Mary Peace Finley
Award-winning author of books for young people
White Grizzly: "Colorado Libraries," Vol. 29, Number 1, Spring 2003, page 49. Reviewed by
Nancy Carter, Education bibliographer for University Libraries, University of Colorado,
Boulder, for fifteen years. For the last five years Carter has been the juvenile bibliographer as well. Her
background is in both Education and Mathematics.
"Mary Finley's White Grizzly is a historical fiction targeted toward the young reader age 10 and above, but it is a jolly
good read for almost anyone. Julio, a lad of 15, is journeying from New Mexico to Colorado to Missouri to find his
ancestry. Born of white parents, adopted by Mexicans, befriended by Cheyenne Indians, he finds himself
torn between three worlds. At Bent's Fort in Colorado he meets and travels east on the Santa Fe Trail to
Kansas Landing in Missouri with William Bent, herding Bent's sheep in return for being able to
accompany the wagons. Along the way, there are many adventures, including an encounter with a grizzly
bear and a kidnapping by Pawnees.
Like William Bent, there are other "real" characters in this story such as the slave couple that befriends Julio, Dick
and Charlotte Green, as well as a pair of unsavory characters, Christopher and Gallatin Searcy. The politics are real
as well. In 1845, war between the United States and Mexico was threatening. Slavery divided the
United States and would eventually lead to the Civil War. The places that Julio visits can still be
located today. The author not only grew up near Bent's Fort but also followed the Santa Fe Trail in
researching this book.
In order to distinguish between what is fact and what is fiction, Finley includes an appendix at the
end of the book entitled, "What's Fact? What's Fiction?" She refers to specific pages and
discusses places, events and characters that have a basis in fact. There is also a glossary in which
Spanish and Indian words and expressions are defined. There is a lot to learn in the book and it is presented with
skill and care. It is a true page-turner."
© Mary Peace Finley 2012