About Where the Great Hawk Flies:
illustration by Stefano Vitale
Daniel Tucker’s thirteenth birthday, a hawk flies over
his family’s farm. Does the hawk announce a visitor, or warn
of imminent danger? Daniel’s mother and sister listen for
the hawk’s message, but something urgent stirs inside Daniel.
He is struggling to find his own path between the heritage of his
Pequot mother and the customs of his English father.
Meanwhile, a new family has moved into the crumbling cabin next
door. Hiram Coombs can’t believe his parents have returned
to Vermont now that the Revolutionary War is over. Don’t
they remember the terror of the raid, when Indians and Redcoats
burned the family’s old farm and kidnapped Hiram’s
When Hiram encounters Daniel at the trout stream that separates
the two farms, he sees only a “dirty Injun,” while
Daniel says Hiram is “buffle-brained.” Within a few
days, the arrival of two more unexpected visitors heightens the
tensions between the boys and threatens to rekindle the smoldering
embers of the war.
* "Although intermarriages between
white settlers and Indians were relatively common in America’s
early days, the half-Indian, half-white colonial experience
has rarely been explored for young readers. Inspired
by an incident recorded by her own mixed-race ancestors, Ketchum
tackles the theme in prose as sturdy and well-crafted as a
cedar-frame wigwam or hand-pegged pine barn." -
Booklist, starred review
“In the alternating voices of Daniel and his neighbor
Hiram, Ketchum expertly traces the growth of young Daniel,
who learns he can take from both worlds and can become friends
with someone once seen as an enemy. Surprisingly contemporary
and relevant in its coming of age theme and exploration of
the roots of hatred and the possibilities of friendship...Terrific
historical fiction.” - Kirkus
“Written with beautiful, touching metaphors and authentic speech, this historical novel is compelling and thought provoking…it is well researched and features strong characterization. The chapters alternate narratives and viewpoints between the two boys, allowing the reader to see the root causes of the prejudices and fears that haunt them both. The subtle but steady changes in the boys are realistically portrayed, and their relationships…no doubt reflect some of the same struggles that young adults face today. This excellent novel is a strongly recommended purchase for libraries of all sizes.” - VOYA 5Q Review
Order Where the Great Hawk Flies
FAQ: What inspired you to write this story?
Many years ago, my great-uncle Carleton Griswold Ketchum sent
me an article titled “ Randolph’s Indian Princess.” The
article told a fascinating story about a Pequot Indian midwife
named Margery Daigo and her husband, Joseph Griswold, who lived
in Randolph, Vermont during the 18 th century. They met when Joseph
had an accident and nearly drowned in the Connecticut River. Margery
and her father, who were both healers, rescued Joseph and nursed
him to health. The young couple married and moved to Vermont where
Joseph farmed and Margery became the only healer for miles around.
Griswold was a family name, and Margery came from the same town
as my great-uncle’s grandfather, so he thought we might be
related. “You should look into this,” my uncle said. “It
would make a good story.” But the article was unsigned. Did
it come from a book, or a magazine? I couldn’t tell. I even
wondered if the whole thing was made up. I put the article into
my “Idea File” where it sat for almost thirty years.
I never forgot the story. I even tried to write a novel using
a few elements of the original article, but I didn’t have
enough background information. Then, two things happened. First,
the Pequot Indians gained official tribal recognition from the
government. They regained control of their land and started a successful
casino, using some of the profits to build a museum with a wonderful
research library. Second, the Internet exploded—and with
a few clicks of my mouse, I was able to track down Vermont historians
who could help me learn the truth about my ancestors. After nearly
thirty years, I was ready to write the novel.
FAQ: Were these people really your ancestors?
Yes! When I started to research the novel, I got in touch with
the Randolph, Vermont, Historical Society and received a letter
from its director, Miriam (Mim) Herwig. She wrote that she had
many materials related to the Griswold family—and that she
was the historian who had written the original article about Margery.
My husband and I visited the Herwigs right away. They lived on
a ridge overlooking the river valley, in a brick house built by
one of Margery’s nephews. The Herwigs had many documents
waiting for us. When I unrolled my family tree, we matched it with
Mim’s information, and discovered that Margery and Joseph
Griswold were my great-great-great-great-great grandparents. Mim’s
husband, Wes, took us across the road to the town cemetery, where
Margery and Joseph Griswold were buried side by side. We could
barely read the faint inscriptions, carved into the slate headstones
long ago, yet I felt an immediate connection to my ancestors, whose
legacy had lasted into the 21 st century.
FAQ: Why does your author photo show you standing in a
I’m standing next to my ancestors’ graves. After I
visited the Herwigs to do my research, a stranger called me on
the phone and said, “Hello, cousin!” He told me that
Margery and Joseph were his ancestors, too. He had always
wanted to repair their gravestones. Would we like to help?
We knew that terrible things had happened, in the past, to people
who moved the stones covering Margery’s father’s grave,
so we were nervous about disturbing Margery’s gravesite.
Still, the stones were crumbling. We decided to use the original
stones as a base for a new headstone. That way, we could keep the
old stones in the same location. A local stonemason promised to
carve the same inscriptions on the new monument.
When Jim and the stonemason began to dig a trench for the new
marker, they discovered that someone had made a similar repair
years earlier. Two faded headstones, even older than the ones we
planned to replace, lay hidden underground. The two men carefully
set the second set of stones on the originals, and anchored the
new headstone on top. A few months later, my husband and I visited
the restored graves and burned Indian sweetgrass at the site, to
honor the ancestors and their legacy.
So—what is true, in this story, and what is
Although I changed names and invented places and incidents, I
incorporated many of the legends and facts about the Griswold family
into my novel. Whenever I write historical fiction, I try to make
sure that the details I include are as accurate as possible. I
do extensive research into the past to find out about period clothing,
food, language, work and tools. I want to know how people built
their homes, how they traveled, what games they played. I even
research the weather. Reading old diaries and letters, I discovered
that a freak early snowstorm fell on Vermont in October of 1780,
and I incorporated that storm into the story. I include real historical
events that would have had an impact on my characters, such as
the so-called “Indian Raid” that changed Hiram’s
life, or the fact that Vermont was still an Independent Republic
when the American Revolution ended.
I hope my readers feel that they have stepped out of a time machine
into another world, where people dress and speak differently than
we do, where their manner of travel, work, and play might seem
strange. Yet, in spite of the years that separate us, perhaps readers
will find that people in the past had feelings, fears, ambitions,
and dreams that remind us of ourselves.
FAQ: Why is the hawk so important to your story?
this novel, Daniel’s grandfather is a powwaw,
or medicine man. Pequot people believed that powwaws held
great spiritual power, or mundtu. They also believed that powwaws acted
as messengers between the spiritual and physical worlds, and that
they could assume the form of birds, snakes, or other animals.
(Do you think this happens, in my story? If so, send me a message,
through my Guest Book.)
While I was writing the novel, I saw an unusual number of hawks,
including goshawks and sharp-shinned hawks. But red-tail hawks
appeared most often. They flew over our pasture in Vermont. They
swooped over my car when I was driving in city traffic. They soared
above the trails where my husband and I take our favorite walks.
I started to wonder if they were trying to send me a message. One
day, while I was walking beside the Charles River, I saw a red-tail
hawk and immediately had the idea for a poem called “Messenger.” I
ran to my car, pulled out the notebook I carry all the time, and
wrote the poem that now opens the novel. I was grateful to that
hawk for her inspiration.
Tip for savvy readers:
If you have read my quartet of young
adult novels, you might realize
that the fictional town of Griswold, Vermont (the setting for Where
the Great Hawk Flies) is the same town where my modern characters—Alex
and Rita, Todd and Molly—lived more than 200 years later.
Can you find any landmarks that are the same?