________________ CM . . . . Volume XV Number 10. . . .January 9, 2009


Sitting Bull's Tomahawk. (Stories of Great People).

Gerry Bailey & Karen Foster. Illustrated by Leighton Noyes & Karen Radford.
St. Catharines, ON: Crabtree, 2008.
40 pp., pbk. & hc., $11.95 (pbk.), $21.56 (RLB).
ISBN 978-0-7787-3714-8 (pbk.), ISBN 978-7787-3692-9 (RLB).

Subject Headings:
Sitting Bull, 1834?-1890-Juvenile fiction.
Dakota Indians-Kings and rulers-Biography-Juvenile fiction.
Hunkpapa Indians-Kings and rulers-Biography-Juvenile fiction.

Grades 4-6 / Ages 9-11.

Review by Janice Foster.

*** ½



"It was a terrible tragedy," agreed Mr. Rummage. "In just a few years, the Sioux nations, along with a whole lot of other Native people, were almost destroyed."

"And they'd have all disappeared if some of those bluecoats had had their way," barked Colonel Karbuncle.


Part of the "Stories of Great People" series, Sitting Bull's Tomahawk is the biography of the famous Sioux chief, Sitting Bull, who was the last Sioux to surrender to the American government. This book is also an examination of the period of American history when fur traders, settlers, gold prospectors and cowboys expanded westward, increasing the territory of the United States. During this expansion, the Native nations were nearly wiped out, and their traditional way of life disappeared. As in other books in this series, the narration begins with Digby's discovery of an artifact, a tomahawk in this case, Sitting Bull's ceremonial tomahawk. Mr. Rummage, a market vendor, with interjections from Colonel Karbuncle, who sells military artifacts, provides the children, Digby and Hannah, with a biographical account of this historical character. Mr. Rummage's conversational narration recounts the life of Sitting Bull from a young brave to a warrior chief uniting the Sioux people and battling the American soldiers in order to protect their land and preserve their way of life. The narration is complemented by factual information on the people and events of the time such as George A. Custer, reservations, the gold rush, the railway, Buffalo Bill's Wild West show and more. The dialogue provides the reader with an engaging account of a brave Native American chief who, in spite of his efforts, witnessed the dissolution of the Native way of life and the loss of his people's territory during the latter part of the nineteenth century.

      Sitting Bull's Tomahawk is formatted in a style similar to other books in this series so that the narration by Mr. Rummage is clearly differentiated from the factual information. Authors Gerry Bailey and Karen Foster's narrative text merges a fictionalized narrative setting with factual dialogue. The narration is presented against a white background with cartoon style drawings by Leighton Noyes and Karen Radford, depicting the characters of the narration. The factual information is displayed on a coloured patterned background accompanied by photographs and sketches of real objects. A glossary and index are included. Sitting Bull's Tomahawk provides its readers with a biography that enables the reader to connect with an individual whose efforts to obtain his goal fail. The historical information that complements this story provides insight into the causes of the Native American peoples' plight today. The mixture of story and fact will motivate and engage the audience to question the events of history. The use of the biography genre will assist young readers in understanding the relationship between history and the present.

Highly Recommended.

Janice Foster, a recently retired teacher-librarian, lives in Winnipeg, MB.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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