo past wrongs. Set in the small prairie town of Greyson, Alberta in July 1952, this sequel to Across the Steel River can stand alone. It moves at a fast clip, with lots of action and some violence, and has much to say about Indian-white relations and the prejudices of the time. An exciting suspense story for upper elementary school and middle school boys; the prairie landscape (much like that of Farley Mowat's Owls in the Family, set on the Saskatchewan prairie) is conveyed particularly well. KLIATT Codes: J Recommended for junior high school students. 2003, Kids Can Read Press, 192p.,

About the Author, Ted Stenhouse

Ted Stenhouse grew up in Gleichen, Alberta. He now lives in Wahpeton, North Dakota.

Reviews of A Dirty Deed

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Editorials

Children's Literature

This is a multicultural story that takes place in 1952 when racism was still strong in many areas. Will and Arthur are best friends, but it isn't without some cost, since Will is white and Arthur is Indian. While spending a lazy afternoon lying in the grass talking about school, both boys witness a group of men chasing a young Indian boy called Catface. Catface manages to escape the dogs and men long enough to hide some papers under a rock and looks directly into the faces of Will and Arthur. In order to safeguard the papers, Will and Arthur take them from the hiding place, but as they leave the area, they can hear the screams of Catface. In the rest of the story, Will and Arthur try to find reasons why the richest man in the town chased Catface and why the papers they took from the hiding place were important. During the search for truth, the boys learn much about themselves. This book is compelling from the first to the last page and is written in a manner that allows the reader to feel the emotions of each character. This book sends a powerful message and long after completion, the reader will continue to think about it. 2003, Kids Can Press, Josephs

KLIATT

Willy and his Indian friend, Arthur, are out late one night stargazing when they see three white men chasing an Indian youth. The youth manages to hide some papers before he is caught and beaten; the boys snatch up the papers, which turn out to be a land deed from 1917, and set out to solve the mystery of why they are so important. In the process, they find themselves up against the richest white man in town, Mr. Howe, and discover his dirty dealings and family secrets. Despite the danger to themselves, they help to reunite a family and undo past wrongs. Set in the small prairie town of Greyson, Alberta in July 1952, this sequel to Across the Steel River can stand alone. It moves at a fast clip, with lots of action and some violence, and has much to say about Indian-white relations and the prejudices of the time. An exciting suspense story for upper elementary school and middle school boys; the prairie landscape (much like that of Farley Mowat's Owls in the Family, set on the Saskatchewan prairie) is conveyed particularly well. KLIATT Codes: J—Recommended for junior high school students. 2003, Kids Can Read Press, 192p.,
— Paula Rohrlick

VOYA

Stenhouse revisits Grayson, a small town in Alberta, Canada, in this follow-up to Across the Steel River (Kids Can Press, 2001/VOYA February 2002). Will and Arthur, a Blackfoot Indian, are best friends in a community rife with prejudice and hatred. When the boys witness the pursuit and beating of teenage Catface by the town's richest man, Old Man Howe, they decide to investigate the situation. A land deed, purportedly stolen by Catface, is at the heart of the matter and is the key to Howe's manipulation and destruction of his own daughter and her Native American lover. Despite dishonest law officials, Howe's cronies, and vicious dogs, Will and Arthur manage to set things right with the help of honorable adults. This novel offers an insightful look at the way Canadian Indians were treated in the fifties. The reader learns about the poor living conditions on the Reserves, the special schools that existed for the children, and the lack of civil rights. Arthur's grandfather epitomizes the First Nations' strength and dignity, as he mentors, guides, and protects the boys. The reader gets a glimpse of their households, places where strong mothers love the boys. Combining an adventure story with a strong friendship tale, the vividly described action scenes and believable characters move the plot along nicely. Although the second novel about Arthur and Will, the book ably stands alone. Short chapters and plenty of action make it a good read, especially for younger teenage boys. VOYA Codes: 4Q 3P M J (Better than most, marred only by occasional lapses; Will appeal with pushing; Middle School, defined as grades 6 to 8; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9). 2003, Kids Can Press, 192p,
—Rachelle Bilz

School Library Journal

Gr 6-9-Stenhouse returns to 1952 Grayson, a Canadian town, in this companion to Across the Steel River (Kids Can, 2001). While out stargazing, best friends Will and Arthur, who is a Blackfoot Indian, witness the beating of a teen, Catface, by Old Man Howe, the town's richest man. The seventh graders end up with a land deed that Howe claims Catface stole, but the deeper the boys dig, the more questions arise, and the more cruelty and shame they uncover. Deception, prejudice, and evil pepper Howe's past dealings with his own family, particularly his daughter who married an Indian and is Catface's grandmother. Will and Arthur manage to set things right, but at great risk to themselves and their friendship. The town's intense prejudice sometimes comes close to overshadowing an otherwise exciting plot and intriguing characters. Though that bigotry plays an integral part in Howe's past, and hence Will's and Arthur's present, there is so much anger in the characters that the story loses focus in several places. While the book promotes an understanding of racial prejudice, it's a heavy, unpleasant read.-Linda Bindner, Truman State University, Kirksville, MO Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.

Kirkus Reviews

Stenhouse continues his story begun in Across the Steel River (not reviewed) with another mystery laced with tones of racial bias and starring the same two boys, Will, who's white, and Arthur, a Blackfoot Indian. The title holds double meaning: "deed," as in an action, in this case one against decency, justice, and the Indian people of a small Canadian town on Alberta's prairies. The other meaning, a title to land ownership, here refers to that deeded to an Indian during WWI by the most powerful, cruel, and unjust white man in town, "old man Howe." Now, during the Korean War in 1952, Howe will stop at nothing to retrieve the document that has passed to other generations of the original deed-holder's family. Told in the first person, the adventure-mystery speeds along as the town, its inhabitants, its setting, and history are revealed. Howe controls the Mounties, the town's business, and a gang of thugs who do his bidding, often cruel and physically destructive to those who oppose him. The too-large cast weaves in and out of Will's narrative and relationships become hazy. Throughout, Will and Arthur meet with near-escapes, but there are so many cliffhangers that it stretches reader credulity. The latter is especially so, given the uncertain duration of the endless action, which may cover only a few days and nights. A good many unexplained incidents also occur and may leave a reader unclear about them as real experiences or as mere figments of Will's dreams. Despite a very active plot that portrays the degradation of Canada's first People, Stenhouse tries to do too much and, as a result, fails. (Fiction. 10-12)

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