In the Footsteps of Crazy Horseby Joseph M. Marshall IIIJim Yellowhawk (Illustrations)

Hardcover, 176 pages
Published November 10th 2015 by Harry N. Abrams
4.5 Stars

My Review: Joseph M. Marshall III is a member of the Lakota nation and he has written other books about Crazy Horse, his childhood hero. This is his biography written for younger readers. Eleven year-old Jimmy McClean is 3/4 Lakota, but his 1/4 Scottish gave him his looks. He is teased about not being a real Lakota by older boys at school. When school gets out for the summer, Jimmy’s grandfather, Nyles High Eagle, invites him to go on a road trip. Jimmy loves spending time with his grandfather, so jumps at the chance. This is not just any ordinary trip, this trip will take them on a journey to follow in the footsteps of Crazy Horse, the Lakota hero and leader who lived in the 1800s. One of the first things Jimmy learns is that Crazy Horse was also teased as a boy because he had light coloring and brown hair. In fact, Crazy Horse’s name as a boy was Light Hair. The journey takes them through South Dakota, Nebraska, Wyoming, and Montana. At each stop, Grandpa Nyles tells Jimmy how that area played an important part in the life of Crazy Horse and the Lakota. He explains what happened and why it happened. Jimmy learns that standing up for what you believe in is important and that strength comes from within.

For most readers, you have heard these stories from the perspective of the “Long Knives” or soldiers, but this story is from the perspective of the native people. I enjoyed learning about Crazy Horse and his struggles to defend the Lakota people from the encroachment of white settlers, gold miners and the US Army. One of the interesting things noted was the monument at the Battle of Little Big Horn. It states that General Custer and his battalion were defeated and there were no survivors, but Grandfather Nyles reminds Jimmy, there were survivors, the Lakota. We also learn about the strategy of the warriors that was successful at this battle. One thing I really liked was that Grandfather Nyles repeatedly stated that war should not be glorified and that all soldiers that died need to be remembered for their bravery and honour. The final stop on their trip is where Crazy Horse surrenders. The story explains why the Native People surrendered to the soldiers.

In the Footsteps of Crazy Horse is a well written story. The author explains that most of his information came from oral stories told by the Lakota as well as some other published works. The story is almost like a storyteller sharing this life of Crazy Horse with the reader. Jimmy and Grandpa Nyles are not fully part of the story except that they are the storyteller and receiver. It is an easy story to understand and follow and would make a great addition to a school or public library. A great middle grade story.

Jimmy McClean is a Lakota boy—though you would not guess it by his name: his father is a white man and his mother is Lakota. When he embarks on a journey with his grandfather, Nyles High Eagle, he learns more and more about his Lakota heritage—in particular, the story of Crazy Horse, one of the most important figures in Lakota history. Drawing inspiration from the oral stories of the Lakota tradition and the Lakota cultural mechanism of the “hero story,” Joseph Marshall provides readers with an insider’s perspective on the life of Tasunke Witko, better known as Crazy Horse. Through his grandfather’s tales about the famous warrior, Jimmy learns more about his Lakota heritage and, ultimately, himself.

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