WARNING: Reading this article may give away things in the story ranging from unimportant to plot turners.
Standing in the Light: The Diary of Catherine Carey Logan by Mary Pope Osborne
Type: Children’s, Diary, Historical Fiction
Basic Plot: Catherine and her brother Thomas are worried about being kidnapped by hostile Native Americans. When their worst nightmare seems to have come true, they must learn to cope with their new life.
Plot: 3/5 Average: The story is a typical one of being captured by Native Americans. The main interest in the story is the suspense of what will happen to Catherine in her new “home” and how she and her brother will ever see each other again. Events are quite interesting and customs are explained, though the story does have quite a bit of predictability to it if one is older than twelve or read many of these kinds of stories before.
Writing Style and Setup: 3/5 Average: The style was consistent and emotional, as well as historically buffed up. The words “thee” and “thy” are used instead of you, adding more originality to it, though the use of the word is not always correct, such as using “thee” when referring to more than one person rather than the word “ye.” As for pacing, it is a fast moving story that quickly goes over the heart change of the protagonist. It does deal with some of the typical, boring hum-drum that most diaries do, but is overall interesting and not dry.
Moral: 1/5 A Bad Moral: Standing in Light has the seemingly good intentions of providing the moral of unity. Unity is not in it of itself bad. There is unity as citizens, unity as a family, unity as Christians, and even unity as human beings, but there is some unity that should not be. The book pushes the agenda that all gods are one and that one’s religion is as neutral as what one dreams. The Christian protagonist, by the end of the book, is ready to marry a non-Christian man and practically embraces the new religion along with her old one. While not all unity is bad, such positively portrayed unity of spiritual beliefs is harmful. One should make it clear to their children that while we are to love people of other religions and respect them, this in no way means our religions are one or that all gods are the same. Such philosophy goes beyond encouraging love to destroying the truth of God.
Overall: 3/5 Average: While much more interesting than some of the other Dear America books for its subject, the moral takes away from the story, as it is clearly the focus of the book. I would recommend parent’s look for different books on Native American captivity to read about, though if one wanted to read it anyway, I would recommend it for children of either gender ten and older.
Sexual and Inappropriate Content: 2/5 Suggestive Themes and Nudity: An seventeen year old and thirteen year old fall in love, though at the era this occurs in the story, it is considered normal. A girl blushes and feels shy around various boys. A boy flirts by saying a girl would look nice wearing blue. Some women help give a girl a bath. The historical notes in the book show shirtless men and women, though women’s chest are not fully shown.
Violence: 2/5 Brief Violence: A boy kicks and bites soldiers; the soldiers push and spit on an elderly women. A girl dreams bears beating “the brains out” of people, about her brother “being beaten to death,” and about a snake killing people. A boy hits a pig.
Swearing and Using the Lord’s Name in Vain: ½/5 Possible Misuse: The protagonist writes “My God” in front of a sentence once, but from her frequent references to God that are always correct, it is questionable whether she was taking God’s name in vain or merely talking to Him.
Emotional, Intense, and Disturbing Content: The plot of the book is that the female protagonist and her brother are kidnapped by Native Americans. The protagonist worries then and before her capture that her family will be murdered, kidnapped, or tortured by the Native Americans. This makes her wonder if they will “scalp or burn [her] alive.” After capture, her brother collapses, and she declared that they will “have to kill” her first if they want to kill him. They are not hurt. She goes through a depression after capture and wishes to die, saying she “pretend[s] to be dead.” She later goes through another depression after returning home, asking God to kill her. The character faints after being forcibly separated from her screaming brother. A character nearly drowns, and before trying to cross a river wonders if she will drown before deciding she does not care. A female character is tied by the hands. A character smells and sees fire and hears screaming, hinting that the Native American’s homes have been burned and the people killed, and they often never learn the answer. Characters worry that people have been killed. It is mentioned that Native Americans and settlers are murdered in anger and that the Native Americans kidnap or scalp people. It is mentioned that babies died from diseases, and one baby is sickly. Characters travel with weapons for self defense, though they are never used. It is mentioned that a man was forced to leave the Quakers for joining the army. Diarrhea, fevers, measles, small pox, toothaches, whooping cough, and worms are all mentioned, mentioned to have once caused the death of, or are acquired by characters. A character bleeds, and it is mentioned many times afterward. A character carries bleeding animals. A character throws up at least once and once twists her ankle. A character gets scratches on her hands from roughly grabbing something. A character wonders if a man’s body is “rotting… in the scrub.” “Blood” and “die” are used for descriptive purposes. Grown ups and babies cry from fear and sickness.
Religious Issues: 4/5 Push for Religious Unity and Glorification of Other Religions: The whole point of the story is to unite men as one, including in religion. By the end of the book, the main character believes that the Native American and Christian God are one, saying they are merely called by a different name. The protagonist says that a character angrily sticking up for some Native Americans is an expression of the Holy Spirit and wonders if pagan dancing is a visitation of the Holy Spirit. She wonders if the pagan dancing is any different than the Quaker belief that the Holy Spirit fills Christians so much that they shake. Characters believe that dreams tell them things, and the protagonist, by the end of the book, also believes this, mentioning her dreams and what they mean. A character tells another about being visited by an eagle spirit after fasting; he also tells her that his abilities are because of this eagle and that the eagle is his guardian spirit. A character sees an eagle and believes it is a spiritual message. A man says an eagle in a girl’s dream is possibly her “brother’s guardian.” The Native Americans worship a god called the Great Spirit and offer him smoke. Characters also pray and offer tobacco to nature spirits they call manetu, and the protagonist once participates in an offering. A character talks about how he believed the world was made; it is the belief that the world was created by a turtle and a tree. When the protagonist asked if a man believes this, he says that he does because his people do, comparing it to dreaming the same dream as the people you are with. She eventually agrees with this philosophy. A character talks about mythical creatures called Thunderbirds that make thunder; he believes they are real and the protagonist does not agree or disagree. A character says that corn came from crows. A character puts a doll on a stick and characters talk reverently to it. A woman puts a hole in a babies show with the belief that it will keep evil spirits away, and the protagonist mentions that if she goes home she will want that for her brother. The protagonist writes that she feels there father’s presence and asks him in her heart “not to grieve;” he is not dead. Characters are Quakers and Moravians. The protagonist sometimes thinks angry thoughts at God, saying He mocks her for letting her friends die on a nice day and that He takes care of the unsaved better than the Christians. When the protagonist thinks she can hear her brother, she concludes it is “the devil torturing” her. “Catechism,” “ghost,” and “haunting” are used for descriptive purposes.
Several characters, including the protagonist, are Quakers. Their religious meetings are mentioned and are described to be silent meetings when one occasionally speaks. Some characters are Moravians, though nothing is said about what they believe. “Reverend” is used.
Magic: 1/5 Mention: “Magic” is used at twice for descriptive purposes. The woman the protagonist lives with is a medicine woman, who attempts to cure people by shaking a rattle and singing. Her medicine is once called “potions” though no magic is used in making them. A character puts roots in water to read the future; the protagonist believes what she says. A man calls her a witch, but since though he does not know she is a medicine woman, it is more of a slur than an accusation. Attempted magic is never shown to have any affect.
Others: Characters dance pagan dances. It is mentioned that a woman was banned from the Quakers for dancing, and the protagonist admits she sometimes secretly dances. A girl imagines the boy she loves dancing. Another is banned for playing cards. A character has an eagle tattoo, and the historical notes show several Native Americans with tattoos. Characters plant tobacco and use it as an offering. Wine in the Bible is mentioned. It is mentioned that people that attack others were often drunk. Hemp is used to line diapers; it is not used for drug purposes.
Overall: For the serious religious issues, I do not recommend this book. It goes beyond encouraging a respect for others to embracing all religions as true, and even so far as to say the Holy Spirit is involved in pagan religions