The Second Chance of Benjamin Waterfalls -- a new Native American themed middle school novel

Disclosure: I was sent a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

Today I get to share a new middle school novel with Native American characters--Ojibwe to be exact and written by someone of Ojibwe descent. It is about finding oneself after you have hit rock bottom. It is The Second Chance of Benjamin Waterfalls by James Bird. It is recommended for ages 10 to 14.

From the Publisher:

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?

From Me:

At times you will be laughing your head off and at other times you will be crying with this book. It is well written and pulls you in. Benny is a lost kid. He hangs out with the bad kids and has taken up stealing. No matter what his mother does she can't straighten him up. The judge somehow goes with his mother's idea of sending him to live with his father on the Ojibwe Reservation and have him enter a boot camp per say. The boot camp is nothing like what anyone thinks. Yet it is magical and powerful. 

Niimi, the tribal chief's daughter, is in charge of helping people bloom. She drags Benny with her as part of his boot camp. He doesn't understand her--she is around his age and wears a mask covering the top half of her face and seems to think she is a superhero. Grown-ups are trusting her and at times paying her to help solve their problems. Benny thinks the entire thing is a scam until he sees it actually working. Throughout the book there are references to self-help, superheroes and villains as well as nature. Friday was Earth Day and I honestly thought I should be sharing this book for Earth Day. Niimi is very connected to the Earth and cares deeply for it and all that live on it. She has some traditional Native American beliefs and methods in her repertoire. 

This book is about life. It is about the struggles everyone goes through. It is about being mindful and learning how to fight the negative emotions and fears that make the struggles worse. It is about caring and helping others. It is about appreciating others. It is truly about how we are all connected and how our actions affect everyone. There are so many strong messages in this book, and it is a hard one to put down. It will have you reading and wanting to continue it to see what happens next. I hope you will check it out!