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The Next Generation In The Study Of Custer's Last Stand
Remember Little Bighorn
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Remember Little Bighorn: Indians, Soldiers, and Scouts Tell Their Stories
by Paul Robert Walker
Book Review by Bob Reece, October 2006
It is a common held belief that writing a children’s book is easy. In actual fact, it is one of the most complex forms of writing. Tracey E. Dils in her book, You Can Write Children’s Books states, “Because of the special nature of this audience…most writers find that writing for children is as challenging or more challenging than writing for other audiences.” What could be more challenging than writing on the subject of the Battle of the Little Bighorn for children?
A young reader’s book about the battle is long overdue, so it appears that National Geographic has filled that gap with Paul Walker’s Remember Little Bighorn. It also includes a thought-provoking introduction by the battlefields’ chief historian, John Doerner.
Books like these have an opportunity to capture a child’s imagination, stoke the fires of passion, and lead to further reading. That’s exactly what happened to me when I was 14. I checked out of my school library Frazier Hunt’s I Fought With Custer. Although not a children’s book, it was a book that got me hooked on this story. Hunt related the battle through survivor Charles Windolph, and told a dramatic story of the struggle between life and death. I still remember how I felt when Reno’s soldiers were retreating across the Little Bighorn; I quickly realized that fighting Indians was nothing like in the movies.
I believe that Remember Little Bighorn will inspire young readers, like Hunt’s book, to read further on this subject. Remember Little Bighorn is written for ages 10 and up. It’s amazing how well Walker has taken such a huge and complex story as the Battle of the Little Bighorn and sculpted it into a short, precise narrative. Walker understands the most important points, and none of his chosen topics space is wasted. There is plenty of drama mostly told through soldier and Indian accounts. There is no sensationalism here; young readers are more sophisticated than we realize.
Most importantly, Walker succeeds where many adult books fail; he masters his subject in just 61 short pages, while some authors can't even come close with 610. You’ll discover an honest portrayal of George Armstrong Custer and the U. S. Army, as well as Plains Indian life. No officer becomes a scapegoat for failure, and there is not just one warrior who saves the day. What your young reader will experience is gritty warfare between human beings who became sadly wrapped up in a lost cause.
Although there are minor errors such as the warriors leaving Reno’s fight to challenge Custer by charging south instead of north (Note: The author informed me in an email dated May 31, 2009 that this error has been corrected in the second edition), the errors are very few. Instead, we enjoy a powerful narrative that I’m confident will inspire your child or grandchild to ask further questions.
The book is packed with exceptional graphics (could we expect less from National Geographic), high quality photographs (many provided by Friends’ member Glen Swanson), and easy to follow colorful maps. You’ll find Indian drawings of the battle, Martin Pate paintings, Private Windolph’s Medal of Honor, and many photos of the participants from both sides.
The Epilogue includes a detailed “Time Line of Battles for Indian Land” that I predict you will use as a reference for your own future study. This time line is divided into three segments; 1.) “Selected Battles, Treaties, and Other Key Events 1607-1789”, 2.) 1790-1849, and 3.) 1850-1890. There is a high-level time line for the Battle of the Little Bighorn as well.
Also included is a short but superb bibliography that will make your job a lot easier when your young reader asks what other books are available to investigate. Finally, there is a selected postscript for the principal players quoted in the book.
Remember Little Bighorn is a perfect addition to the plethora of books about the battle, though its flaws are minor and finally immaterial, its ability to capture the passion of young readers far surpasses earlier children’s books on the same subject.
Note: Remember Little Bighorn: Indians, Soldiers, and Scouts Tell Their Stories is part of the “Remember” series produced by National Geographic. Other titles include: Remember Pearl Harbor: Japanese And American Survivors Tell Their Stories, Remember D-Day: Both Sides Tell Their Stories, and Remember World War II: Kids Who Survived Tell Their Stories.
Copyright 1999-2013 Bob Reece
Friends Little Bighorn Battlefield, P.O. Box 636, Crow Agency, MT 59022