In the Footsteps of Crazy Horse

by Joseph Marshall (Author) James Mark Yellowhawk (Illustrator)

In the Footsteps of Crazy Horse
Reading Level: 4th − 5th Grade

Through stories of Lakota leader Crazy Horse, a boy learns about his heritage and himself in this American Indian Youth Literature Award-winning novel from acclaimed author Joseph Marshall III

Jimmy McClean is a Lakota boy, though you wouldn't guess it by his name. His mother is Lakota, and his father is half white and half Lakota. Over summer break, Jimmy embarks on a journey with his grandfather, Nyles High Eagle. While on the road, his grandfather tells him the story of Crazy Horse, one of the most important figures in Lakota, and American, history.

Expertly intertwining fiction and nonfiction, celebrated Brulé Lakota author Joseph Marshall III chronicles the many heroic deeds of Crazy Horse, especially his taking up arms against the U.S. government. He fiercely fought against encroachments on the territories and way of life of the Lakota people, including leading a war party to victory at the Battle of the Greasy Grass (the Battle of the Little Bighorn) and playing a major and dangerous role as decoy at the Battle of the Hundred in the Hands (the Fetterman Battle). With Sitting Bull, Crazy Horse was the last of the Lakota to surrender his people to the U.S. Army. Through his grandfather's tales about the famous warrior, Jimmy learns about his Lakota heritage and, ultimately, himself.

Drawing references and inspiration from the oral stories of the Lakota tradition, Marshall gives readers an insider's perspective on the life of Tasunke Witko, better known as Crazy Horse.

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Kirkus Reviews

Starred Review
This powerful introduction to a great warrior and leader invites readers to ponder the meaning of 'hero.'

Publishers Weekly

Jimmy McClean, 11 years old and three-quarters Lakota, is teased for appearing white by schoolmates at the Rosebud Sioux Indian Reservation. Marshall's (Returning to the Lakota Way) novel alternates between a field trip Jimmy and his grandfather take in order for Jimmy to better understand his heritage and the principal person they study on the trip, the great Lakota leader Crazy Horse. They follow the geography of Crazy Horse's life through South Dakota, Nebraska, Wyoming, and Montana, including a long stay at the battlefield of the Little Big Horn, where in 1876 Crazy Horse was instrumental in the most significant Native American military victory against the white invaders. Though the dates and names are clearly spelled out, the logistics of the battles and travels can be difficult to track, and a lack of descriptive detail hinders empathy with both Jimmy and Crazy Horse. The modern story is a bit too thin, and the older one not delved into thoroughly enough, to allow the book to fully evoke its noble history. Ages 10-14. (Nov.)

Copyright 2015 Publishers Weekly, LLC Used with permission.

School Library Journal

Starred Review

Gr 4-8—In this novel that seamlessly integrates Lakota history and oral tradition, Marshall takes readers along for a road trip with Jimmy and his maternal grandfather as they embark on a "vision journey," visiting famous landmarks, monuments, and landscapes integral to the life of the great warrior and leader Crazy Horse. Jimmy, a young Lakota boy, struggles with fitting in on his reservation because he does not look like the other Lakota boys; he has light hair, blue eyes, and his father is of Scottish decent. Grandpa Nyles sees an opportunity to introduce Jimmy to another Lakota who had fair hair and light skin—the famous Crazy Horse. Over the course of their trip, Grandpa Nyles recounts history and stories about the life of the Lakota hero and the events that shaped him into a powerful leader, including famous battles and standoffs against the white settlers. Although many books have been written about Crazy Horse, Marshall transports readers back in time through Grandfather's stories. Italicized passages covering Crazy Horse's childhood, adolescence, and transformation into the famed Lakota symbol of courage and wisdom are distinguished from the modern-day narrative and achieve an immediacy and emotional resonance that most history books fail to capture. As the book progresses, Jimmy and readers learn about an important period of American history from the perspective of the Lakota; readers will walk away with the sober knowledge that in war, there are no winners. As Jimmy and his grandfather's journey comes to an end, the boy has gained much more than a history lesson—he learns a great deal about courage, sacrifice, and the ties that connect him to his ancestors. VERDICT A moving narrative that should be required reading for all students of American history.—Amy Zembroski, Indian Community School, Franklin, WI

Copyright 2015 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

Review quotes

Joseph Marshall
Joseph Marshall III, raised on the Rosebud Sioux Indian Reservation, is an enrolled member of the Sicangu Lakota (Rosebud Sioux) tribe. His internationally acclaimed works include nine nonfiction books, four novels, a collection of short stories and essays, and several screenplays. He divides his time between Albuquerque, New Mexico, and the Rosebud Reservation in South Dakota.

Jim Yellowhawk is a contemporary Lakota multimedia artist. He lives in Rapid City, South Dakota.
Lexile Measure
Guided Reading Level
Amulet Books
Publication date
November 20, 2015
BISAC categories
JUV013030 - Juvenile Fiction | Family | Multigenerational
JUV011040 - Juvenile Fiction | People & Places | United States - Native American
JUV016110 - Juvenile Fiction | Historical | United States - General
Library of Congress categories
19th century
Self-confidence in children
Indians of North America
JUVENILE FICTION / People & Places / United S
JUVENILE FICTION / Historical / United States
JUVENILE FICTION / Family / Multigenerational
Great Plains
Crazy Horse
Lakota Indians
American Indian Youth Literature Award
Winner 2016 - 2016

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