cover image Lana's Lakota Moons

Lana's Lakota Moons

Virginia Driving Hawk Sneve, . . Univ. of Nebraska/Bison, $12.95 (116pp) ISBN 978-0-8032-6028-3

Driving Hawk Sneve's unassuming yet potent chronicle of a fateful year in the lives of two preteen cousins follows the Lakota calendar observed by her characters, who according to Lakota tradition are sisters. Lori, the narrator, paints Lana as mischievous, often lazy and something of a show-off, but her admiration and envy also come through, and there's never any question that these two are the closest of friends. Lori and Lana's new, strong friendship with a third girl, a Hmong refugee, demonstrates the vitality of their own bond even as it allows the author to draw parallels between the Lakota and the Hmong. Throughout, the grandparents teach the “sisters” Lakota traditions and beliefs, prepare them for their naming ceremony—this proud, happy Native American community stands in stark contrast to the rez of Sherman Alexie's The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian . Readers may not notice right away when chapter titles begin to deviate from the Lakota names for the months (“Moon When Winter Sets In”) and reflect events important to the girls (“Moon of New Names”; “Moon of the Hats”), but these present an early clue to the calamitous, barely foreshadowed development at the end: Lana's cancer diagnosis. Rather than manipulate readers' emotions, the author uses the tragedy to underscore the value of tradition and community. Despite its tendency to tell instead of show, this novel repays readers with its portraits of the sisters and their living heritage. Ages 8-up. (Dec.)