Book Links September 2016 www.booklistonline.com/booklinks 36
received encouragement from class-
mates and teachers that fostered my
further fascination in art.
BOOK LINKS: On your website you
write, “My mother . . . taught me at an
early age to see the world with both the
curious eyes of a child and the wistful
eyes of an old man.” What role did she
play in your life?
NELSON: Like Sitting Bull, my
mother was a complicated person.
She could be jovial and fun-loving
but, at the same time, soul-searching.
She grew from the young woman
BOOK LINKS: What are you working
nurturing me as a baby to the woman
who would support and encourage
me when I became a college student.
I recall one summer evening when the
stars were spread across the sky. I was
10 years old. My mother pointed up
and said, “There’s your great-great-
grandfather Flying Cloud. Look. You
can see him riding his horse.” I knew
what she was trying to communicate. I
knew my ancestor wasn’t physically in
the stars. My mother was talking about
the spiritual nature of our humanity,
something that I think most people
seek to connect with. At that moment I
got it. I could envision my ancestors in
the stars, and it was quite wonderful.
NELSON: I just finished the artwork
for a book titled Red Cloud: A Lakota
Story of War and Surrender, with a release date of February 2017. Similar to
Sitting Bull, it is written in first person
Related Common Core Standards
• CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI. 3. 9
• CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL. 4. 1
• CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI. 4. 5
• CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI. 4. 6
• CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL. 4. 7
• CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI. 5. 3
• CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI. 5. 5
• CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI. 5. 6.
• Read aloud the first two pages of Sitting
Bull and then assess students’ prior
knowledge by having them respond to the
What type of writing is this? (Poem,
short story, speech? Told in first person,
third person?) Who do you think is telling
List three facts that you know related to
Sitting Bull, Lakota Indians, Crazy Horse,
or Lt. Col. George Armstrong Custer.
After reading, have students return and
answer the questions again. Share their
responses. Then have them respond to this
What did you learn from Sitting Bull that
you did not know prior to reading Nelson’s
• There are numerous websites containing
information about Sitting Bull. Select sites
to search, such as www.library.
torical.php, which provides links to
copies of numerous historical newspaper
accounts. Have students record similarities
and differences in the information that they
discover with that written in Sitting Bull.
• In the author’s note at the book’s conclusion, Nelson shares information about
ledger book art and provides a context
for how the illustrations in Sitting Bull imitated this type of drawing. Have students
examine Nelson’s illustrations and discuss
the paper, the style of art, and the media
that was used. Remove the book jacket, if
possible, for a different perspective of the
cover illustrations without the blue overlay.
Locate a copy of Jewel H. Grutman and
Gay Matthaei’s The Ledgerbook of Thomas
Blue Eagle (1994) and compare this
fictional account of a nineteenth-century
Sioux warrior’s view of his childhood in a
boarding school and Nelson’s depiction of
the events in Sitting Bull’s life.
• Ask students to return to the text in Sitting
Bull and look for signal words that describe
various structures. For example:
Cause and effect: since, hence,
because, made, for this reason,
consequently, on that account.
Chronology: first, second, third, before,
after, when, later, until, at, last, next.
Compare and contrast: similar,
different, on the other hand, but, however,
bigger than, smaller than, in the same way.
Problem and solution: problem,
solution, dilemma, if and then, puzzling.
Teaching students these words helps
them identify the type of text structure,
assists in comprehension, and generates
strategies for their own writing.
• Have students delve further into the work
of S. D. Nelson—in particular, Black Elk’s
Vision, and Joseph Bruchac’s Crazy Horse’s
Vision (2000), which Nelson illustrated, as
those individuals are mentioned in Sitting
Bull. After reading the texts, examining
the illustrations, and exploring the back
matter, students can create and complete
a three-circle Venn diagram to compare and
contrast information as well as the book’s
layout and design. If the class or several
groups of students have enjoyed reading
Sitting Bull. select aspects to further investigate using the Venn diagram.
and illustrated on ledger book paper.
Red Cloud was an interesting character.
He could see the writing on the wall.
After the many battles, he knew it was
time to surrender. Sitting Bull, however,
was uncompromising, and that became
his downfall. There’s a time to fight, and
there comes a time when the war needs
to end. Red Cloud understood that.
Sitting Bull never did.
BOOK LINKS: You include a lengthy
bibliography at the back of Sitting Bull.
What book(s) would you recommend as
“next reads” for children or teachers?
Are there any Native American writers
whose work we can count on to give us
an “insider” perspective?
NELSON: I highly recommend Albert
Marrin’s book Sitting Bull and His
World (2000), a fine book supplemented with excellent archival photographs.
It gives a comprehensive overview of
Sitting Bull and the complex world
he lived in.