From School Library Journal
Starred Review. Grade 3–6—Born in 1863, Black Elk, an Oglala-Lakota medicine man, was warned from an early age to beware the "Wha-shi-choo," or white people, and for good reason. By the time he was 16, his people had been attacked on their lands, fought at the Battle of the Little Bighorn, and been confined to grim reservations, their way of life forever changed. Told in a first-person narrative, this handsome biography is adorned with vibrant acrylic paintings that depict the mystical images (spirit voices and visions) that Black Elk first experienced as a child. A fever vision at age nine, in which he met with the six grandfathers, the ancestral beings, proved to be a pivotal experience for him. As a teenager, he ultimately led a Horse Dance ceremony in which he brought a message of hope and instruction to his people. In addition to his respected tribal status, his involvement in many landmark events, from his travels with Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show to being injured at the Wounded Knee massacre, makes him a unique historical figure. Aptly chosen photographs (some of which are graphic images of buffalo carcasses and a scene of a mass grave at Wounded Knee) provide accurate historical perspective. An author's note on understanding his Great Vision and background information on the book are included. This is an important contribution to Native biography.—Madeline J. Bryant, Los Angeles Public Library
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*Starred Review* This handsomely designed, large-format book tells the story of Black Elk (1863–1950), a Lakota man who saw many changes come to his people. In this first-person, present-tense account, Black Elk says that as a nine-year-old boy, he is blessed with a Great Vision. At 12, he fights in the Battle of Little Bighorn. After traveling in Europe with Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show and, later, experiencing the massacre at Wounded Knee, he retreats to a reservation, where he holds his vision in his heart and offers it to others. Often quoting from Black Elk Speaks (1932), Nelson makes vivid the painful ways life changed for the Lakota in the 1800s, and throughout he questions how Black Elk’s vision, which explains that humans must realize they are living in a circle of supportive life, juxtaposes against harsh reality. It is a question readers will ponder as well. Colorful, imaginative artwork, created using pencils and acrylic paints, is interspersed with nineteenth-century photos, underscoring that this dramatic account reflects the experiences of a man who witnessed history. Back matter includes an extensive author’s note, a detailed time line, source notes, and a source bibliography. A helpful, attractive map on the endpapers frames this unusual presentation. Grades 5-8. --Carolyn Phelan