Sunday, November 29, 2015

With One Sky Above Us

Winner of the 2010 Spur Award for “Best Western Juvenile Nonfiction”
A Carter G. Woodson/NCSS Honor Book, 2010
First Place in Children’s Nonfiction, New Jersey Press Women
First Place in Children’s Nonfiction, National Federation of Press Women

Nancy Plain’s award winning book “With One Sky Above Us” is a YA biography about Chief Joseph and the Nez Perce Indians. The story recounts how Chief Joseph and the Nez Perce Indians fought to keep their homeland. It explores the Indians’ history and recounts their remarkable flight toward freedom during the 1877 Nez Perce War.

While an informative read, "With One Sky Above Us" under the deft hands of Nancy Plain it becomes a touching tribute to a great historical figure. Her poignant, well crafted words draw you into the story. As the reader you can feel Joseph’s heavy heart as he was forced to make painful decisions for his tribe, and the anger when treaty promises were broken. I could not help but feel a sense of sadness for the Nez Perce tribe being chased out of their homeland. I so admired their grit, courage and tenacious spirit.

Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce (1840-1904) was known to his people as "Thunder Traveling to the Loftier Mountain Heights." Chief Joseph’s Band of Nez Perce Indians lived in Oregon’s green and beautiful Wallowa Valley. They were horse people and fearless riders. But when whites began to settle in Nez Perce country, Joseph knew that his homeland and the ways of his tribe, the Wallowa band, were in jeopardy. He vowed to his dying father that he would guard his “beautiful valley of winding waters” with his life.

Young Joseph was a thoughtful and serious leader who was filled with spirit and passion to protect his people and keep their rightful homeland. He led his people in an attempt to resist the takeover of their lands in the Oregon Territory by white settlers. In 1877, the Nez Perce were ordered to move to a reservation in Idaho. Chief Joseph agreed at first. But after members of his tribe killed a group of settlers, he tried to flee to Canada with his followers, traveling over 1,500 miles through Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and Montana. Along the way they fought several battles with the pursuing U.S. Army. One of the most memorable speeches in American history made by Chief Joseph is when on Oct. 5, 1877 he finally surrendered. His speech spoke of freedom and equality for all people. Joseph’s words were touching, filled with an air of resignation and sadness.  Hear me, my chiefs! I am tired. My heart is sick and sad. From where the sun now stands, I will fight no more forever. 

It's no easy feat and certainly one to be admired when an author can condense such a remarkable inspiring story to just 75 pages and still not compromise on important details and the historical impact. I would only hope this invaluable resource "With One Sky Above Us" would be readily available in schools and libraries for young people. Although written for the YA market it certainly should not be overlooked by adult reader.
Nancy finds American history a fascinating subject and is always curious about other people’s lives. She generally feels there is a lack of YA biographies that do justice to the story of Chief Joseph and the Nez Perce. Nancy enjoys writing for the YA market because you can say all the important things that need to be said and still not write a 500-page book.

The author spent about a year and half completing “With One Sky Above Us”.  Her research is meticulous as with her other books. She found a wealth of information to draw upon and many primary sources including a book written by Chief Joseph’s friend Yellow Wolf, who lived through the Nez Perce war along side Joseph. Choosing illustrations for the book was a collaborative effort between the author and Mondo Publishing. The book contains original photographs and illustrations as well as some Nez Perce drawings found in a ledger book at the Lapwai Reservation Nancy felt important to the story. The evocative pictures were from the Indians themselves.

Nancy hopes readers will take away from her book that human beings can tap unbelievable wells of courage within themselves. They can endure many tragedies and still find a way to survive. It is a universal phenomenon. In addition she hopes her young readers will be inspired by her love of history and come to realize the enjoyment that comes from learning about people from the past and their contributions.

For more author information, book ordering, podcast Voices of the West and for press news visit Nancy's website at

Previously posted Nancy Plain book reviews can be found on including This Strange Wilderness 

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