This is the most beautiful story book I have ever owned or seen--anywhere--ever--full stop. When I picked it up in a gift shop in South Dakota and opened it, the world around me got a little quieter and the colors in the illustrations poured in through my eyes and caught in my throat. Beginning to read the story itself, I was instantly captured. It is The Ledgerbook of Thomas Blue Eagle by Gay Matthaei and Jewel Grutman, with illustrations by Adam Cvijanovic. Let me tell you a little bit about it.
First of all, you should know that the story is fictious, but is based around actual historical events (historical fiction for kids!). Arthur Amiotte, a respected elder in the Sioux tribe, a historian and an educator, was a direct consultant to this book. The story itself is told via the journals of Thomas Blue Eagle. He tells of his beloved horse (Two Painted Horse), and describes his life in the Sioux tribe (learning to shoot his bow, hunting buffalo, seeing a white man for the first time and thinking he was sick because he was so pale), all told in vibrant pictographic illustrations, much like the images once painted on skins by Plains Indians to preserve stories of historical events.
You learn of the great vision Thomas has while hiding in a tree during a Crow raid on his people, and how Thomas earns his name "Blue Eagle." Eventually, as foretold by an elder, white settlers begin to arrive which creates many hardships for the Sioux. The buffalo upon which they are dependent begin to disappear, and their tribe is moved to a reservation. Treaties are made and broken, and war breaks out.
After a soldier approaches his family, Thomas Blue Eagle is moved the Carlisle School in Pennsylvania. There Thomas is taught the white man's ways, but he also continues to preserve a connection to his native life through his journals and drawings--and also through his friendships with other Native American students from other tribes. Eventually, Thomas Blue Eagle returns home, and to the way of life he is most connected.
Perhaps you can see that everything about this book suggests that it is an actual journal-it is lined like a ledger book, the text appears hand-written, and the pages are yellowed and aging. The book's blue covers are cloth-bound with a beautiful stamped border, and rounded corners. The book looks authentic, and if you are familiar with early U.S. history, you will recognize certain events--making this so much more than just a child's storybook. Find a copy at your local library, buy your own here--or whatever works for you--but I hope you will just have a look, because it is amazing.