Author Rosanne Parry’s first teaching job was on the Quinault Indian reservation in Taholah, Washington. Her fifth grade students at Taholah Elementary asked her why there had never been a book about them. Their questions launched Parry on a career as a writer of award-winning novels for young readers, including Heart of a Shepherd. Now, with Written in Stone, a heartfelt, meticulously researched portrait of a community in transition, Parry has provided an answer for her students, in a story dedicated to the children who inspired and welcomed her into their lives.
In 1923, Pearl is a 13-year-old girl who dreams of hunting whales like her renowned father, Victor Carver, who, she thinks proudly, is “the best whaler of the Makah, probably the best Indian whaler on the whole Pacific coast.” But Pearl’s hopes of accompanying her father are shattered when he is killed on the last whale hunt.
Pearl, who lost her mother and baby sister in the flu epidemic of 1918, must now search for her own path and find a way to carry forward and celebrate the traditions, stories and values of her family and community in a rapidly changing world.
In May 1999, the Makah successfully completed their first traditional whale hunt since the 1920s. Pearl’s story is told as a flashback on this occasion, as she remembers that last whale hunt and her own journey through her life.
In the author’s notes that provide historical context for young readers, Parry writes, “Pearl is a tribute to Native grandparents everywhere who work to keep cultural memory alive.” And it also seems clear that Written in Stone is a tribute to Parry’s fifth grade students, who shared their stories and culture with her.