Arnold Spirit is a fourteen-year-old Indian who lives on the Spokane Indian Reservation in Welpinit Washington. Arnold was born with water on the brain, and had seizures, and multiple other health problems as young child. His health problems, speech problems, and general geekiness have made him the target of much cruelty on the reservation, and his best friend, Rowdy, easily one of the toughest kids on the reservation, has often assumed the role of protector.
Arnold, despite his multiple physical problems, is also very smart. When he is presented with a thirty-year-old textbook the first day of high school, he decides he must leave the reservation, and go to school at Reardon, an all white school, twenty-five miles up the road. Arnold asks Rowdy to accompany him, but Rowdy refuses, and the friendship seems irreparably damaged. Arnold faces the loneliness of being the first Native American in an all-white school without his best friend's support. It is a sad and lonely time.
Surprisingly, Arnold is also very good at basketball. He makes the varsity team as a freshman, and his team must face Rowdy and his old teammates, not once, but twice during the season.
This is an amazing coming of age story- of poverty, of difference, of friendship. Very powerful text, then parts of the story are told in comic strips drawn by Arnold. As I read the text, I wonder if I could get my boys to read it. I imagine chains or ladders of increasingly more complex books, e.g. Ricky Ricotta, Captain Underpants, Diary of a Wimpy Kid and Roderick Rules, then this one. There are probably lots of other books that would fit into this ladder.... Hmmmm.