cover image Miranda's Last Stand

Miranda's Last Stand

Gloria Whelan. HarperCollins, $14.95 (144pp) ISBN 978-0-06-028251-6

Returning to territory she explored in The Indian School, Whelan explores the tensions between settlers and Native Americans in this uneven tale, narrated by a girl who becomes involved with Buffalo Bill's Wild West show. In 1876, when Miranda was two, her father fought with Custer in the Seventh Cavalry and was killed at the battle of Little Big Horn by Sitting Bull and his warriors. Eight years later, Miranda inherits a farmhouse from her grandparents, and her mother takes a fortuitous offer to join William Cody's show as a scenery painter in order to earn the money to restore the farm. Her mother has always told her that all Indians are bad, but when Miranda gets to know some of the Lakota Sioux who take part in the show (particularly three children close to her own age), she begins to doubt her mother's assertion. Displeased with Miranda's new friendships, her mother grows even angrier when she learns that Sitting Bull is soon to join the company. Whelan uses an accessible first-person narrative and polished, easy prose filled with behind-the-scenes details (""There was a flourish in all he did, like the curlicues people put into their writing,"" Miranda says of Buffalo Bill) to evoke the feel of Cody's Wild West show. An appearance by Annie Oakley and other details fill in the historical context, but the novel skimps on character development, and the plotting often seems contrived to deliver the feel-good message. Ages 8-12. (Sept.)