Publishers WeeklyErdrich (Bears Make Rock Soup and Other Stories), a member of the Turtle Mountain band of Plains-Ojibway, and newcomer Buffalohead, who is of Ponca heritage, retell the story of the famous Shoshone woman. For the most part, the text adheres to what is known of Sacagawea (principally from the journals of Lewis and Clark) and only rarely speculates on Sacagawea's feelings. Unfortunately, when Erdrich does try to extrapolate from other material, the writing sometimes strains for effect. For example, kidnapped from her tribe at the age of 11 or 12 by Hidatsa warriors, Sacagawea is said only to be "overwhelmed by the vast open space" and "astonish[ed]" at the Hidatsa earth-lodge village. When Erdrich turns to Hidatsa life, she writes of Sacagawea's pleasure in gardening (the Shoshone did not garden) and adds, in a rare and conspicuous metaphor, "The sunflower, friendly soul of the garden, brightened her days." Featuring earth tones, broad strokes and a grainy texture, Buffalohead's oil paintings impute more personality to Sacagawea (and to her growing infant son, Pomp), but the other characters' faces often seem indistinct. The most useful illustrations may be the occasional black-and-white spot art; these provide more detailed views of specific objects or moments mentioned in the text (e.g., Pomp's "cradleboard"; men hauling a canoe on a roughly built wagon). A timeline and map of the expedition's route are included. Ages 8-11. (Aug.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
School Library JournalGr 2-5-Kidnapped by Hidatsa warriors as a child and given in marriage as a teen to a French Canadian fur trapper, this young Shoshone woman played an incalculable role in American history. Erdrich acknowledges some gaps in what is known about Sacagawea, but her picture-book account is faithful to the historical record as she quickly sketches the young woman's origins and then focuses on her experiences with Lewis and Clark's Corps of Discovery. Sacagawea's story is tantalizing in its brevity and irony. Brought along as a secondary figure by her opportunist husband, she evidently saved the trip from ruin on several occasions. Little is known of her after the return home, except for the fact that she gave her young son over to Captain Clark's care within a few years' time and likely died not long thereafter. The text is sometimes wooden, but the author does a fine job of describing the setting and background of the group's impressive adventure. The richly hued, impressionistic paintings also create a good sense of time and place. An afterword mentions other speculations. This solid introduction to an intriguing woman should whet readers' appetites for more on this complex chapter of American history.-Margaret Bush, Simmons College, Boston Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus ReviewsErdrich puts Sacagawea's story into perspective, clearly representing her importance to the success of the Lewis and Clark Exploration of Discovery. The lusciously colored oil paintings complement the tale, making it all the more creditable in their historic accuracy. Erdrich's narrative is both straightforward and lyrical-and always interesting. Both the foreword, discussing the oft-maligned spelling of Sacagawea, and the end note and timeline dealing with Sacagawea's life after the completion of her part in the voyage, help readers pull all of the other information about this brave and intelligent explorer into a cohesive whole with the events of the time. Absorbing, interesting, beautiful-with all the makings of a classic. (Picture book/biography. 6-12)
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Lewis and Clark's historic journey through the Louisiana Purchase may have been cut short had it not been for the quick actions of an unpaid person with the group. Sacagawea rescued vital items--journals, gunpowder, medicines, and scientific instruments--from a boat when it nearly overturned. Author Lise Erdrich has done conscientious research on Sacagawea and tells her story with sensitivity and just enough brevity for children 8 to 13 years old. Younger children might enjoy the illustrations by Julie Buffalohead, but they may not have the attention span to sit through reading the entire story. The main illustrations are impressionistic and fill the pages. Smaller illustrations are done in pen and ink and enhance the descriptions. Erdrich tells the story of the young Shoshone girl captured by Hidatsa warriors and named Sacagawea or Bird Woman. After four years with the Hidatsa, Sacagawea was given in marriage to a French fur trapper, Toussaint Charbonneau, who was at least 20 years older than the girl, estimated to be no more than 16. Charbonneau, described as 'wily,' offers to assist Lewis and Clark and the Corps of Discovery as a guide and interpreter for the group. In reality, it is Sacagawea who is the interpreter. Sacagawea delivers her first child just before traveling with the Corps and carries her infant son on her back, in a cradleboard or wrapped in a shawl. She assisted Lewis and Clark in other ways, looking for plants to keep the crew healthy, digging for wild artichoke roots and gathering berries as they traveled. Erdrich retells touching moments when the Corps arrives at the Shoshone camp. She recognizes some of the people; among them is her brother, now the chief. The Corps continues on, all the way to the Pacific ocean, and Sacagawea insists on seeing the ocean herself. When the exploration party returns to St. Louis, Mo., they are greeted with cheers and celebrations, since no one believed they still survived. Sacagawea's life is more difficult to follow up on, and in the afterward, Erdrich tells about the differing theories on her death after the Corps of Discovery. The map and timeline at the back of the book are a nice addition for older children who would like a more visual review of the trip. The only thing missing might be a pronunciation guide for some of the other names such as Shoshone, Hidatsa, Charbonneau, and Nez Perce. And if there was any more question about how to spell Sacagawea, Erdrich clears it up for everyone in the preface. No matter how you spell Sacagawea, it's nice to learn about another strong woman in history.