cover image WOUNDED KNEE


Neil Waldman, . . S&S/Atheneum, $18 (64pp) ISBN 978-0-689-82559-0

This moving yet balanced overview of the massacre of the Lakota Sioux at Wounded Knee gives young readers insight into a painful history of conflict. Waldman (The Golden City) immediately captures the audience's sympathy and interest with the heart-pounding experiences of the then-young Lakota warrior, Black Elk, who awakens to gunfire and then witnesses the cavalry slaughter more than 140 Lakota, including women and children. "When I saw this I wished I had died too," Black Elk later says in one of the many unsourced quotations here. Waldman characterizes the tragedy at Wounded Knee as the "inevitable conclusion of the clash between two disparate nations," and proceeds to explore the divergent values, religions and ways of life that led up to it. For example, Lakota society did not invest chiefs with absolute power—each brave was expected to follow his own conscience, so that treaties signed by chiefs were not binding upon their warriors. Washington officials negotiating with the Lakota did not understand Lakota notions of land ownership. To the Lakota, land lost in a battle with a neighboring tribe was still considered their own, lost only temporarily; whites' incursions into such land was viewed as an "openly aggressive act." Paintings, most of them based on actual portraits or photographs, are typically rendered in black-and-white or sepia, with well-placed hints of color. More subjective than the camera, Waldman's art underscores the elegiac mood of the discussion. Ages 8-12. (May)