cover image Sacagawea


Judith St George, Peter Roop, Connie Roop. Putnam Publishing Group, $16.99 (128pp) ISBN 978-0-399-23161-2

Drawing from the journals of Lewis, Clark and other members of the 1804 Journey of Discovery expedition, St. George (Crazy Horse) has written an uneven biography of one of the most important women in 19th-century American history. Beginning with Sacagawea's capture from her native Shoshone tribe by the Minnetarees, the narrative follows her after she is sold into marriage to Toussaint Charbonneau, a French Canadian trader and trapper who talks his way into being a paid interpreter of Indian languages for Lewis and Clark. The weakest part of the account is when the author gingerly explores what Sacagawea is thinking: ""Charbonneau wouldn't have been Sacagawea's choice of a husband, but then what woman ever had a choice?"" The author is at her strongest when she sticks to facts culled from the journals: details about the delicious Camas roots that, eaten to excess, make the explorers sick; the men's foolish pursuit of grizzly bears; sharp prickly pear cacti that cause boils and infections; the buffoonery of Sacagawea's husband; and the muted elation the company feels when, wet and bedraggled, they finally reach the Pacific. While filled with dramatic facts, the telling is so even-keeled that the hair-raising reunion of the Lewis and Clark parties after splitting up for 40 days is as briefly and dispassionately relayed as the account of Chinook Indians drying salmon along the riverbanks. And although the details of the expedition itself become clear, the woman Sacagawea remains just one step beyond the reader's understanding. Ages 8-12. (Sept.)