Run the Rivers with Lewis and Clark [Review]

reviewed by Erica Littlefield

Run the Rivers with Lewis and Clark 
Cynthia Compton (Author), Jeff Noble (Illustrator), F. Kent Compton (Cartographer) and Melissa Compton (Designer)
CreateSpace, 2011
ISBN: 9781456510312, Softcover
122 pages, $15.95

When Idaho teacher Cynthia Compton looked for a classroom resource on Lewis and Clark’s expedition to find the Northwest Passage, she couldn’t find exactly what she wanted. so she decided to write one herself.  The result of this resourceful teacher’s work is her book Run the River with Lewis and Clark.

Compton’s book is a chronological account of Lewis and Clark’s expedition from Missouri to the Pacific Ocean, starting with an explanation of the political climate surrounding the trip and a brief discussion of the Louisiana Purchase. The discussion of the journey itself focuses mostly on the company’s interactions with Indians and wild animals, but Compton gives enough details so that the reader gets a well-rounded picture of what Lewis, Clark, and their crew experienced on their journey.

The main source material Compton used for the book was The Journals of the Lewis and Clark Expedition (Gary E. Moulton, ed., Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press. 1998), and Compton includes numerous excerpts from the explorers’ journals. She also includes snippets from letters written by other members of the expedition, including John Ordway, as well as quotes from Thomas Jefferson.  Included maps and Jeff Nobel’s black and white illustrations add visual interest to the text, and a bibliography gives interested readers the opportunity to learn more.

Compton states that her intended audience for Run the Rivers with Lewis and Clark includes students, families, and classroom teachers. Compton’s straightforward writing style and pages with plenty of white space make the book accessible to students. One of the book’s strengths is the inclusion of little details that students will find fascinating. For example, the author discusses what supplies were needed to start the expedition, explains that they could at first travel only about 10 miles a day, and mentions how they celebrated Christmas in 1804 by simply shooting off some of their firearms. Compton also begins each chapter with a paragraph directed at the reader, asking them to imagine themselves as part of the expedition and think about how they would handle certain situations. These asides would be perfect discussion-starters for a classroom. Compton is also developing a teacher’s manual for the book that will be available to order on the book’s website, www.runtherivers.com.

Run the Rivers with Lewis and Clark is a solid choice for all school and public libraries. It would be especially helpful for 4th grade teachers and students as they study Idaho history.

Erica Littlefield is a Youth Services Department Head at Twin Falls Public Library. A native Idahoan, Erica is currently pursuing her MLIS degree online as part of the SWIM Cohort through the University of North Texas.

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