WOUNDED KNEE by Neil Waldman


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Age Range: 9 - 13
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Waldman’s (The Wisdom Bird, 2000, etc.) account of the massacre at Wounded Knee is accessible to young readers, but troubling in its lack of documentation. His short narrative moves quickly through the background of the Overland Trail and the Indian “treaties,” boarding schools and the Ghost Dance religion, to the events that lead to the historic slaughter. He describes how the settlers and the government quickly decimated the Lakota’s culture (acknowledging, for instance, the systematic slaughter of the buffalo), and portrays the events at Wounded Knee as a massacre, rather than the “battle” it has been called. He makes good use of newspaper headlines and articles to convey the sentiments of the white culture at the time, but he also makes use of dialogue and dramatic setting that is unattributed (“the braves glanced nervously at one another, sensing that a bloody confrontation loomed just ahead”). At the front and end, there’s a present-tense description of the battle from Black Elk’s point of view. Also unattributed, it is a loose paraphrase from Black Elk Speaks (which Waldman does include in his bibliography), including some phrases in direct quotes, but with some curious alterations. For instance, “I painted my face all red . . . It did not take me long to get ready” (from Black Elk Speaks) becomes “He hurriedly painted his face red” (in Waldman’s text). Though Black Elk Speaks indicates “when we were charging, I just held the sacred bow out in front of me with my right hand. The bullets did not hit us at all,” Waldman says, “The riders held their bows high above their heads and charged down from the ridge, directly into the fire of the cavalry.” Combined with his impressionistic paintings, most of which are based on photographs by Edward S. Curtis and contemporaries, Waldman portrays the Lakota sympathetically, but with a romanticized tone that is inaccurate. The bibliography of six adult titles will be only moderately useful to young readers, who will need more resources to flesh out their understanding of Lakota culture and this period of history. However, there is little else available on Wounded Knee, and for careful readers, this might be a useful place to start. (bibliography, photo credits, index) (Nonfiction. 9-13)

Pub Date: May 1st, 2001
ISBN: 0-689-82559-5
Page count: 64pp
Publisher: Atheneum
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15th, 2001


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