cover image Gift Horse a Lakota Story

Gift Horse a Lakota Story

S. D. Nelson, Abrams. ABRAMS, $16.95 (40pp) ISBN 978-0-8109-4127-4

In his children's book debut, Nelson, a member of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe, imagines the boyhood of his great-great-grandfather, a Lakota warrior. His prose is spare, even expressionless at times, as he recounts the rites of passage of his protagonist, Flying Cloud. Eager to prove himself, Flying Cloud hunts, goes alone on a four-day vision quest and joins the men on a buffalo hunt. He also grows increasingly attached to his horse, Storm, a gift from his father, and it is his partnership with Storm that ultimately helps Flying Cloud achieve warrior status. Like the text, the art is highly controlled. Nelson works here in acrylic paints on wood panels; the medium encourages a flatness to the compositional plane. Figures are angular and stylized--the humans have few facial features, the horses lack manes. Instead of such details, Nelson relies on bold color to supply energy and character. Storm, for example, is blue; half of Flying Cloud's face is red while the other half is striped in blue. Textured backgrounds add visual interest and counterbalance the primitive aspects of the illustrations. The understated delivery may put off readers, but those who can adjust to Nelson's quiet approach will find that the story has staying power. Ages 4-8. (Nov.)