Title: Cross-Country with Lewis and Clark
Author: Dona Smith
Recommended Ages: 9-12
Star Rating: ★★★★
Hi there! As of October 2013, I have upgraded to a new site – The Blithering Bookster – where I have posted all of my old reviews and continue to post new ones. Hoist yourself over to join the fun!
I love stories about animals, especially when the animal doesn’t die in the end… (Unfortunately, they usually do.)
Seaman never has been a very brave pup, despite his Newfoundland heritage. And now, Meriwether Lewis has purchased him to provide protection on a mission that requires only the most courageous and the best.
Seaman is pretty sure that he’ll be a failure from the beginning. In fact, he’s not even sure he should stick around long enough to prove a failure. But as time goes on, he becomes fond of Captain Lewis. He even manages to save his life! Also, he helps the Captain track down many unknown species for record. The more time he spends with the team, the more invested he feels until he thinks of it as his own personal venture. It is his duty to protect the team!
Will Seaman, Lewis, and Clark survive their cross-country trek? And will they ever see the Pacific ocean?
Cross-Country with Lewis and Clark, although told in a fictionalized format, provides much historical information for the young reader. It briefly acquaints us with Captain Lewis, Clark, and even the much-famed Sacagawea.
Apart from Cross-Country with Lewis and Clark’s historical value, there was a huge theme of courage running through this story. In the beginning, Seaman is such a coward that he declares,
“The first time I come face-to-face with danger, I am going to turn my tail on it. As I said, I never wanted to go on a real adventure.” [pg. 9]
But as the trip progresses, Seaman’s courage grows. On one occasion he is tempted to desert the expedition, but he realizes that to do so would be low. Throughout the course of the expedition he saves the lives of half a dozen people. This scene takes place immediately following his second rescue.
Captain Lewis threw his arms around my shoulders. “Thank you, brave dog!” he said. “I saw you rush to save me!”
He was right. That was exactly what I had done. My head was reeling with disbelief.
I guess I can be brave after all. Maybe I’m starting to learn new things about myself, just as Captain Lewis is learning new things about the country. [pg. 22]
Seaman is sweet and tries to be helpful whenever he can. This is his entry from August 16, 1804.
One of the men is very, very sick. His name is Private Charles Floyd.
I go to see him many times every day. All I can do is lick his face. York sits by his side.
Captain Lewis tries to tend to him. Nothing helps.
Every night Captain Clark stares up at the sky. I know he is very worried. So am I. [pg. 39]
Isn’t that sweet? (:
In this account, Seaman and his friend Dorion are out exploring when they come across a rattlesnake.
“Dorion took a step backward. The snake’s hissing got louder. I saw his whole body stiffen, and I knew he was ready to strike.
I heard my own roar before I knew I was barking. Now the snake was looking at me. I kept barking at the snake, to hold its attention on me. When I heard Dorion pick up his rifle, I turned and ran.
Boom! I heard the shotgun blast, then Dorion’s voice calling my name.
I kept on running, but not for long. I realized that Dorion had shot the snake. It just took a moment to sink in.
Whew! The meeting with the snake taught me a lesson. Out here you have to be alert all the time. If you’re not paying attention, even for a second, that second might be your last. [pgs. 45-46]
I just found the vision of a great black Newfoundland bounding away in utter terror a cute picture. So darling!
The entire story is narrated by Seaman in the form of journal entries. I did not mind this – it was an impossible plot device, but oh, well. My concern comes only from the fact that on several occasions, Seaman claims that dogs CAN read and write; always have, always will. He even speaks of stealing paper to add to his diary. I don’t think that all of this ruined the book, but it did make a few entries somewhat silly.
On only one incident did Native American spiritualism creep into the story. Here is the entire section.
“I have been sick for days. All I could do was lie in the canoe. Most of the time I was dreaming. Sometimes I heard the captains talking, but they sounded far away. But I heard them say they were afraid I would die.
One day, I dreamed that I was walking into a fog. It got darker and darker all around me. I began to think I would never find my way out.
Just as I was about to give up, I saw a silver dog. She told me to follow her and that I would be all right. Then she led me out of the fog into a forest. Finally, we came to a beautiful meadow.
We lay down on the grass to rest. The dog began to disappear before my eyes. I fell asleep. When I woke up today, I was better. I stood up, and my leg hardly hurt at all.
When Captain Lewis saw me walking, his mouth dropped open. “I don’t believe it,” he gasped. “Whatever pulled you through, it was a miracle.” I guess it was.
Sacagawea thought it was a special kind of miracle. She thought I was visited by a wayakin – a spirit guide. I listened while she told Captain Lewis about them.
In many tribes, when a boy or girl is about 13, they go off by themselves to fast and pray. They have a vision of a bird or animal. It is the spirit that will always watch over them – their wayakin.
I think Sacagawea is right. My wayakin came to visit me and saved my life. [pg. 85-86]
Seaman’s original owner lies to Lewis in order to make him seem more valuable.
Conclusion. A super fun story and a great way for children to learn about the Lewis and Clark expedition. Purchase a copy here.