School bullies claim Jimmy McClean’s blue eyes, fair hair, and Scottish surname mean he’s not a real Indian; to validate Jimmy’s Lakota heritage, Grandpa Nyles suggests a road trip in search of another Lakota with fair hair and skin: Crazy Horse.
Their journey takes them across the Great Plains to where Crazy Horse first witnessed attacks on his people and where he fought to end white appropriation of their homeland. Accounts of battles and stories of his integrity and commitment to providing for the weak and elderly in need bring Crazy Horse into focus. The Lakota author’s first book for children (The Day the World Ended at Little Bighorn, 2007, etc.) doesn’t airbrush tragic events; they are here, placed in context. At each site, Nyles tells the story (set in italics) of what happened to Crazy Horse there. Between stops, Nyles answers Jimmy’s questions in conversations that allow readers distance to process often bleak events and to reflect on their meaning today (the art’s storybook sensibility helps here). The story’s heavy in losses and defeats, but it’s also uplifting in ways seldom addressed in children’s fiction. Crazy Horse could have led his last small band of warriors to a heroic end in battle. But great leadership mandates a different kind of courage. He chose surrender as the best hope for protecting his people—the vulnerable children, women, and elderly.
This powerful introduction to a great warrior and leader invites readers to ponder the meaning of “hero.” (author’s note, glossary, bibliography) (Fiction. 9-12)