Robbie Robertson is of Mohawk and Cayuga descent. In this book, he shares a story he heard growing up. It's based on true historical figures, and it's about how the oldest known participatory democracy on Earth was formed. It's also about personal healing after tragedy and turning away from violence.
The writing works so well because Robertson focuses in on his two title characters, and most deeply on Hiawatha, a man struggling with pain and grief due to the murder of his family. He agrees to travel with the Peacemaker and help him share a vision of peace even though he doesn't believe it yet himself. His emotional journey during the book is profoundly real. It takes him over half the book to even remember the joy of his lost family, instead of being consumed by anger.
Despite these big themes, it's totally appropriate for elementary school aged children. They may not get the full depth of emotion here that adults will, but the message of peace and forgiveness will come though clearly. It's also absolutely gorgeous. David Shannon absolutely wins here. So many of the pages could be paintings hanging in an art museum.
(If you're familiar with Longfellow's poem about Hiawatha, don't get confused. Longfellow got the name of his character totally wrong, as well as many other details.)