What kind of a girl steals the clothes from a dead man’s back and runs off to join the army? A desperate one. That’s who.
These words are spoken by Charlotte, a young African-American slave from the deep south at around the time of the American Civil War. And Buffalo Soldier is her story, a story of what it means to live in a land where nobody wants you. Freed from slavery by the “folks in Washington”, she remains trapped not only by the colour of her skin but also by her gender.
Through Charlotte’s emotional story telling you are transported right in to the heart of late 19th century America. Her world is one of terror, isolation and survival as to stay alive she enlists in the army disguised as a young man. Her cavalry regiment is given the task of maintaining order on the American Plains by protecting the white settlers and keeping the Native Americans under control. Moral lines soon become blurred as Charlotte and her regiment move West.
I loved Buffalo Soldier and as a reader I was always rooting for Charlotte and willing her to get a break. There are plenty of twists and gripping episodes where you find yourself holding your breath and not wanting to turn the page in case her secret is discovered. It also made me want to read more stories from this period of history and check out the author’s earlier novel Apache – a tale set around the same time but narrated by a Native American girl.
Tanya Landman won the Carnegie Medal in 2015 for Buffalo Soldier. She is visiting Ipswich on 16 November and speaking at an evening event at Hillside Primary School.
Buffalo Soldier by Tanya Landman, Published by Walker Books, ages 11+, 360 pages. Reserve it from Suffolk Libraries
Accelerated Reader information
ATOS Book Level: 5.3
AR Quiz No. 226207
Interest Level: Upper Years
AR Points: 13.0