Crazy Horse–the name easily catches your attention, but too few people have an awareness of who he was. I myself am included in this category. I remember when I was on a childhood vacation with my family in the Badlands that we visited the Crazy Horse mountain carving and I found it fascinating, but until now, I never indulged my curiosity. In an effort to simultaneously education and entertain, Joseph Marshall III depicts a child’s journey and education in the path of Crazy Horse in In The Footsteps of Crazy Horse.
Jimmy McClean has light skin, light brown hair, and blue eyes, which is quite different from the rest of the Lakota boys in his class. They pick on him because he doesn’t appear like the rest of them and he starts to question himself. On a trip with his grandfather, Jimmy learns about Light Hair–later to be known as Crazy Horse–, who, in appearance, was quite like Jimmy. Traveling through Nebraska, Wyoming, South Dakota, and Montana, Jimmy walks in the footsteps of Crazy Horse and his other Lakota ancestors. This journey is a physical one, but also an intellectual and spiritual one as Jimmy gains a greater understanding of the world around him as well as himself.
I rather enjoyed the narrative as it shifted between “the way it was” and the third person narration that followed Jimmy. The presentation of history through a story is helpful for its audience to remain engaged with the story and more easily glean the important aspects of it. Including the map at the front and a glossary of terms used throughout the book are good tools for this book to be adapted into a classroom setting, as these extras, along with the narrative itself, lend themselves to teaching. I did find it interesting that within the first pages there was an inconsistency with Jimmy’s last name–specifically when referring to Jimmy’s father as McLean–and that it wasn’t caught by the various eyes reviewing the text, particularly as the rest of the text was rather clean (no pun actually intended, but that’s a nice coincidence). The takeaway messages for child readers did seem a bit overdone for my tastes, but the language choices and actions seemed appropriate for the target audience.
Overall, I’d give it a 4 out of 5 stars.