Twerp's process involves earning 12 eagle feathers in various challenges designed to strengthen him and increase his knowledge. It's the chief who gives the boy the name Twerp, and guides his training through tasks and stories. For example, a story about ice cream results in, Thoughts are like food, they either nourish you or poison you. Swallow only good food. Spit out the bad.... disappointment is no reason to eat poison. Throughout the book, as Twerp grows up from age 7 to seventeen, he revisits the ruin when he feels a need in his life. Each time, the war chief appears with a lesson based on what the boy is struggling with at the time.
The idea of earning your way to manhood is a very old concept, and achieving twelve eagle feathers is a story line that will keep the attention of most young boys. For example, Twerp's first feather is the "Feather of Perspective." This feather is earned when he realizes there is a world beyond himself. The old war chief helps him understand what "Perspective" means, then Twerp is instructed to go live that lesson until he can prove, on his next visit to the chief, that he has truly mastered the concept. Each feather is presented at a special place among the ruins in a ritual between the boy and the chief. Other feathers are earned in different ways. There is the "Feather of Balance", the "Feather of Faith", and the "Feather of Discipline," to name a few. But then I don’t want to give away too much of the story.
I like the idea how the boy learns he must re-tribe himself. He is instructed by the war chief to create a new tribe for himself because his own tribe is broken. He learns there are many times in life when a boy needs the wisdom and support of a male elder. The boy also learns there is no one elder who can teach you everything you need. To accomplish the challenge of finding these wise men, the war chief teaches the boy how to expand his tribe and to find the guides he will need for his journey.
I also really liked the underlying lesson that the war chief himself learns. It turns out that the chief is rewarded with HIS 13th feather for shepherding Twerp, thus both males complete a stage on their respective paths toward manhood.
The book unfolds a tale any boy can understand (and it will resonate with many men too!). It’s a book that celebrates what one boy’s journey toward manhood represents for the boy, his initiators, and his tribe.
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