Books by S.D. Nelson

RED CLOUD by S.D. Nelson
Released: March 14, 2017

"An impressive amount of information movingly and handsomely conveyed. (Biography. 9-12)"
The Oglala Lakota chief Red Cloud saw the disintegration of resistance against the United States Cavalry on the Great Plains at the end of the 19th century. Read full book review >
Released: Nov. 3, 2015

"Solidly historical and far more heartfelt than those on the overcrowded shelf of assignment-fodder profiles. (endnotes, bibliography, index) (Historical fiction. 10-13)"
A reverent tribute to the great Hunkpapa chief and holy man, cast as a memoir with a rich array of new and contemporary illustrations. Read full book review >
Released: Sept. 2, 2014

"A useful and thorough piece of work combining fiction and nonfiction, with an extensive author's note detailing the history of coal mining. (timeline, notes, bibliography, index) (Fiction/nonfiction hybrid. 8-12) "
Nelson departs from his usual Native American stories in this informative look at child coal miners. Read full book review >
Released: Oct. 1, 2012

"Pair with Nelson's Gift Horse (1999) for a broad vision of Plains Indian childhood. (notes, bibliography, index) (Informational picture book. 7-12)"
A noted Native American artist interprets the early life of Buffalo Bird Woman, Waheenee-wea, one of the last of the Hidatsa to live according to old traditions. Read full book review >
Released: June 4, 2012

"A serene, joyous appreciation of our place in the natural world. (author's note) (Picture book. 4-7)"
Past and present meet in a hymn to the Lakota Circle of Life. Read full book review >
Released: April 1, 2012

"A moving, fascinating glimpse across cultures, perfect to pair with Trickster (2010) by Matt Dembicki. (Anthology. 11 & up)"
Poet and teacher McLaughlin, after gradually connecting with his students at Red Cloud Indian School, provided them with creative-writing prompts that yielded sometimes-magical outcomes. Read full book review >
Released: Dec. 1, 2007

Nelson, a member of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe, uses the traditional Coyote trickster character as the focus of his contemporary holiday story, set on the Standing Rock Indian Reservation in the Dakotas. Coyote uses his magical tricks to create a Santa costume, complete with a gift sack full of straw, so that he can get into a family's house for Christmas Eve dinner. His comical act succeeds in fooling the entire family, which consists of two grandparents, their granddaughter, Isabel, and their grandson, Davy, who uses a wheelchair. Coyote himself is tricked when the straw in his gift sack is mysteriously transformed into gift-wrapped presents for each member of the family, including an empty box for Davy with an invisible gift that restores his ability to walk. Though the plot's resolution is rather melodramatic, Nelson pulls it off with his confident style as a storyteller. His polished illustrations bring the comical Coyote to life, maintaining his personality even when Coyote is eating spaghetti and meatballs or dancing on top of a fence. An informative, well-written author's note details the history of the Coyote character in Native-American legends. (Picture book. 5-9)Read full book review >
QUIET HERO by S.D. Nelson
Released: Sept. 1, 2006

Object of a hit song, a 1961 film and studies for adults, but not a separate profile for younger readers, Ira Hayes was less a "true American hero," as Nelson argues, than a tragic figure incapable of handling the fame that was thrust upon him. A shy, lonely lad raised on Arizona's Gila River Indian Reservation, Hayes found his place serving as "an honorable warrior" in the Pacific battlefield and was one of the WWII marines captured in the famous Iwo Jima photograph. He returned to the States a celebrity, took to drink to help deal with his feelings of isolation and died an alcoholic less than ten years later. Nelson tells the tale twice—once in simple language, accompanying dappled acrylic views of a bronze-skinned lad with downcast eyes, posing in and out of uniform, and again at the end in smaller type, with photos and more background detail. Hayes's life adds yet another sad chapter to the history of this country's treatment of Native Americans, but other than his courage as a soldier, this gives children no particular reason to admire, or even care particularly, about him. (source list) (Picture book/biography. 8-10)Read full book review >
Released: May 1, 2004

The creators of Crazy Horse's Vision (2000) offer another inspiring American portrait, again focusing on their subject's youth and extraordinary accomplishments. Dubbed Wa-tho-huck ("Bright Path") by his Pottowatomie mother, Thorpe attended several Indian Schools, struggling with academics but finding his path in sports, and emerging as the 20th century's most widely gifted—though only arguably "most dominant," as Bruchac claims—athlete. Nelson switches to a less-stylized, mystical look for the illustrations, depicting Thorpe growing from lad to burly manhood, chasing down a jackrabbit, standing downcast at lonely or sad moments, dashing past rival runners or football players as he flashes a faint, restrained smile. Finished with a career recap, plus a discussion of the long effort to restore Thorpe's confiscated Olympic medals, this doesn't make the most comprehensive, or searching, profile—but young readers in need of a role model could hardly do better. (Picture book/biography. 8-10)Read full book review >
Released: Sept. 1, 2003

Set in the 1800s, this traditional story retold by a member of the Standing Rock Lakota Sioux Tribe, tells of Sister Girl and her younger brother, who are caught in the middle of a raging prairie fire. The two follow the lead of the animals and are saved by falling into a shallow stream. After the fire subsides, the two children realize that they're lost. Guided by their grandmother, who resides in the heavens with the Star People, the two return safely home. Once they came to a hilltop and see that their village is below, the two children's grandmother returns to her home. Although the figures in Nelson's illustrations are not as flat as those in the traditional Lakota ledger book art, the colored pencils, pens, and crayon drawings do emulate the style with earth tones, character profiles, and images of clouds, stars, and animals. An exemplary offering. (author's note) (Picture book/folktale. 5-9)Read full book review >
CRAZY HORSE’S VISION by Joseph Bruchac
Released: May 1, 2000

Bruchac (Sacajawea, 2000, etc.) teams up with a Lakota (Sioux) artist for an atmospheric view of the feared and revered Crazy Horse's youth. At birth, the child dubbed "Curly" did not cry, but "studied the world with serious eyes," quietly going on to lead all of the other youths in courage and, having watched his people being gunned down for killing a "wasichu" settler's errant cow, slipping away on a premature vision quest. His stormy vision of a rider with a lightning bolt on his cheek, spots like hail on his chest, and a clear, if unspoken, command to "keep nothing for yourself," led him to become a man as noble as he was brilliant and daring. Inspired by the ledger-book art of the Plains Indians, Nelson paints his figures with stylized forms, chiseled features, and indistinct expressions, adding realistic depth of field but giving Crazy Horse blue skin to emphasize his connection to the spirit world. The author and illustrator both append substantial explanatory notes. Like A Boy Called Slow, also by Bruchac (1995), this makes inspirational reading and affords a glimpse into the heart of a renowned American leader. (Picture book/biography. 9-11)Read full book review >
Released: Nov. 1, 1999

From newcomer Nelson, a starry-eyed but exhilarating story of a Lakota boy coming of age on the Plains during the 19th century. The boy receives a horse from his father, a gift of great symbolic freight; it is on this horse, Storm, that the boy will travel to manhood. The boy explains the elements that go into becoming a Lakota warrior: he must learn to think before acting, to show imagination in the hunt, to be invited to attend a sweat lodge, and to go on a vision quest. Two major acts of courage are also involved: the taking of a buffalo and a confrontation with the enemy. The last is simply contact with, not the killing of, an enemy of his people, carried out during a raid to recapture horses, including Storm, stolen from the Lakota. Nelson explains every act within its spiritual context, which tends to slow the story, but the acts are so plainly good—thanking the buffalo for his gift, living in harmony with the earth and its creatures, etc.—that they are worthy of inclusion. The artwork is modeled after the ledger book drawings of the Plains Indians, as is explained in an author's note, which further elucidates the other stages of the boy's entering manhood. An impressive debut. (Picture book. 4-8) Read full book review >