HOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW
Book: In the Footsteps of Crazy Horse
Author: Joseph Marshall III
Illustrator: Jim Yellowhawk
Publisher: Amulet Books, 2015
Language level: 2
(1=nothing objectionable; 2=common euphemisms and/or childish slang terms; 3=some cursing or profanity; 4=a lot of cursing or profanity; 5=obscenity and/or vulgarity)
Recommended reading level: Ages 10 – 14
Rating: ***** 5 stars (EXCELLENT)
Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker
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Marshall, Joseph III. In the Footsteps of Crazy Horse (published in 2015 by Amulet Books, an imprint of Abrams, 115 W. 18th St., New York City, NY 10011). Eleven year old Jimmy McClean is a Lakota boy, though you wouldn’t guess it by his name or his appearance. He lives with his father James McLean Sr., a tribal police officer who is part Scottish and part Lakota, and his mother Anne, a Head Start teacher who is Lakota, in the town of Cold River on the Rosebud Sioux Indian Reservation in South Dakota, near the Smoking Earth River, and goes to Cold River Public School. Because he has blue eyes, brown hair, and light skin, instead of black hair, tan skin, and brown eyes like other Lakota children, two kids at school, Corky Brin and Jesse Little Horse, tease him unmercifully, saying, “You’re just an Indian pretending to be white.” During the summer break, Jimmy embarks on a journey with his grandfather, Nyles High Eagle, to learn more about his Lakota heritage, and in particular, the story of Tasunke Witko, better known as Crazy Horse (c. 1840–1877), one of the most important figures in Lakota and American history.
Through his grandfather’s tales about the famous warrior, Jimmy hears about the heroic deeds of the Lakota leader who took up arms against the U. S. federal government to fight against encroachments on the territories and way of life of the Lakota people, including leading a war party to victory at the Battle of the Little Bighorn. Along the way, will Jimmy come to understand anything about himself? Drawing references and inspiration from the oral stories of the Lakota tradition, author Joseph Marshall III, who himself is an enrolled member of the Sicangu Lakota or Rosebud Sioux tribe, alternates the contemporary story of Jimmy with the life of Crazy Horse, who along with Sitting Bull, was the last of the Lakota to surrender his people to the U.S. army. It is almost like a biography, following Crazy Horse from his teen years c. 1855 in Nebraska, through the so-called “Fetterman Massacre” of 1866 in Wyoming, to the Little Bighorn in 1876 and his death the following year.
A couple of common euphemisms (darn, geez) occur, but there is no cursing or profanity. I was at first afraid that the book might be rather one-sided. “Long Knives were known to attack any Lakota—man, woman, or child. They were mean people—if they were people at all” (p. 21). In other words, all “Long Knives” (white soldiers) were evil. And, of course, there is certainly no denying that many white people, including some in our government, sorely mistreated and abused Native Americans. However, it turned out to be quite even-handed. Grandpa says, “But we have to remember the soldiers kindly too. They fought hard” (p. 73). And of the Indian leaders, he says, “But not all of them were really good men, not all of them were humble, like” Crazy Horse (p. 74). It simply presents the facts and lets the reader draw his own conclusions. In the Footsteps of Crazy Horse, which is scheduled to be released on November 10, 2015, would make an excellent literary accompaniment to a study of the role that Native Americans played in our nation’s history.