Critical Context

The Last Algonquin was named the best book of 1982 by both the American Library Association and the School Library Association. Like his father before him, Kazimiroff was determined to keep the last Algonquin alive, this time by telling his story to a wider audience of young readers. Although this is secondhand biography, it is compelling because it draws on the rich anecdotal style of oral tradition.

The term “Indian” is used throughout the book, both by the author and by Two Trees himself, as the publication of The Last Algonquin preceded the more current use of “Native American” in literature for young readers. Nevertheless, reverence and respect for Native American cultures are evident on every page, and educators are encouraged to continue using this popular and well-written biography for literature study or as supplementary reading in American history.

The very real person of Joe Two Trees reaches out to readers and takes them into the problems and events of nineteenth century life: slavery, the plight of abused laborers, and prejudice toward both Native Americans and newly arrived immigrants. The Last Algonquin is rich with details of Native American history and culture. Of special interest are descriptions of how archaeologists discover and interpret materials and signs left by previous cultures. Most young readers will be surprised to discover that a great city sits over the remains of a once-proud civilization. More important, they will be challenged to reflect on the historical events that created outsiders of the native peoples of America.