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Spotted Eagle and Black Crow: A Lakota Legend

Spotted Eagle and Black Crow: A Lakota Legend

by Emery Bernhard (Retold by), Durga Bernhard (Illustrator)

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In this tale of honor and fealty, Emery Bernhard refashions the eponymous protagonists as brothers. When Black Crow realizes that both he and Spotted Eagle love Red Bird, he lures his brother to a mountain peak, leaves him to perish and returns to claim his bride. Spotted Eagle meanwhile absorbs the wisdom of the eagles who befriend the brave and return him to his people. The graphic shapes and native coloration of Durga Bernhard's stylized artwork convey the narrative's contradictory emotions simply and succinctly. Placed within her flavorful paintings, patterned borders frame boxes of text. A war party ultimately claims the life of Black Crow, but--despite the book's intended moral lessons--readers may have trouble interpreting Spotted Eagle's final words to his dying brother (``Meet the enemy where you stand! Then, I will forgive you whether you live or die'') as anything more than vindictiveness. Also, the complex moral underpinnings here are a bit marred by an interjection of political correctness. Although Caucasians play no role in the story, a preamble states that it takes place long ago, ``before the white man stamped eagles on silver coins, before the prairie earth was stitched with railway ties and churned to dust by wagon wheels.'' Ages 5-8. (Apr.)
School Library Journal - School Library Journal
Gr 2-4-- Two brothers love the same woman, Red Bird. Black Crow tries to eliminate his rival, Spotted Eagle, by abandoning him on a ledge. After days without food or water, Spotted Eagle has a vision assuring him of future success and returns to his people. He finds his brother married to Red Bird, but postpones a fight because of a possible attack by Pawnees. In that battle, Black Crow's horse is killed; he begs futilely for his brother's aid but is refused, and dies. Spotted Eagle marries Red Bird (whose wishes are never mentioned). Although a note touts Spotted Eagle as a hero who remembers ``the wisdom of things of the spirit,'' the story does not enact this moral vision. Spotted Eagle seems just as much an opportunist as his brother, and it is hard to admire his cold refusal of forgiveness and safety in the midst of a battle. A far nobler and more deeply resonant version of this tale appears in Rosebud Yellow Robe's Tonweya and the Eagles (Dial, 1992). Jerry Pinkney's illustrations for that edition are also far more appealing than the flat and lifeless ones in this book. Working in a Southwestern palette, Bernhard draws on traditional Plains designs and two-dimensionality for his stylized representations. His depiction of Spotted Eagle's dream-vision is powerful, but other pages are pale and pedestrian; the stiff, inexpressive figures are ill-matched to the passions that drive the story. --Patricia Dooley, University of Washington, Seattle
Hazel Rochman
In this spare version of an old Lakota legend, two brothers, Black Crow and Spotted Eagle, love the same woman. Black Crow betrays his brother, abandons him on a cliff ledge, and returns to marry the woman. But the eagles save Spotted Eagle: they share their home and food with him and help him fly to freedom. Then the false brother dies a warrior's death in a battle with the Pawnee, and Spotted Eagle marries his love and lives on in harmony with his eagle brothers. An author's note talks about the origin and sources of the tale, and a lyrical introduction describes the time "before the prairie earth was stitched with railway ties and churned to dust by wagon wheels." The watercolor art (reminiscent of some of Gammell's illustrations for "Dancing Teepees", by Virginia Driving Hawk Sneve) is stylized, both quiet and dramatic, with changing geometric borders. The effect is often like collage, always expressing the sense of connection between the human and the natural worlds.

Product Details

Holiday House, Inc.
Publication date:
Edition description:
1st ed
Product dimensions:
10.34(w) x 10.26(h) x 0.35(d)
Age Range:
5 - 8 Years

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