I Am Sacagawea
Written by Grace Norwich
Illustrated by Anthony VanArsdale
The remarkable story of Sacagawea, a teenage girl guiding Lewis and Clark to the Pacific Ocean, is an accessible one for middle grades in this slim book. The introduction is written as if Sacagawea herself is speaking to the reader, summing up her amazing life by saying “my story is proof that anything can happen.” Sacagawea was born into the Shoshone tribe but was kidnapped by the Hidatsa when she was twelve. The Hidatsa had more contact with the French Canadians and this led Toussaint Charbonneau to meet and marry Sacagawea. Meriwether Lewis and William Clark spent the winter in the camp where the Hidatsa and the French-Canadians met to trade. Charbonneau recognized that Lewis and Clark needed help to achieve their mission and he offered to accompany them along with his wife because of her knowledge of the land. Even though Sacagawea had a baby two months before the winter was over, she packed up and went with the men in the spring. They encountered overwhelming conditions from raging rivers, difficulties finding food and Sacagawea herself becoming ill. But she had skills recognizing what plants to eat, which routes to take and how to communicate with other Native Americans. She helped them get fresh supplies and horses when they most needed them. Without Sacagawea, Lewis and Clark’s mission would have likely failed.
The illustrations are simple line drawings that evoke energy and action. There are excellent features, such as a list of characters, a time line, quick facts, a map and glossary, internet sites of places to visit, and a bibliography and index, all making this a good book to teach research skills. The format is ideal for fourth grade, with sidebars going in depth with key information while challenging readers with a slightly higher reading level. A suggested literacy activity is to use the “Ten Things You Should Know about Sacagawea” section as an outline for a slide show and find pictures from the listed websites to do a presentation of her life.