"The Journals of Lewis and Clark , " while probably the most important narrative from our Western heritage, is an intimidating book for young readers: Details are tedious and the explorers' misspellings are hard to follow. Thus, it is a pleasure to tell parents and teachers about Rhoda Blumberg's splendid alternative. She has excerpted from DeVoto's edition and, citing 24 other references, rounded out this adventure into one far more approachable.
Blumberg uses the same handsome format as her "Commodore Perry in the Land of the Shogun," which won a Newbery Honor in 1985. Dozens of black-and-white illustrations, from cameo-size to two-page spreads, fill the pages, and wide margins spare the reader from overload. Museum paintings, artifacts and photos of the hand-written journals lend a visual authenticity not possible with straight narrative. A fascinating drawing by Clark shows how the Flathead Indians compressed their babies' skulls on cradle boards.
Another advantage to this overview is that Blumberg comments on ironies unseen by Lewis and Clark themselves: "They were arming Indians with war weapons at the same time they were trying to convince them to live in peace." Also, the explorers assumed that the West Coast Indians were "dull-witted thieves" because they didn't use sign language and their words seemed gibberish.