Miranda and her mama have always agreed about everything. So when Mama is offered a job with Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show painting scenery, she and Miranda certainly agree that it is time to get out of Fort Lincoln, where they've been doing soldiers' laundry for as long as Miranda can remember.

But while Miranda blossoms on the road--meeting Annie Oakley, making friends with an Indian girl, and even participating in the show herself--Mama stews in her hatred of the Indians; she...

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Miranda's Last Stand

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Miranda and her mama have always agreed about everything. So when Mama is offered a job with Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show painting scenery, she and Miranda certainly agree that it is time to get out of Fort Lincoln, where they've been doing soldiers' laundry for as long as Miranda can remember.

But while Miranda blossoms on the road--meeting Annie Oakley, making friends with an Indian girl, and even participating in the show herself--Mama stews in her hatred of the Indians; she blames them all for her husband's death. And when Chief Sitting Bull joins the troupe, Miranda begins to see that there are two sides to every battle, a vision Mama won't share.

Gloria Whelan combines expert storytelling and meticulous historical detail to create a provocative tale that shimmers with remarkable insight into the heart of American history.

Notable Children's Trade Books in the Field of Social Studies 2000, National Council for SS & Child. Book Council

Because the Sioux had killed her Papa at the Battle of Little Bighorn, eleven-year-old Miranda struggles with her mama's prejudice and her own experiences with Indians in the Wild West Show.

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Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature - Jackie Hechtkopf
Miranda lives at Fort Lincoln where Mama works as a laundress. In her spare time, Mama paints pictures of the soldiers. Her portraits are so beautiful that they draw the attention of Bill Cody, who asks Mama to paint posters and a backdrop for his Wild West Show. Miranda and her mother spend an exciting summer traveling with the show. For the first time, Miranda makes friends with children her own age. But the other children are Sioux Indians and Mama can't forgive the Sioux for killing her husband at the Battle of Little Big Horn. When Sitting Bull joins the show, Mama is furious. Miranda tries to teach Mama that the Sioux are not evil, but she finally realizes that her mother cannot "climb out of herself." Miranda's strong and honestly childlike voice carries this mother-daughter story of the American West. As an added bonus, readers get a glimpse of Annie Oakley. This is a charming book that portrays Native Americans empathetically in an eminently entertaining format. Teachers should consider this one for a classroom read-aloud.
Library Journal
Gr 4-7-After her mother is hired by Buffalo Bill Cody to paint backdrops for his Wild West Show, Miranda encounters some Indian children whom she gradually realizes are the relatives of the men who killed her father in the Battle of Little Big Horn. As an account of one girl's gradual coming to terms with the loss of her father and understanding the plight of the Sioux, the novel has merit. Unfortunately, it completely ignores the painful and harsh ways in which they were exploited. Most of the Indian children are portrayed with good English skills, but their mother speaks stereotypical pidgin diction. Sitting Bull's interpreted speech has tremendous dignity and power, and seems strangely at odds with the rest of the narrative in mood. The characters lack those foibles and quirks that help them to spring to life and walk off the page, and the reverence readers are to feel for Sitting Bull distances them rather than pulls them into the tragedy of a great leader working a dog-and-pony show to entertain the very people he had fought for his own country. It is a tightrope to walk between telling a good story with immediacy and being completely respectful of people who once lived public lives. Unfortunately, Whelan fails to engage readers completely on either level.-Carol A. Edwards, Sonoma County Library, Santa Rosa, CA Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780061978807
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 11/3/2009
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 144
  • Sales rank: 1,290,292
  • Age range: 8 - 12 Years
  • File size: 407 KB

Meet the Author

Gloria Whelan

Gloria Whelan is the bestselling author of many novels for young readers, including Homeless Bird, winner of the National Book Award, The Locked Garden, Parade of Shadows, and Listening for Lions. She lives in Michigan near Lake St. Clair.

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Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

In 1876, when I was two years old, Papa rode out with General Custer to fight Sitting Bull and his Sioux warriors and never came back. General Custer and the men of the Seventh Cavalry bravely attacked the Indians at the Little Big Horn River. Papa and every other soldier in the Seventh Cavalry was killed.Mama has told me, "Those were terrible days, Miranda. Everywhere you looked there was black. We all wore black. There were black wreaths on the doors. Through the open windows you could hear the crying of the soldiers' wives. In the barracks the soldiers vowed revenge on the hateful Chief Sitting Bull and his evil warriors."

Mama had made a painting of the Seventh Cavalry as they marched across the parade ground. It hung in our sitting room, and I looked at it every day. The figure of Papa on his horse was smudged. When I was little, I used to climb up onto a chair to touch him.

At the head of the mounted soldiers was General Custer with his long red-gold hair, his black hat with the brim turned up, and his sleeves heavy with gold braid. He was riding his favorite horse, Vic. Strung out behind the cavalry were the artillery, the cannons, and the Gatling guns. Then came the long line of pack mules and covered wagons carrying supplies for the soldiers' journey.Mama had painted in the wives of the soldiers. Some of them were holding up babies so they could see their fathers march off. In the picture there were children with flags made of handkerchiefs tied to sticks. There were children drumming on pots. Mama said the band was playing "The Girl I Left Behind Me."

After Papa was killed, we had no place to go. Many of the cavalry wiveswent back to their families. When I was older, I asked Mama, "Why didn't we go and live with your mama and papa?" I had never met them, but their picture was on her dresser, and each Christmas a letter would come with their address on the back of the envelope. Like us, they lived in the Dakota Territory. Their home wasn't far from Fort Lincoln, where we lived. When the letter arrived, Mama would go into our bedroom and close the door to read it. When she came out, her eyes were red from crying. She never explained why the letter made her cry or why her parents hadn't taken us in. "I'll tell you when you're older, Miranda" was all she said.

After Papa's death the new commander of the fort offered Mama a place on Laundresses' Row, which is what the fort calls the string of little houses where the laundresses live. Mama accepted. We moved from a large officer's house into two cramped rooms.

Laundresses were paid seventy-five cents a month for each enlisted man's clothes they washed, and a dollar for washing the clothes of an officer. Mama disappeared into a froth of soapsuds. A great soiled heap of clothes came daily in a wagon. The clothes were sent back fresh and folded. From the beginning I helped-folding when I was small, pinning up when I grew tall enough to reach the clothesline. I could tell the seasons by the drying of the laundry. In the spring the wind whipped the sheets into great white ghosts. In summer the sheets were a snowstorm bleaching on the grass. In fall we had to shake off the leaves as we gathered in the laundry. In winter if we hung out, we had stiff boards to bring in.

As I grew older, I tired of the endless heaps of laundry. When I could slip away, I explored the fort. Every part of it became familiar to me. On one side of a large square were the commander's home and the officers' houses where we had once lived. I used to stand looking at them, imagining what it would be like to have my own room, and a porch with roses climbing up the pillars, and a swing to rock on.

Across the square from the officers' houses were the barracks for the enlisted men. You could smell their tobacco smoke and hear the thump of their boots as they pulled them off and their sighs of relief as they stretched their toes after a hard day's marching. There was a hospital for sick soldiers and a guardhouse for bad ones. Flames danced all day long at the smithy, where the horses were shoed. There was an icehouse. When I poked my head into it in the summer, it felt cold as winter.I especially loved to visit the corral and see Comanche. All the soldiers and all their horses had died at the Battle of the Little Big Horn, except for one horse, Comanche. When Comanche was discovered still alive after the battle, he had twenty bullets in him. When he was well enough, they brought him back to the fort. I went to see him every day, bringing him cubes of sugar, which he plucked from my fingers with his large teeth. He was golden brown with a dark mane and tail and gentle dark eyes. Sometimes I whispered questions to him, but there were no answers. "How I wish he could tell me what happened!" I said to Mama. "He must have been close to Papa when Papa was killed by the Indians."

Mama shook her head and said, "Miranda, it's a blessing Comanche can't talk."Everyone at the fort loved Comanche. No one was allowed to ride him, but every time there was a special ceremony at the fort, Comanche was led out with great honor to parade with the cavalry. When Mama saw Comanche saddled up, she said, "No one at Fort Lincoln or anywhere in this country will ever forget the Battle of the Little Big Horn."

My favorite day was Sunday, when I had Mama all to myself and no laundry. After church Mama and I walked in the fields around the fort. In the spring the fragrance of the wild roses hung in the air. In the fall the buckbrush berries turned white and the buffalo berries red. When I was old enough to walk long distances, Mama and I packed apples and bread and cheese, and we'd wander for miles over the hills or along the Missouri River. Mama would stand with her face turned up to the sun and wind. "I must get the soap and the dampness out of me, Miranda," she'd say.

Once we came to a field with many stone circles. "Who could have put them there?" I asked.

Mama shuddered. "Indians. Those stones kept the wind from blowing their tepees loose."

"Indians lived here?" The thought was exciting, and I wanted to learn more.But Mama had a sharpness in her voice when she spoke, and though I had done nothing wrong, I felt I was being scolded. "Come away quickly, Miranda," she said.Much as Mama disliked Indians, we saw them every day. At the fort there were always Indians. The Crows scouted for the soldiers. Even though they fought on our side, Mama would turn away when she saw one. I tried to hate all the Indians as well. Still, I could not stop looking at their feathered headdresses, their brightly colored clothes, and their decorations made of silver and bone and the teeth of grizzly bears. I did not see how Mama could keep from painting the Indians. They were always pleasant to me, smiling and waving when they caught me watching them. Sometimes I waved back, but sometimes I didn't, afraid Mama would see.

Each time the soldiers celebrated another victory over the Indians, Mama rejoiced. "Indians are all alike," she said. "They are all our enemy."

Miranda's Last Stand. Copyright © by Gloria Whelan. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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