Home > Book Reviews, Mock Caldecott 2011 > Black Elk’s Vision written and illustated by S. D. Nelson

Black Elk’s Vision written and illustated by S. D. Nelson

Publication Date: March 2010
Reviewed For: Grades 3 – 6

Journal Review / Summary
Born in 1863, Black Elk, an Oglala-Lakota medicine man, was warned from an early age to beware the “Wha-shi-choo,” or white people, and for good reason. By the time he was 16, his people had been attacked on their lands, fought at the Battle of the Little Bighorn, and been confined to grim reservations, their way of life forever changed. Told in a first-person narrative, this handsome biography is adorned with vibrant acrylic paintings that depict the mystical images (spirit voices and visions) that Black Elk first experienced as a child. A fever vision at age nine, in which he met with the six grandfathers, the ancestral beings, proved to be a pivotal experience for him. As a teenager, he ultimately led a Horse Dance ceremony in which he brought a message of hope and instruction to his people. In addition to his respected tribal status, his involvement in many landmark events, from his travels with Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show to being injured at the Wounded Knee massacre, makes him a unique historical figure. Aptly chosen photographs (some of which are graphic images of buffalo carcasses and a scene of a mass grave at Wounded Knee) provide accurate historical perspective. An author’s note on understanding his Great Vision and background information on the book are included. This is an important contribution to Native biography. – SLJ

Illustration Medium: paintings, line drawings, photography
Execution in the artistic technique employed: Two thumbs up.

Appropriateness of style of illustration to story, theme, and concept:
Native American painting/drawing style obviously very appropriate, but the photos seem randomly inserted (though they are really cool.)

Delineation/interpretation of a plot through illustration:
The plot doesn’t seem to move much through the illustration – the text does all of that work.

Delineation/interpretation of a theme or concept through illustration:
The consistency of showing the theme and concept through the illustrations is wavery – probably because of the photos throw in at random.  The drawings are great though, I continue to say.

Delineation of characters through illustration:
Well done through the photography – the line drawings and paintings… not so much.

Delineation of setting through illustration:
The dream settings are great.

Delineation of mood through illustration:
I’m not getting too much of a mood through the illustration or the photographs (though the photos are very glum.)

Delineation of information through illustration:
Photos show a lot of information, and the illustration style definitely captures my idea of Native American artistic style (what I know of it from reading a lot about Native American culture as a kid).

Concluding Caldecott Thoughts:
I don’t think this quite fits the bill, though this is a great biography.

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