Aiyana would rather impress her new classmates than talk about old, boring Lakota stories with her cousin, Kola. Unfortunately, this leads to a fight on the bus during their field trip to Black Elk Peak, which results in Aiyana telling Kola to go away and stop talking to her. When they arrive at their destination, the “cool” girls dare Aiyana to take a selfie from the top of the building that is undergoing repair work and is off limits to the students. She climbs up and attempts to take a picture; however, a thunderstorm has rolled in, and lightning strikes the building, sending Aiyana tumbling down.
When Aiyana wakes up, she is in the spirit world and encounters the trickster Raven who tells her she must bring four offerings to Iktomi in order to return to the human world. If Aiyana cannot do that, she’ll be stuck in the spirit world with Raven forever. This starts Aiyana on a journey of self-discovery and cultural connection as she makes new friends on her way home.
I enjoyed the storytelling and Lakota culture. As I am not familiar with their stories, I cannot speak to the accuracy, but I thought it was a good introduction to several culturally significant figures. I did not like the cartoony art style of the interior, which does not match the cover art made by a different artist. I was also confused by some of the color choices. At first, I thought the artist was differentiating between day and night, but that was not consistent. So, then I thought maybe it was to highlight the difference between our world and the spirit world, but that doesn’t seem to be the case either. Sometimes the art is bright and colorful and other times it is muted or monochromatic. If there is a pattern, I was not able to identify it.
I think this would make a good addition to a middle grade collection looking to add diverse stories inspired by and made by Lakota creators. A brief explanation of language and the chosen spellings of Lakota words included in the story is provided on the back inside cover.
By M.L. Smoker, Natalie Peeterse
Art by Dale Deforest
Publisher Age Rating: 8-12 years
NFNT Age Recommendation: Middle Grade (7-11)
Creator Representation: Anisinaabe, Sioux
Character Representation: First Nations or Indigenous