cover image Lewis and Papa: Adventure on the Santa Fe Trail

Lewis and Papa: Adventure on the Santa Fe Trail

Barbara M. Joosse, Chronicle Books. Chronicle Books, $16.95 (40pp) ISBN 978-0-8118-1959-6

Joosse (Mama, Do You Love Me?) embarks on a rambling road as she follows a 19th-century father and son traveling from their home by the Wisconsin River to Santa Fe, where they plan to sell their wagonful of goods from the East. Despite the obvious research here, the historical elements seem secondary to the emotional content of both the story and the paintings. Lewis struggles with homesickness and fears (of animal noises in the night, stampeding buffalo, etc.), though he makes his father proud when he devises a strategy for crossing the Arkansas River and strives to be brave (""He wanted to be a man Papa would be proud of--a man who didn't cry--so he pushed his tears inside""). Papa says and does all the right things, snuggling up with his son under the night sky and reassuring him that there's no shame in feeling scared or in shedding tears. The deepening bond between the two surfaces repeatedly, and somewhat repetitiously, in Van Zyle's (The Eyes of Gray Wolf) images of father and son together amid purplish Western landscapes. Insets on most spreads key the action to a locale on the Sante Fe Trail, mapped on the endpapers; frustratingly, the Wisconsin River--Lewis's starting point--is omitted. A self-congratulatory note at the end, in which Joosse refers to her collaboration with Van Zyle as a ""picture book marriage... made in heaven,"" oversweetens this sentimental volume. Ages 4-8. (June)