Brave Buffalo Fighter

Book cover: 'Brave Buffalo Fighter'
John D. Fitzgerald
Bethlehem Books
Number of pages: 
178 pages
Grade / Age level: 

This story is told in the style of a journal written by a ten year old girl who travels by wagon train with her parents and her twelve year old brother from St. Joseph, Missouri to Fort Laramie (Wyoming) in 1860. The author relates a very detailed account of how life was lived on a highly organized wagon train (and some comparisons with one that was slopped together and suffered great difficulties from it). We also see the growth of character in the family (particularly the mother) who must accustome themselves to hard labor and ignoring their previous station in society. There are many beautiful examples of how our behavior and attitudes can change the lives of others and how intensely the choices we make can be crucial to the things that matter most. The story as a whole offers great themes of heroism and sacrifice and should provide lots of material for thought and discussion. A very unique and worthwhile book.

Discussion Questions:

1. Why does Mamma have so much difficulty adjusting to life aboard the wagon train? How does the journey change her life?

2. Why do the Cleavers find themselves in trouble with the others on the wagon train?

3. After the trial of the Cleavers (Chapter 5), Papa tries to explain to Mama why things turned out the way they did. He says "There are times, Ellen, when a person must live for others before they can have a full life for themselves." Explain how this might be considered a theme in the book by applying it to the actions of Mama and of Jerry.

4. Did Jerry make the right decision in Chapter 13? Explain why or why not in terms of practical considerations and his Christian faith.

Giant of the Western Trail by Rev. Michael McHugh, about Fr. Pierre-Jean de Smet, has many interconnections with Brave Buffalo Fighter. In addition to many details of Indian life in the same geographical locations, it provides some Catholic perspective to that time and place in history. Since both books are also appropriate to the same grade levels (7th - 12th), they would be great to read in close proximity. I would suggest Brave Buffalo Fighter first because it is more novel-like and exciting and provides an excellent preview to the story of Fr. deSmet.

Additional notes: 

This title was donated for review by Bethlehem Books.

Review Date: 
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