Lewis and Clark: The Greatest Adventure of American History

Lewis and Clark: The Greatest Adventure of American History

by Nick Bertozzi

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Two of America's greatest explorers embark on the adventure that made their names—and sealed their fates.

In 1804, Meriwether Lewis and William Clark departed St. Louis, Missouri, for one of the greatest adventures this nation has ever known. Appointed and funded by President Jefferson himself, and led by a cadre of experts (including the famous Sacajawea),

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Two of America's greatest explorers embark on the adventure that made their names—and sealed their fates.

In 1804, Meriwether Lewis and William Clark departed St. Louis, Missouri, for one of the greatest adventures this nation has ever known. Appointed and funded by President Jefferson himself, and led by a cadre of experts (including the famous Sacajawea), the expedition was considered a success almost before it had begun. From the start, the journey was plagued with illness, bad luck, unfriendly Indians, Lewis's chronic depression, and, to top it all, the shattering surprise of the towering Rocky Mountains and the continental divide. But despite crippling setbacks, overwhelming doubts, and the bare facts of geography itself, Lewis and Clark made it to the Pacific in 1806.

Nick Bertozzi brings the harrowing—and, at times, hilarious—journey to vivid life on the pages of this oversized black-and-white graphic novel. With his passion for history and his knack for characterization, Bertozzi has made an intimate tale of a great American epic.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Bertozzi (Houdini: The Handcuff King) brings new life to the epic westward journey of explorers Lewis and Clark in this graphic novel perfect for history buffs. At the urging of President Jefferson, Capt. Meriwether Lewis gathers a party of hardy men to accompany him into the unknown western territories, through which he is determined to find a water route to the Pacific Ocean. Setting off on May 21, 1804, from St. Louis with his second-in-command, Capt. William Clark, Lewis proves to be a man of singular—often bordering on tunnel—vision when it comes to accomplishing his goal. Bertozzi illustrates the group's interactions with numerous Native American tribes, which grow increasingly strained as the chiefs rebuff the explorers' offers of beads for trade and demand rifles and other weaponry. The challenging landscape plays a major role as well, including the mighty Missouri River, the unexpected Rocky Mountains, and finally rapids in the Dalles, Ore., near the end of the journey. Lewis's dream of finding an uninterrupted water route westward fails. His deteriorating mental state throughout the expedition and particularly on the return trip is eloquently drawn, with Bertozzi managing to combine both history lesson and character study in strong, gripping drawings. Ages 12–up. (Feb.)
Ken Burns
A wonderful introduction to one of the most important expeditions and one of the most dramatic stories in American history.
John Hodgman
Nick Bertozzi's comics do more than bring history to life: they reanimate these long dead souls and make them human again. I would buy this book just to see Thomas Jefferson tending the roses. But it's dark-locked Meriwether Lewis whom we truly see for the first time through Bertozzi's pen: brave, fallible, ambitious, funny, brilliant, crude, transcendently ambitious, tragically mad all at once. Bertozzi captures in pictures the epic grandeur and quiet desperation of the Lewis and Clark expedition as no dumb book of prose ever could.
Comic books and superhuman feats go hand in glove, and although the opening of the West by the Corps of Discovery might not be everyone's idea of righteous heroism, the cloak-and-tights-worthy daring and physical effort of the explorers is beyond contention. Bertozzi's fictionalized account of Meriwether Lewis and William Clark's expedition is researched with thoroughness and presented so convincingly that, were it not for some episodes and conversations that are clearly unverifiable, this could past as straight-up history. Presumably most readers have been introduced to the expedition by the time they reach middle school, and those with sufficient background will especially appreciate Bertozzi's take on the enmities and alliances among Indian tribes that directly impacted their decision on how to treat the white explorers. Those who know Lewis' sad demise will also laud Bertozzi's imaginative sensitivity to the mental imbalance that presaged his probable suicide. There's a dash of humor to the black-and-white artwork, which generally marches along in orderly frames, only to break into more creative flow when a landmark point or event in the journey is reached. Bertozzi handles silence as cannily as dialogue, and the stretches of mute storytelling will appeal to graphic-novel fans who may not ordinarily pay much mind to historical themes. A few brief exchanges of salty banter push this a bit beyond curricular use in lower grades, but these dashes of spice will make it all the more attractive and authentic to adolescents. A bibliography is appended, and the bound book will include an author's note.
Children's Literature - Michael Jung PhD
For many, the Lewis and Clark Expedition conjures up romantic images of two intrepid explorers trekking across a lush wilderness, braving dangers, and forming relationships with new cultures—in hopes of mapping a water route to the Pacific Coast and aiding the still-growing United States in commerce and discovery. Yet as graphic novelist/artist Nick Bertozzi shows in his interpretation of Lewis and Clark's journey, the expedition was also marked by illness, greed, bigotry, madness, and more than a little bad planning by two explorers who were often in way over their heads. Bertozzi makes a point of de-romanticizing everyone involved in the expedition, from the bickering men under Lewis and Clark's command, to the distrusting Indian tribes, to the surly Captain Lewis by frequently showing them at their most undignified (including a scene where the explorers must contend with a bad case of flatulence). Yet while this depiction of the Lewis and Clark Expedition seems defined by more farce than wonder, it is still based on genuine scholarly readings of the journey—and it would be to the reader's advantage to study some of the books Bertozzi lists in his bibliography to place the graphic novel's events in context. Reviewer: Michael Jung, PhD
Library Journal
In the early 1800s, Meriwether Lewis and William Clark led the first official U.S. expedition from the East to the Pacific Ocean: three years of scientific discoveries, Indian encounters, drunkenness, fraying tempers, geographical surprises like the Rocky Mountains, lengthy and exhausting portage of gear between waterways, and an unenviably variable food supply. Tasked by President Thomas Jefferson to map a waterway passage across the country as well as soften up Indian tribes for U.S. trade and sovereignty, the manic-depressive Lewis and his more even-keeled partner commanded a boat crew aided by translator Sacajawea with her baby and Clark's personal slave, York. Judiciously intercutting the emotional with the historical, Bertozzi (The Salon) dramatizes Native American dilemmas as well as those of the explorers in a nuanced and addictive account. Creative use of page layouts and speech balloons adds understanding. VERDICT Rightly described as "harrowing and hilarious," Lewis & Clark should help tweens and up burrow into history through a visceral appreciation of the road trip from hell, 19th-century-style. Recommended for all libraries. This is the first volume of a world explorer series, with Shackleton up next.—M.C.
School Library Journal
Gr 7 Up—Meriwether Lewis, a complex and fascinating figure in American history, was a bold explorer and a man haunted by demons. Both sides of his personality are revealed in this saga of his search for a Northwest water passageway to the Pacific. This retelling begins as Jefferson informs Lewis that Congress has approved this expedition. After recruiting William Clark and obtaining necessary provisions, the expedition departs St. Louis in 1804. Death, stampeding buffalo herds, steep-sided canyons, large bodies of moving water, and encounters with multiple Native American tribes must be negotiated. The author makes excellent use of the generous page size. The vertical orientation of side panels frames a deep chasm and scale the heights of a tall tree. Prairies are depicted with long horizontal panels spanning the gutter, and full-page spreads show the expansive country, contributing to readers' understanding of the vastness of the journey. Traditional panels and speech balloons are used to portray the points of view of the explorers. Shapes and outlines of panels alter significantly when the various Native communities are depicted, with a different design for each tribe. Inventive use of differently shaped speech balloon help readers identify each individual tribe that the explorers encounter. This story continues beyond the conclusion of the expedition; it ends three years hence, detailing Lewis's tragic end as well as suppositions regarding Sacajawea's whereabouts.—Barbara M. Moon, Suffolk Cooperative Library System, Bellport, NY
Kirkus Reviews
With masterful command, Bertozzi offers an innovative take on Meriwether Lewis and William Clark's epic journey in this oversized graphic offering. Portraying the arduous trek through rough terrain and encounters with often unwelcoming natives, sequential panels transport readers alongside the famous duo and their equally renowned translator, Sacagawea, as they travel from St. Louis to the Pacific coast. Within a fictional framework, the narrative weaves in facets of the characters' personalities, including Lewis's tempestuous melancholy, Charbonneau's inept bumbling and Sacagawea's ability to endure this voyage surrounded by her intensely masculine cohorts. The artist soars with his exquisite eye for page layouts; his deft stylings can make otherwise dry passages come alive through clever panel placement and visual novelty. Pair with George O'Connor'sJourney into Mohawk Country(2006) and Scott Chantler's Northwest Passage (2007) for a graphically hearty helping of fine historical readings. Slated to be the first in a series on explorers, this expedition ends with high hopes for subsequent volumes. (selected bibliography)(Graphic historical fiction. 12 & up)
Douglas Wolk
…a treat for history-obsessed high schoolers: a roaring, knotty, digressive account of the 1804-06 expedition…This is a gorgeous book, rendered in vivid, slashing black-and-white brush strokes, with imagery that relies on vivid swaths of negative space as much as on Bertozzi's gift for caricature and page design.
—The Washington Post

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Product Details

First Second
Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
8.30(w) x 10.70(h) x 0.40(d)
Age Range:
12 - 17 Years


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