Thursday, July 3, 2008

Remember Little Bighorn

Remember Little Bighorn: Indian, Soldiers, and Scouts Tell Their Stories
Paul Robert Walker
National Geographic, 2006

Although I am an American history major, I really know little about the history of the Native Americans (yes, this is a fault I need to correct). But I am always looking for good, short nonfiction that I think will appeal to boys so I picked this book up in order to write a booktalk for it. I found myself reading aloud parts of it to my husband (whose knowledge about Little Bighorn was a bit better than mine). I think this will be a winner at my school.

Walker does an excellent job of using primary documents to allow survivors from both sides tell what happened. He lays down the background of why the Cheyenne and Sioux felt cheated by the American government. He then discusses what happened in the events leading up to the battle, and the battle itself. Wherever possible, he uses quotes from those who were there. He also clears up many misconceptions surrounding the battle. Throughout the book are photographs of the participants. There are also paintings and drawings (many by the Native Americans who were there) used to illustrate and explain the events. I thought the explanation of the battle itself was clear (I could follow fairly easily what was going on). It is gruesome in some places, but it is, after all, a story about a lot of people who were brutally killed so it’s going to be gruesome.

I must say that at first I was disconcerted by Walker’s use of the word “Indian” instead of “Native American.” I looked though the book to see if there was an explanation for this choice but couldn’t find one. I did notice, however, that the Native Americans referred to themselves as “Indians” so I can only assume that Walker used the term in order to give the book a sense of continuity.

I had originally planned to use this book to entice hi/lo readers. I still think it would interest them, but I think it will be better with my gifted students who love to read about battles. My plan right now is to introduce it to my eighth graders who will be studying American History next year.

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