Alyson Beecher over at Kid Lit Frenzy hosts a Non-fiction Picture Book Challenge and has a roundup every Wednesday. I love the encouragement to explore more non-fiction.
Summary from Goodreads:Told from the Native American point of view, Black Elk’s Vision provides a unique perspective on American history. From recounting the visions Black Elk had as a young boy, to his involvement in the battles of Little Big Horn and Wounded Knee, as well as his journeys to New York City and Europe with Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show, this biographical account of Black Elk—an Oglala-Lakota medicine man (1863–1950)—follows him from childhood through adulthood. S. D. Nelson tells the story of Black Elk through the medicine man’s voice, bringing to life what it was like to be Native American in the mid-to-late nineteenth century and early twentieth century. The Native people found their land overrun by the Wha-shi-choos, or White Man, the buffalo slaughtered for sport and to purposely eliminate their main food source, and their people gathered onto reservations. Through it all, Black Elk clung to his childhood visions that planted the seeds to help his people—and all people—understand their place in the circle of life. The book includes archival images, a timeline, a bibliography, an index, and Nelson’s signature art.
Review: I recently purchased this picture book biography by S.D. Nelson. Black Elk's Vision: A Lakota Story tells the story of Black Elk's life with a focus on the vision that Black Elk had when he was nine years old. The vision was something that shaped his life. Throughout the text, Nelson refers to the vision and the way it affected how Black Elk saw the world and his place in it. There is a lot of tough material presented in the book. Readers will be faced with injustices, death, grief and many difficult topics, but there is a moment of laughter. I am glad that Nelson included the scene with heyokas - foolish clowns. He explains that "laughter itself is a holy gift."
I appreciated the wonderful mix of archival images with Nelson's own illustrations. The photographs from Black Elk's life and the general time period really support the text well. And, the more I see of Nelson's artwork, the more I love it. I read one of his other books, Greet the Dawn, and wrote about it for Non-fiction Picture Book Week back in July. His style is a fantastic blend of traditional and modern art. I couldn't help but relate his art to two picture books that I read with my students today - The Day the Crayons Quit and The Artist Who Painted a Blue Horse. Nelson is also very playful with color even in more "serious" texts. I'm excited to use that as a bridge to his work.
If you have access to Teaching Books, there is a book reading available if you would like to hear a portion of the text and hear some background from the author. If you would like to see some of the art from inside the book, visit S.D. Nelson's website.
Finally, here is a video of the author talking about himself, his art, and this book.
I highly recommend this book as a way to see U.S. history from a Lakota perspective and will be sharing it with others.