A Promising Life: Coming of Age with America

Emily Arnold McCully. Scholastic/Levine, $17.99 (304p) ISBN 978-0-439-31445-9
As an infant, Jean Baptiste Charbonneau traveled with his mother, Sakakawea, and father, Toussaint, on Lewis and Clark’s expedition, after which Captain Clark offered to “raise this ‘beautiful and promising child’ as his own son.” McCully (Ida M. Tarbell) provides a fascinating fictionalized history of Baptiste’s life from 1810, when his parents delivered him to Clark’s care in St. Louis, through 1830, when he returned from European travels. His mother’s admonition—“You will have a different life.... White men are spreading their ways everywhere.... Learn!”—guides Baptiste to excel at school while observing America’s turbulent growth: treaties taking land from native tribes, the steamboat bringing “drastic change that favored a few and ruined others,” elections (in which he could not vote), Clark’s ownership and abuse of slaves, and the work of missionaries, blacksmiths, furriers, and adventurers. “I will always be pulled in two directions, an educated man of Shoshone and French blood, on the outside looking in,” Baptiste reflects. A tumultuous period in American history comes alive through the eyes of this compelling protagonist. Ages 12–up. Agent: Susan Cohen, Writers House. (July)
Reviewed on: 05/15/2017
Release date: 07/25/2017
Genre: Children's
Compact Disc - 978-1-338-15969-1
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