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Mysteries of the Past: reading realistic fiction; A View from the Walnut Tree 7


Read the passage, then answer the TWO practice questions.

A View from the Walnut Tree

  1. “Esi! Esi!”
  2. Esiban looked behind her, rolling her eyes as her brother hurled a mudball from the creek in her direction.
  3. “Cut it out, Kåg!” said Esiban.
  4. Esiban’s brother ignored her. “I’ve told you, I’m changing my name. It’s Makwa now,” he boasted, sticking his chest out and strutting.
  5. Esiban looked at Kåg, his hair sticking up like the porcupine for which he was named. He would indeed be getting a new name soon, when he completed the Huskanaw ceremony that would make him a man, but the scrawny nine-year-old bore little resemblance to a bear. More like a badger: stubborn and irritable. Or a duck, constantly quacking.
  6. “Then stop, Makwa. Shouldn’t you be doing something useful, like hunting? Or fishing? Or just being somewhere other than here?”
  7. “Shouldn’t you be weeding the corn?” Kåg asked.
  8. But Esiban ignored him. Although her mother had gently suggested she help out in the garden, Esiban had decided the request could wait for another day. At twelve, she’d soon be expected to settle down and get to work. But for now, she had better things to do. Esiban’s name meant “raccoon” in the language of her Algonquin people, and like her namesake, Esiban’s insatiable curiosity often led her away from more productive endeavors.
  9. Esiban looked at her brother. He was gazing toward the north, where the sounds of axes echoed.
  10. “What do you think they’re doing over there?” he asked.
  11. Esiban shook her head silently. Who could guess? Every time Esiban asked her parents or aunts, they told her that it was better not to meddle in the ways of strangers—and especially not these mysterious new arrivals with skin so pale some said they were more spirit than human.
  12. “I bet I could find out,” Esiban said, half-joking.
  13. Kåg raised an eyebrow incredulously, and Esiban made up her mind. Leaving her brother behind, she sprinted toward the sound as Kåg yelled for her to wait.
  14. Esiban crouched in a forked tree limb, breath bated in anticipation, listening for footsteps near the tree where she hid. She’d chosen a wormy-looking walnut tree . . . the settlers chopping down trees for their houses were unlikely to choose this one, and its thick leaves would conceal her from view. Esiban inched higher, searching for a clear view of the village the settlers seemed so determined to build.
  15. Finally, as the branches became increasingly precarious, Esiban was able to see through the canopy of leaves toward the clearing that had emerged over the past several weeks. The very first settlers she saw almost made her fall out of the tree with laughter.
  16. It was a man and his two sons, clearing a field for planting. A man! And boys! Doing what was clearly women’s work. Esiban attempted to get control of herself, watching the boys struggle to pull up a long, knotty tree root. She and her mother could have had that root out of the ground in no time. She couldn’t wait to get back and tell Kåg, but also couldn’t take her eyes off these bizarre people.
  17. The boys’ entire bodies were covered in cloth, and the man wore even more elaborate clothing. He even had heavy brown shoes on his feet, nothing like the thin moccasins Esiban wore. As she watched the boys sweating in the sun as they wrestled the root, Esiban marveled that they didn’t simply remove their shirts and trousers.
  18. All this—the clothing, the hilarity of men working—paled in comparison to what happened next. The smaller of the two boys, no older than Kåg, pulled on the root and fell to the ground. The man stood over him, clearly angry. He gestured furiously toward the uncleared field, the sweep of his hand indicating the unpulled stumps, the rocks strewn throughout the field, and the weeds taking over the small areas that had been cleared. Leaning down, he grabbed the boy’s arm and hauled him to his feet. Esiban stifled a gasp as the man shook his son roughly before storming off the field, leaving the chastised boy and his brother to continue struggling with the root. Esiban was astounded—she’d never seen an adult lay hands on a child in anger; she couldn’t have imagined it if she hadn’t seen it with her own eyes.
  19. Esiban crept down through the branches of the walnut tree, engulfed in leaves and undetectable from below. She listened for a moment to make sure the coast was clear, then hopped lightly down from the lowest branch, landing soundlessly with her knees bent. Then, she raced back toward her family’s longhouse. She paused a little distance away, hearing her grandmother’s voice singing the water song:
    Nee bee wah bow
    En die en
    Aah key mis kquee
    Nee bee way bow
    Hey ya hey ya hey ya hey.

  20. Kåg was waiting for her outside. He jumped up as the dogs ran toward Esiban. “So? What did you see?”
  21. Esiban started to speak, faltered, and shook her head, unsure how to explain the lives of the settlers. She wasn’t sure her brother would believe her, even if she did. Taking in Kåg’s messy, porcupine hair and his mischievous smile, she grabbed her little brother in a quick hug. Then she headed inside the longhouse to help with supper.

Practice questions

This question has two parts. Answer Part A, then Part B.

Part A

What does Esiban realize after watching the settlers try to clear the field?
Choose 1 answer:

Part B

Which piece of evidence supports your answer to Part A?
Choose 1 answer:
Psst! Don't forget to choose an answer for both questions :)