Jim Remsen’s Visions of Teaoga, also aimed at readers 10 and older, follows Maddy Winter, a middle-schooler who comes north from Houston to join her father for two weeks in rural upstate Pennsylvania, where he is temporarily assigned as an engineer. They settle into an extended-stay motel outside a town whose glory days ended a century ago. Here, in the roadside monuments and markers that most travelers barely notice, Remsen finds grist for an engrossing read that’s part historical fiction, part coming-of-age novel, and part spiritual awakening.
At first, Maddy struggles against her alien surroundings, but as her father introduces her to the town of Athens and its history, Maddy is drawn to its remnants of native American culture. Turns out, just a stone’s throw from the minimart, centuries of native American life and culture had flourished in the area known as Teaoga. Passing through were the mighty American Indian tribes, the British and Colonial military leaders, the gentle Moravians, and the yengwe – or white settlers. There were times of peace and times of war, of friendship and estrangement, and of ongoing battles for land.
Maddy’s father has arranged a job for her at a local summer camp, and there she helps the campers uncover the secrets of their forebears. She also encounters people – both from the past and present – who help her in what becomes a quest to be her best self. “Visions of Teaoga” successfully wraps native American history in a likable 21st-century coming-of-age tale.