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Walking on Earth and Touching the Sky: Poetry and Prose by Lakota Youth at Red Cloud Indian School

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This is an exceptional poetry collection written by Lakota students in the fifth, sixth, seventh, and eighth grades at Red Cloud Indian School on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota. The historic school was founded in 1888 at the request of Chief Red Cloud of the Oglala Lakota. The poems enable readers to learn about the unique lives and heritage of students This is an exceptional poetry collection written by Lakota students in the fifth, sixth, seventh, and eighth grades at Red Cloud Indian School on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota. The historic school was founded in 1888 at the request of Chief Red Cloud of the Oglala Lakota. The poems enable readers to learn about the unique lives and heritage of students growing up in such distinctive circumstances and straddling cultures. The collection was compiled by a teacher at the school, working with school administrators, and contains never-before-published artworks by award-winning artist S. D. Nelson. Praise for Walking on Earth and Touching the Sky STARRED REVIEW "This is an important collection that offers opportunities for insight into a culture that has too often been either ignored or misunderstood." --Booklist, starred review "A moving, fascinating glimpse across cultures. Vivid, polychromatic illustrations by Nelson accompany the students’ evocative works." --Kirkus Reviews "As a collection, the poems present an interesting, eye-opening look at the Lakota culture, which is one that is often overlooked. The paintings by S.D. Nelson are gorgeous and vibrant." --Library Media Connection Awards: New York Public Library’s Children's Books 2012: 100 Books for Reading and Sharing list HONORABLE MENTION - 2012 Aesop Accolade, American Folklore Society Notable Social Studies Trade Books for Young People 2013


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This is an exceptional poetry collection written by Lakota students in the fifth, sixth, seventh, and eighth grades at Red Cloud Indian School on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota. The historic school was founded in 1888 at the request of Chief Red Cloud of the Oglala Lakota. The poems enable readers to learn about the unique lives and heritage of students This is an exceptional poetry collection written by Lakota students in the fifth, sixth, seventh, and eighth grades at Red Cloud Indian School on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota. The historic school was founded in 1888 at the request of Chief Red Cloud of the Oglala Lakota. The poems enable readers to learn about the unique lives and heritage of students growing up in such distinctive circumstances and straddling cultures. The collection was compiled by a teacher at the school, working with school administrators, and contains never-before-published artworks by award-winning artist S. D. Nelson. Praise for Walking on Earth and Touching the Sky STARRED REVIEW "This is an important collection that offers opportunities for insight into a culture that has too often been either ignored or misunderstood." --Booklist, starred review "A moving, fascinating glimpse across cultures. Vivid, polychromatic illustrations by Nelson accompany the students’ evocative works." --Kirkus Reviews "As a collection, the poems present an interesting, eye-opening look at the Lakota culture, which is one that is often overlooked. The paintings by S.D. Nelson are gorgeous and vibrant." --Library Media Connection Awards: New York Public Library’s Children's Books 2012: 100 Books for Reading and Sharing list HONORABLE MENTION - 2012 Aesop Accolade, American Folklore Society Notable Social Studies Trade Books for Young People 2013

30 review for Walking on Earth and Touching the Sky: Poetry and Prose by Lakota Youth at Red Cloud Indian School

  1. 5 out of 5

    Julie

    A snowy night is when my family is asleep and the coyotes are howling. I see the world through my window and it looks like a polar bear's back. The stars are bright and the dogs are running around. --Dallas Nelson My family and I just took an actual road trip to South Dakota, so, for the first time this year, one of our virtual reading road trips coincided with a physical visit to that state. An actual road trip, combined with a read, y'all! It was thrilling, absolutely thrilling, to return to The A snowy night is when my family is asleep and the coyotes are howling. I see the world through my window and it looks like a polar bear's back. The stars are bright and the dogs are running around. --Dallas Nelson My family and I just took an actual road trip to South Dakota, so, for the first time this year, one of our virtual reading road trips coincided with a physical visit to that state. An actual road trip, combined with a read, y'all! It was thrilling, absolutely thrilling, to return to The Black Hills. If you've never been to this region, I can't recommend it enough. If you can get past the overweight tourists with their “America: Love it or Leave it” t-shirts, and, instead, drive until you can't see any people anywhere, you can easily glimpse the American West in all of its glory. When a herd of buffalo stepped right in front of our car in Badlands National Park, we turned off the car, and proceeded to sit in a stunned silence as some 200 buffalo ambled along the front and sides of our car, grunting and snorting at us. When I propped myself up in the window to take photos, I could smell the bison and feel the heat from their bodies. As deeply connected as I have always felt to the West, this experience will be a highlight of my life. This is the West, the wild, wild West, and it is unmatched by anything else on this earth. You can see, easily, how open the spaces, how big the sky. Somehow, this always needed to be a place of wildness. And, yet. . . we know the story. The reality is. . . the native peoples who once lived, but never “owned”, these lands were taken from these wild places and placed on reservations and, for many of them, their will to live died. For the Lakota, now on the Pine Ridge reservation, “unemployment is astronomically high, and life expectancy is extremely low. . . alcohol and drug use is widespread, as is violence.” The caged bird so rarely sings, despite Ms. Angelou's ambitious desire to make it so. Timothy McLaughlin, a teacher at the Red Cloud Indian School at the Pine Ridge Reservation, decided to coax out some of the emotion among Lakota youth, and gather the poems and prose of these young people, as a way of understanding what life looked like for them in 2012, when this was published. Some outstanding artwork by S.D. Nelson accompanies the poems and passages by the tweens and teens that Mr. McLaughlin had as students. The verse here often depicts violence and drug use. As a mother, much of this made my stomach hurt. The reader gets a great sense of modern life for the Lakota youth, but I was unclear on why so little editing when into the work. As a professional poet, I know I can't even submit poems unless they are impeccable, and yet mistakes were kept in the kids' work. No spelling errors, but many other glaring issues with syntax and shifting tenses. Many of the pieces seemed as though they were published “as is.” I get it, that's a creative choice that was made, but I do find fault with it. With the amazing artwork and gorgeous cover, this collection had the potential to be a 5-star read, but without professional editing, this fell to 3 stars for my daughters and me. I was disappointed in a potential not fully achieved here, but I still found this to be an important project. What do we do with this wildness that we have caged??

  2. 5 out of 5

    Kris

    Wow. I can't believe that this is a gathering of work by 5th through 8th graders. They capture emotion in such a raw way, and their phrasing sometimes stunned me. The Lakota students at the Red Cloud Indian School reflect on all sorts of topics and express themselves in such an honest way. I always love S.D. Nelson's art, but I wish the art had been from the students as well. Wow. I can't believe that this is a gathering of work by 5th through 8th graders. They capture emotion in such a raw way, and their phrasing sometimes stunned me. The Lakota students at the Red Cloud Indian School reflect on all sorts of topics and express themselves in such an honest way. I always love S.D. Nelson's art, but I wish the art had been from the students as well.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Eden

    Poetry and prose from students at Red Cloud Indian school. Some really good writing with raw emotions and wonderful illustrations. 3 and a half stars.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Donalyn

    This excellent anthology shares the writing of 5th-8th grade poets at the Red Cloud Indian School, and reveals both the depth of students' experiences and the power of writing communities. This excellent anthology shares the writing of 5th-8th grade poets at the Red Cloud Indian School, and reveals both the depth of students' experiences and the power of writing communities.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Kari

    As we learn from the introduction and dust jacket, Walking is a collection of writing from Lakota youth in fifth through eighth grades, collected over three years. Their expressions articulate in concise forms their own observations, including sadness, frustration with the cycle of poverty, joy in family and spiritual connections, pride in Native identity, and commentary on their place in the world. The editor was the children’s teacher on the Pine Ridge Reservation and he hails from an extensiv As we learn from the introduction and dust jacket, Walking is a collection of writing from Lakota youth in fifth through eighth grades, collected over three years. Their expressions articulate in concise forms their own observations, including sadness, frustration with the cycle of poverty, joy in family and spiritual connections, pride in Native identity, and commentary on their place in the world. The editor was the children’s teacher on the Pine Ridge Reservation and he hails from an extensive background of writing, teaching, and working with Native youth in Santa Fe, at Pine Ridge, and on the Flathead Reservation. The illustrator is an honored author and artist, and a member of the Lakota. The book is implicitly endorsed by Joseph M. Marshall III, a respected member of a nearby reservation who has also written extensively. The children write with honesty and clarity. Tyler Seabody’s “Death” recognizes the cycle of life and death, but also how it happens near him “in a quick history.” It causes the reader to consider that this preteen (presumably, by grade level) has such experience with witnessing death, how people around him mourn and deal with death, and how he processes death. There are also pure expressions of resilience, such as Chanelle Douville’s “Still I Dream.” Here she acknowledges addiction, poverty, and death, “[b]ut still I dream about the past and how happy we were… and we each have food and a home to live in.” I interpret this as a faith that she intends to overcome these temporary corporal injustices and return to an existence in which she and the Lakota thrive. The things I question are if the publisher might have taken liberties with the illustrative text, and whether or not it is representative of #ownvoices. Like a plate of food, I feast upon a book first with my eyes. Walking’s cover illustration integrates human, scientific, and supernatural worlds, and suggests thoughtful reflection on indigenous interpretations of the Westernized world. The font choice, however, is grating--it is as though the graphics editors felt the imagery wasn’t “ethnic” enough to attract readers to Native voices. Lakhota was not a written language until missionaries intervened, so it cannot reasonably allude to ancient written communications. A brief look at self-study materials available at lakhota.org and the Lakota Summer Institute confirm that the book cover and header styles are unique to the book. Regarding authorship, I unquestioningly embrace the mini narratives of the Red Cloud students; their poetry and prose illustrate the virtues and struggles of being Indian in the United States. I am concerned, however, that it is a non-Native who edited the collection for publication. Were the writings arranged to suit his need to evoke emotions? I note that “Laughter,” “Loneliness,” and “Fear” share page space that creates a sense of sorrow and perhaps pity. Might there have been something left out--things deemed too foreign for outsiders’ understandings? Having watched The Battle for Whiteclay, I am aware that I cannot truly know the politics, emotions, and day-to-day living of a nation that has existed so long, survived genocide, and grapples now with poverty and alcoholism. I also wonder why the foreword was from the member of a neighboring tribe and not from someone in Pine Ridge. Marshall is Lakota, but from a different tribe and reservations. I cannot speak to the closeness of the relationships between the tribes, and perhaps there was some reason that a Pine Ridge official or elder could not step forward at the time of publication, but the absence of a local adult voice is puzzling. Side note: book reviews may be out of an author’s or publisher’s control, so I do not fault them for the review in Library Media Connection (Miller, 2012). The book is “highly recommended” and the book description is largely flattering and true. However, it ends with the suggestion that it “would make a fine literature tie-in when studying Native Americans.” This is akin to saving up Black literature for Black History Month. Why not include a multitude of voices throughout the curriculum and help suggest that Lakota voices are relevant in the everyday?! Reference Miller, M. W. (2012, November). Walking on Earth & touching the sky [review]. Library Media Collection 31(3), 90.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Barbara

    This is an attractively designed book that provides a venue for the voices of young First Nation writers. Filled with vibrant original paintings and bursting with honest emotion, the collection reveals deep connections to the students' past and sometimes uncertainty about their present and future. The writing was collected by their former teacher at Red Cloud Indian School on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota. Written by students ranging from fifth to eighth grade, the poems and This is an attractively designed book that provides a venue for the voices of young First Nation writers. Filled with vibrant original paintings and bursting with honest emotion, the collection reveals deep connections to the students' past and sometimes uncertainty about their present and future. The writing was collected by their former teacher at Red Cloud Indian School on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota. Written by students ranging from fifth to eighth grade, the poems and prose are usually brief but poignant. While some of them are typical of writers of that age, others seem to contain sentiments much wiser than their tender ages. The collection is organized according to themes that allowed the young writers to explore what mattered most to them: the Natural World, Misery, Native Thoughts, Silence, Spirit, Family, Youth and Dreams, and Language. A brief commentary introduces each section, allowing the students' concerns to be the focus, never being overwhelmed by the voice of their teacher. I was particularly impressed by the honesty of the writing as the poets draw on their rich cultural heritage, ever mindful of the past. The raw emotion associated with loss is leavened with moments of joy, and it is clear that these students have much to say. This title should certainly find its way into today's classroom libraries, a perfect example of the power of young writing. While there is an index of the authors and the poems, I couldn't help but want to know more about the writers themselves.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Christy

    This is an exceptional poetry collection written by Lakota students in the fifth, sixth, seventh, and eighth grades at Red Cloud Indian School on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota. The historic school was founded in 1888 at the request of Chief Red Cloud of the Oglala Lakota. The poems enable readers to learn about the unique lives and heritage of students This is an exceptional poetry collection written by Lakota students in the fifth, sixth, seventh, and eighth grades at This is an exceptional poetry collection written by Lakota students in the fifth, sixth, seventh, and eighth grades at Red Cloud Indian School on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota. The historic school was founded in 1888 at the request of Chief Red Cloud of the Oglala Lakota. The poems enable readers to learn about the unique lives and heritage of students This is an exceptional poetry collection written by Lakota students in the fifth, sixth, seventh, and eighth grades at Red Cloud Indian School on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota. The historic school was founded in 1888 at the request of Chief Red Cloud of the Oglala Lakota. The poems enable readers to learn about the unique lives and heritage of students growing up in such distinctive circumstances and straddling cultures. The collection was compiled by a teacher at the school, working with school administrators, and contains never-before-published artworks by award-winning artist S. D. Nelson. Praise for Walking on Earth and Touching the Sky "A moving, fascinating glimpse across cultures. Vivid, polychromatic illustrations by Nelson accompany the students’ evocative works."--Kirkus Reviews

  8. 5 out of 5

    Bridget Whalen

    This book is an amazing collection of poetry. It tells the personal narratives of Lakota youth at Red Cloud Indian School, and shares the history of their school, and their people as well. The poetry is incredibly accessible, organized by theme and with an underlying commonality of the challenges everyone faces while growing up. It is given additional weight, as these "warm, hopeful, angry, sad, confused, insightful, and wise--but most of all honest" voices are voices that are frequently deprive This book is an amazing collection of poetry. It tells the personal narratives of Lakota youth at Red Cloud Indian School, and shares the history of their school, and their people as well. The poetry is incredibly accessible, organized by theme and with an underlying commonality of the challenges everyone faces while growing up. It is given additional weight, as these "warm, hopeful, angry, sad, confused, insightful, and wise--but most of all honest" voices are voices that are frequently deprived of a voice in American culture. This collection could be done in reading group in class, or as part of a class discussion and read aloud. It could also be used as a supplement to social studies readings. It is a valuable resource for discussing and modeling the creation of poetry as a way to represent individual's personal experiences. Furthermore, it adds complexity, humanity and depth to the textbook representations of the residual affects of the ways American society and government have harmed Native American Indian peoples.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Donna Nix

    I'm writing this as a former SD resident, and I'm writing it on Native American Day (the SD day of observance for that day called Columbus Day in other parts of the country). Overall, I loved this book. When people complain about the lack of diversity in school library collections, this is a book that should be widely available. The layout and design is carefully thought out. The artwork by Nelson with his commentary adds to the emotion of the students writing. As others have noted, there are a I'm writing this as a former SD resident, and I'm writing it on Native American Day (the SD day of observance for that day called Columbus Day in other parts of the country). Overall, I loved this book. When people complain about the lack of diversity in school library collections, this is a book that should be widely available. The layout and design is carefully thought out. The artwork by Nelson with his commentary adds to the emotion of the students writing. As others have noted, there are a few poems that read more like a writing assignment (thus 4 stars not 5), but overall, this is a beautiful book that deserves a broad audience. It's great that it has made best books of the years lists from social studies and language arts teachers, and I hope that will broaden its usage in classrooms.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Jez Layman

    This collection was written by the students at the Red Cloud Indian School and brought a very honest face to the American Indian experience. Some of the poems were good, but in many cases it was pretty obvious they had been written by teens*. One in particular, about always wearing black because of the number of funerals, still sticks with me. The book was split into sections, but for a lot of poems, it was difficult for me to connect them with the theme of the section they were supposed to conve This collection was written by the students at the Red Cloud Indian School and brought a very honest face to the American Indian experience. Some of the poems were good, but in many cases it was pretty obvious they had been written by teens*. One in particular, about always wearing black because of the number of funerals, still sticks with me. The book was split into sections, but for a lot of poems, it was difficult for me to connect them with the theme of the section they were supposed to convey. I felt the same way about the art included, but I did very much enjoy seeing the traditional native art. *I'm such a snob, I know.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Nancy

    A book of poetry, written by youth of the Lakota Nation at Red Cloud Indian School in SD. Based around seven themes, the poems give a window into the lives of youth who live on the Pine Ridge reservation. While many of the poems are very good, some of them are uneven, for they are an obvious try to match a topic, instead of being the youth's own reflections. Native American representation in YA literature is sparse, so this collection has merit, especially because the foreword and introduction g A book of poetry, written by youth of the Lakota Nation at Red Cloud Indian School in SD. Based around seven themes, the poems give a window into the lives of youth who live on the Pine Ridge reservation. While many of the poems are very good, some of them are uneven, for they are an obvious try to match a topic, instead of being the youth's own reflections. Native American representation in YA literature is sparse, so this collection has merit, especially because the foreword and introduction give background and the art work is fabulous. Two poems stood out for me, both written by David Wolfe, "The Battle" and "Center of the World".

  12. 4 out of 5

    Beth

    Not my thing. I can appreciate what it is/trying to do and keeping in mind who the intended audience is it is age level appropriate but.... I don't know. The poetry for me was blah, however it did provide a glimpse into a lifestyle relatively hidden from most of America. But all poetry offers a glimpse into the authors life so this isn't unique. I hate to say it but it feels like the teacher just wanted some kudos for teaching in a tricky situation. The artwork was beautiful and I feel that this Not my thing. I can appreciate what it is/trying to do and keeping in mind who the intended audience is it is age level appropriate but.... I don't know. The poetry for me was blah, however it did provide a glimpse into a lifestyle relatively hidden from most of America. But all poetry offers a glimpse into the authors life so this isn't unique. I hate to say it but it feels like the teacher just wanted some kudos for teaching in a tricky situation. The artwork was beautiful and I feel that this is what made the book.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Becky

    A collection of poems and short essays written by 5th through 8th graders at Red Cloud Indian School. In these pieces, the students share their life, their heart, and their way of looking at and believing in the world. Life on the reservation is a study of contrasts - a deep connection and pride in their heritage, and the everyday realities of poverty and racism. These things are beautifully expressed in these pages.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Courtney

    2012. Poetry 3. Great book to read aloud, poetry to create their own poetry book at the end of a poetry section, or during a Native American Month. Its a collection of short poems by students. Some are haunting and other humorous and beautiful. Definitely a great book to own and read. Doesn't necessarily just draw connections to Native American kids but other minorities and others can make connections as well. 2012. Poetry 3. Great book to read aloud, poetry to create their own poetry book at the end of a poetry section, or during a Native American Month. Its a collection of short poems by students. Some are haunting and other humorous and beautiful. Definitely a great book to own and read. Doesn't necessarily just draw connections to Native American kids but other minorities and others can make connections as well.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Scott

    Many of these poems felt like writing assignments. I think it would have been a better collection if McLaughlin had been more discerning in choosing, and made the volume about half as long. It was interesting seeing a contemporary perspective of the Native American traditions from those young voices still connected to it.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Cat.

    Earnest kids' poetry and short essays about what it means to be Lakota Sioux. Clearly project work, but some lovely imagery. Kids are pretty amazing, and while this is uneven, it's a good snapshot of what they think about life on the rez. Finished in less than 45 minutes. Earnest kids' poetry and short essays about what it means to be Lakota Sioux. Clearly project work, but some lovely imagery. Kids are pretty amazing, and while this is uneven, it's a good snapshot of what they think about life on the rez. Finished in less than 45 minutes.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Alyson (Kid Lit Frenzy)

    beautiful book of poetry/prose and illustrations

  18. 4 out of 5

    Edward Sullivan

    A beautifully designed and illustrated collection of poetry and prose.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Jen

    This collection of writings demonstrates the power of a writing community. These Lakota youth voices will stick with me, especially their resilience, their candor and their hope for a better world.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Penelope ~Conversations with my cat~

    Great poetry and emotions. I especially loved the descriptions of the art from S.D. Nelson.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Jay McCue

  22. 5 out of 5

    Melissa

  23. 5 out of 5

    Larry Nyland

  24. 4 out of 5

    Kayla

  25. 4 out of 5

    Carolyn Rader

  26. 4 out of 5

    Carmen

  27. 4 out of 5

    Janelle

  28. 5 out of 5

    Kristen Mohr

  29. 5 out of 5

    Anna Alexander

  30. 5 out of 5

    Julie

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