Review: Running Wolf by Jenna Kernan


May Contain Spoilers


I haven’t read a historical romance featuring Native American protagonists in a long time, so I snapped this up from the library.  When I was younger, I used to eat these up.  Ride the Wind, Nakoa’s Woman, Only Earth and Sky Last Forever – if it featured Native Americans, it ended up on my wish list.  There were so many of them published in the 80s and 90s, and then – nothing!  Regencies took over, I read more fantasy and comic books, and that was the end of that reading phase of my life.

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Review: Crazy Horse’s Vision by Joseph Bruchac & S D Nelson



Title: Crazy Horse’s Vision

Author:  Joseph Bruchac & S D Nelson

Publisher: Lee and Low

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

Joseph Bruchac tells the compelling story of how a young boy named Curly seeks a vision in the hope of saving his people – and grows into the brave and fierce warrior Crazy Horse. Sioux artist S. D. Nelson’s paintings, in the traditional ledger style of the Plains Indians, evokes the drama and the tragedy of this important American figure.


My fascination with the lives of Native Americans continues.  I haven’t read many picture books about Plains Indians, so discovering new reading material at the library has been fun.  Crazy Horse’s Vision is my favorite to date.  It doesn’t cover much of the conflict between white settlers and the Lakota, instead focusing on Crazy Horse’s childhood.  The tone is more upbeat than my previous forays into the lives of famous Native Americans, and the paintings are breathtaking.  I love S D Nelson’s use of color; these illustrations are big and bold, the vivid hues jumping off the pages and demanding more than a second glance.

Introducing readers to Crazy Horse, the book follows the carefree days of his youth.  Though lacking in stature, he was a charismatic child with a thirst for adventure.  Exploring one end of the Lakota territory to the other, where he led, the other boys followed.  From his first buffalo hunt to the taming of his pinto horse,  bright visuals accompany his childhood triumphs.   When trouble brews between his people and the white settlers, Crazy Horse is desperate to help protect his band.  Striking out on his own, he seeks a vision to give him the wisdom to help the Lakota during the troubled times that are fast approaching.

Gorgeous illustrations document Crazy Horse and his childhood vision quest.  I found this an interesting look at one of the fiercest Lakota warriors.  Remembered for his prowess in battle, Crazy Horse was also kind and generous, as well as a man of few words.  The prose is interesting and highly readable, but the bold, vivid illustrations are what held my attention and kept me flipping through this book time and again. The paintings are beautiful and made this a delight to read.

Grade:  B+

Review copy obtained from my local library


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Review: Paiute Princess by Deborah Kogan Ray



  Title: Paiute Princess

  Author: Deborah Kogan Ray

  Publisher:  Farrar Straus Giroux

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

Born into the Northern Paiute tribe of Nevada in 1844, Sarah Winnemucca straddled two cultures: the traditional life of her people, and the modern ways of her grandfather’s white friends. Sarah was smart and good at languages, so she was able to link the worlds. As she became older, this made her a great leader. Sarah used condemning letters, fiery speeches, and her autobiography, Life Among the Piutes, to provide detailed accounts of her people’s turmoil through years of starvation, unjust relocations, and violent attacks. With sweeping illustrations and extensive backmatter, including hand-drawn maps, a chronology, archival photographs, an author’s notes, and additional resource information, Deborah Kogan Ray offers a remarkable look at an underrepresented historical figure.


I have had Paiute Princess on my TBR for a while now, and after reading Black Elk’s Vision, I was inspired to pick it up.  Sarah Winnemucca’s life is told through vivid, lush illustrations that accompany the moving prose of her life.  From her early childhood gathering food with the women of her tribe to her struggles to keep her traditional way of life from being erased by the encroaching white settlers, all Sarah wanted was the peaceful life her tribe had enjoyed for generations.  This was not be to, however, and she was forced to watch as her people were moved from their tribal homelands to reservations.  Once on the barren lands allotted to the Paiute tribes, they suffered from the corruption of the men running the Indian Agency.  Hardship and hunger became her new way of life, and Sarah used every scrap of cleverness she could muster to lobby for aid for her people. 

I am not sure how to rate this book, because it made me feel many, many emotions, mostly sadness and despair.  Once again, I wonder how I would have handled the cruel fate handed out to Sarah Winnemucca and her people.  They were stolen from, lied to, and left without the resources to provide for themselves after their land was taken away, often after the murder of women, children, and the elderly.  This chapter in the story of this nation makes me angry and upset because I know that we are better than that; we are supposed to be the good guys.  After learning about the struggles Sarah faced, and the courage she displayed, I doubt that I would  have been as clever and resourceful as she was.  Could I have been an Army scout, riding into danger and helping the people who were responsible for stealing my way of life away from me?  Could I have left my family for extended periods to study with people who viewed me with suspicion and dislike? I don’t think so.

The story ends on a hopeful note, but after reading the included information at the back of the book, it was clear that Sarah was not accepted in either the world of the Paiute or the world of the white settlers.  She walked firmly between the two, searching for a place where she belonged.  Her grandfather was a wise man, but not even his initial acceptance of the settlers and his letter of friendship from explorer John Charles Fremont could save the tribal lands of his people.  I think what bothered me the most about this picture book was learning that, after fighting for the rights of her people, Sarah died in 1891.  She was 47.  The government was still enacting legislation to liberate the traditional homelands of native peoples and forcibly stamp out their cultures.  This continued until 1934.  This bothered me.  A. Lot.

Grade:  B/B+

Review copy provided by publisher

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Cover Shot! Buffalo Bird Girl by S D Nelson

Cover Shot! is a regular feature here at the Café. I love discovering new covers, and when I find them, I like to share. More than anything else, I am consumed with the mystery that each new discovery represents. There is an allure to a beautiful cover. Will the story contained under the pages live up to promise of the gorgeous cover art?

I seem to be on a Native American reading kick.  The last three picture books I read were biographies of prominent Native Americans, and even though I find  them heartbreaking, I can’t stop reading them.  I am drawn to the strength of character that each possessed, and wonder how I would have carried on if I were in their shoes.  Not nearly as well, I am sure.  I don’t know much about the Hidatsa, so I am looking forward to reading Buffalo Bird Girl by S D Nelson.

This fascinating picture book biography tells the childhood story of Buffalo Bird Woman, a Hidatsa Indian born around 1839. Through her true story, readers will learn what it was like to be part of this Native American community that lived along the Missouri River in the Dakotas, a society that depended more on agriculture for food and survival than on hunting. Children will relate to Buffalo Bird Girl’s routine of chores and playing with friends, and they will also be captivated by her lifestyle and the dangers that came with it.

Using as a resource the works of Gilbert L. Wilson, who met Buffalo Bird Woman and transcribed her life’s story in the early 20th century, award-winning author-illustrator S. D. Nelson has captured the spirit of Buffalo Bird Girl and her lost way of life. The book includes a historical timeline.

In stores October 2012

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Review: Black Elk’s Vision: A Lakota Story by S D Nelson


   Title: Black Elk’s Vision: A Lakota Story

   Author: S D Nelson

   Publisher: Abrams

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

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.


I read two books recently about young children victimized by war, and they both broke my heart.  In Black Elk’s Vision, a picture book based on Black Elk Speaks by John Neihardt, warfare destroys not only Black Elk’s home, but also his people’s entire way of life.  From the cover to the last page, this colorful book is striking and thought provoking.  It doesn’t pull any punches, either.  From Little Big Horn to the massacre at Wounded Knee, Black Elk’s story is compelling and unforgettable.  From the vast plains, hunting buffalo, to the hardship of a walled reservation, his words remain steady and engrossing.  I am not sure that I would be as forgiving as Black Elk, Great Vision or not.  Manifest Destiny is such an ugly chapter in the history of this country, and I find it painful to read many accounts of settlers as they steamrolled over everything in their path to conquering the West. 

There are several parts of this book that I found disturbing, and I am sure that I will find them hard to forget.  Before the white settlers flooded like a tsunami over the Great Plains, there were an estimated 30 million bison.  Thirty million.  By 1889, there were about a thousand.  The numbers are mind-numbing.  Worse, diseases brought by Europeans wiped out hundreds of thousands of Native Americans. And that was before the settlers began to intentionally drive them off of their ancestral homelands.   Thinking about the massive loss of life is nauseating.   Thinking about a twelve year old boy forced to defend his life, as well as the lives of his family, is also upsetting.  Thinking about having everything you owned, every belief and physical possession, even your way of life, torn away  also merits deep contemplation.  I would not have survived nearly as well, or lived nearly as gracefully, as Black Elk. 

I found Black Elk’s Vision a compelling read.  Interspersing colorful acrylics with vintage photos of the events described in Black Elk’s narrative, I found this book hard to put down.  I also found myself going back to key passages, illustrations, and photos to ensure that I absorbed everything.   From the photograph of Black Elk on the cover to the portrait of his family near the end, this is a haunting book.  Black Elk believed that all of us have a part in the circle of life.  We can all hold weapons of destruction or the sacred water of life.  Each of us carries the power to nurture or destroy.  Black Elk choose the cup of life, and he wished that all of us would choose it as well.    

Grade:  B+

Review obtained from my local library

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Interview with Carolyn Meyer, Author of Where the Broken Heart Still Beats

Carolyn Meyer is the author of many books, most of them delving into the lives of strong young women.  Her first historical, Where the Broken Heart Still Beats, is being re-released  next week.  Since it features one of my favorite historical figures, Cynthia Ann Parker, I was dying to ask Carolyn some questions about this book.  She graciously agreed to stop by the virtual offices for a chat.

[Manga Maniac Café] Can you tell us about Where the Broken Heart Still Beats?

[Carolyn Meyer] I discovered this story when I moved to Texas in 1990 and began to make the long drive across the Texas Panhandle. One day I stopped in a Dairy Queen in the little town of Quanah and picked up a brochure on the local history. Quanah was the name of a Comanche chief whose mother was a white woman named Cynthia Ann Parker, kidnapped from her family at the age of 9. She grew up with the Comanches, learned their language and customs, married and had 3 children. When her youngest was an infant,  Texas Rangers seized her and the baby girl and took them back to civilization. Cynthia Ann had been kidnapped a second time!

[Manga Maniac Café] Why did you decide to write about Cynthia Ann Parker’s life?

[Carolyn Meyer] Captivity stories were common in the 19th century, but Cynthia Ann was kidnapped TWICE! Her story is well known in Texas, but I couldn’t find any books that told the story the way I thought it should be told. It really tugged at my heartstrings.

[Manga Maniac Café] What three words best describe Cynthia Ann Parker?

[Carolyn Meyer] Terrified – courageous – steadfast.

[Manga Maniac Café] What was the most challenging aspect of writing the story?

[Carolyn Meyer] Showing her slow, reluctant acculturation back into the white world that she had left behind, and getting into her feelings during her ordeal.

[Manga Maniac Café] What kind of research did you conduct for the book?

[Carolyn Meyer] I learned all I could about the lives of early pioneers in Texas as well as everything I could about the Comanches. I also visited the log cabin in Ft. Worth where she lived after being rekidnapped. Remember, I wrote this book more than 20 years ago, and I didn’t have access to all the material now available on the internet, including the virtual tour of that cabin that I just discovered (see

What a help that would have been!

[Manga Maniac Café] What is the most interesting fact you discovered about Comanche culture?

[Carolyn Meyer] The Comanches lived their lives on horseback, constantly on the move. I can scarcely imagine what a rough life that would have been.

[Manga Maniac Café] Are you excited to see this book in print again?

[Carolyn Meyer] Excited and amazed. This book was my first attempt at writing a historical novel, and it changed my life. I’ve never looked back.

[Manga Maniac Café] What do you enjoy most about writing historical novels?

[Carolyn Meyer] The research. I really get lost in the details of lives so completely different from ours and yet, at heart, very much the same.

[Manga Maniac Café] Can you share a little about your next project?

[Carolyn Meyer] I’m wrapping up the last revisions (at least I hope they’re the last!) of VICTORIA REBELS, due out in January 2013. And I have several ideas simmering in my brain with a few scribbles on the backs of envelopes, but nothing definite yet.

[Manga Maniac Café] Thanks!

[Carolyn Meyer] Many thanks to you, Julie, for your interest in my work.

You can learn more about Carolyn by visiting her website, or by following her on Facebook and Twitter

You can order Where the Broken Heart Still Beats from your favorite bookseller, or by clicking the widget below:


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Review: Indian Captive by Lois Lenski


Title: Indian Captive

Author: Lois Lenski

Publisher:  Open Road



May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

Mary Jemison has been captured by a Shawnee war party! How will she survive?

When twelve-year-old Mary Jemison and her family are captured by Shawnee raiders, she’s sure they’ll all be killed. Instead, Mary is separated from her siblings and traded to two Seneca sisters, who adopt her and make her one of their own. Mary misses her home, but the tribe is kind to her. She learns to plant crops, make clay pots, and sew moccasins, just as the other members do. Slowly, Mary realizes that the Indians are not the monsters she believed them to be. When Mary is given the chance to return to her world, will she want to leave the tribe that has become her family?

This Newbery Honor book is based on the true story of Mary Jemison, the pioneer known as the White Woman of the Genesee.

This ebook features an illustrated biography of Lois Lenski including rare images and never-before-seen documents from the author’s estate.


I have always been fascinated by other cultures.  Native American peoples have interested since I was a young girl, and learning about their daily lives sent me to library time and time again when I was in school.  Indian Captive made me think differently about what it would have been like to be part of their culture.  A young white girl, Mary  Jemison, nicknamed Molly, and her family were kidnapped by a Seneca raiding party when she was just twelve years old.  Separated from her parents and siblings, she is adopted by the tribe and forced to live with them.  She longs to be with her parents again, and keeps hoping to either escape or be rescued so she can be reunited with her family.  Her new Seneca family is not willing to let her go, much to Molly’s dismay.

This is a fast, compelling read that was written in 1941.  This Newberry Honor book is hard to put down, and I found Molly a likeable character.  I sympathized with her plight and was moved by her conflicted emotions.  Adopted by the Seneca to replace a clan member who had been killed by the white interlopers, Molly wants nothing more than to go back home.  She never stops searching for a way to find her way back to her father’s farm, even as she becomes accustomed to her new home.  It is Molly’s confusion that touched a chord with me.  What would it be like to be ripped away from everything you knew and loved, and thrust into a new family.  She couldn’t understand her captors’ language, she was at a loss knowing how to act, and she grieved fiercely for her family.  Molly endured so many hardships, and at such a young age, that my heart broke for her.

While the narrative at times felt a tad aged, the story of Molly’s captivity is timeless.  Lois Lenski’s fictional account of Molly’s life is engrossing and compulsively readable.   Lenski’s illustrations give life to the prose, illuminating Molly’s every day activities.  Life in 1700 America was hard work, regardless of race or culture.  There was always something that needed to be done to ensure the survival of the family or the tribe, from planting and harvesting corn to hunting, curing, and storing meat for the harsh winters.  I wouldn’t have made it through the frigid weather; living in a bark lodge with only a fur blanket and hardly any food would have quickly done me in.  No space heaters, Under Armour, or instant noodles would have pretty much sealed the deal for me – I would have expired within a week of the onset of winter.  Molly, on the other hand, lived to the ripe old age of 90, despite her hardships.

As the story unfolds, and as Molly begins to feel at home with the Seneca, she has a terrible decision to make.  Does she stay with her captors, or should she go back to live with the white people.  As her time with the Indians goes by, they gradually become more than her jailors.  Slowly, and convincingly, Molly begins to care for and love her new family.  Because the Seneca are portrayed with depth and sympathy, it’s easy to buy into Molly’s conflicted heart.  She’s not so sure where she belongs anymore, and that’s what made this read truly heart wrenching.

Grade: B

Review copy provided by publisher


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