Friday, December 15, 2006


[Note: This review is used by permission of its author and may not be published elsewhere without written permission of the author.]
Medicine Crow, Joseph (Absarokee/Crow), with Herman J. Viola, Counting Coup: Becoming a Crow Chief on the Reservation and Beyond. National Geographic, 2006. 123 pages, color and b/w photos, grades 5-8.

As tribal historian of the Absarokee (Crow) Nation, Joseph Medicine Crow would have to be a very good storyteller and have a very long memory. He is and does. Here, in short stories with an ironic humor that seems to be the forte of elders, Medicine Crow tells of a childhood lived mainly outdoors: bathing in icy rivers, mud fights, racing horses, stealing a cow from a white rancher, listening to stories about family and community, and counting coup.

In the old days, in order for someone to become an Absarokee war chief it was necessary to accomplish four life-threatening coups—capture an enemy’s horse, touch the first enemy to fall in battle, steal an enemy’s weapons, and lead a war party. Counting coup is about confronting fears. Such as Medicine Crow’s experiences at a Baptist mission school and later at public school, where he encounters racism and learns to fear whites. Such as his first hospital visit to have his adenoids removed, in which he encounters whites, a Sioux and a ghost (who turns out to be an elderly white guy). Such as his exploits while serving in World War II, in which he completes his four acts of bravery.

 Counting Coup is an excellent read that will resonate with middle readers, and might encourage them to interview their own elders.
—Beverly Slapin

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