Native-American author Joseph Marshall III has written many books for children and adults about the Sioux nation’s history and culture. In his latest book, In the Footsteps of Crazy Horse, Marshall deftly weaves an old story into a contemporary boy’s life, giving the tale a true sense of immediacy.
Jimmy McClean lives on the Rosebud Sioux Indian Reservation in South Dakota, and even though his name doesn’t sound very native, he knows more about his heritage than most kids—especially the two bullies he deals with at school every day. Jimmy’s strategy is avoidance and anger, but neither is working, and summer offers a much-needed respite.
Jimmy’s Grandpa Nyles tells him that learning about his ancestor Crazy Horse might help him with the bullies next time he encounters them. Jimmy’s skeptical, but he’s more than enthusiastic about going on a trip with his grandfather and seeing the places where Crazy Horse lived and fought. At each stop along the way, Grandpa Nyles tells about the hero’s childhood and the battles he led, allowing Jimmy to slowly soak in the lessons about being brave when you’re scared and being proud of who you are. By the time Jimmy starts school the next year, he’s ready. He calmly faces his enemies just as Crazy Horse did: afraid but determined to stand up for what’s right.
Marshall’s simple framework of weaving the stories about Crazy Horse with the self-discovery of a modern-day boy make this book a fine read. This is a wonderful introduction to the history of the American West as seen through the eyes of the Sioux people.
Jennifer Bruer Kitchel is the librarian for a Pre-K through 8th level Catholic school.