Two Reviews on American History: Fact & Fiction

#90. The Lewis & Clark Expedition: Join the Corps of Discovery to Explore Uncharted Territory by Carol A. Johmann. Illustrated by Michael Kline

Pages: 106
Ages: 10+
Finished: May 5, 2009
First Published: 2003
Genre: children, history, non-fiction
Rating: 2.5/5

Comments: This non-fiction book takes the child inside the journey and events surrounding the famous Lewis & Clark crossing of the west by water to the Pacific Ocean. It is profusely illustrated with realistic drawings, cartoons, maps and diagrams. There is no main narrative of text but rather blocks of text which follow a theme as the book is divided into chapters. One constant however, is frequent summarizing of Clark or Lewis' journals frequently including exact quotes (with strange spellings and all). This does lend some sort of continuity to the book. The other blocks of text would then expound on the topic or add further comment or interesting tidbits of info.

I found out pretty quickly, that reading the entire text of the book was making my son's eyes roll inside his head. So I had to choose what to read. We read the book slowly over about a 3 week period and I read all the journal entries aloud and, then, myself skimmed the other text on the page. If it would be interesting to him I would paraphrase it for him or in some circumstances read it to him. For example, he had no interest in the politics behind the mission but wanted to hear everything about the dog, Seaman, and Sacagawea's little boy, Pomp. The book does also have crafts included but I'd rather call them projects as they involve a lot of material, equipment, time and skill to complete. Needless to say we looked at the pages but made no effort to attempt any of them.

I suggest you look elsewhere for a more entertaining book written in a narrative style on the subject of Lewis & Clark but if this is what you have on hand or all you can find, it's not a bad book. My son learnt a lot and didn't hate it. With the adjustments I made to the reading as described above he enjoyed the reading and he has already proven to have retained certain bits of information.

#91. Ben and Me: An Astonishing Life of Benjamin Franklin By His Good Mouse Amos
Written & Illustrated by Robert Lawson
Pages: 114
Ages: 7+
Finished: May 6, 2009
First Published: 1939
Genre: children, historical fiction, humour
Rating: 3.5/5

Comments: This is the story of Benjamin Franklin's adult life from the time just before he invents the Franklin Stove to his 81st birthday. Told through the eyes of a mouse,Amos, who lives in Franklin's worn out fur hat. Amos is quite intelligent and he and Ben become friends and it is Amos who leads the doddering Franklin around and gives him some of his greatest ideas about electricity, through the Revolution and later on his journey and stay in France.

A comic story, certainly not to be taken as a true story of Franklin. While it does hit upon the true events of Franklin's life it pokes fun at him and is more enjoyed by someone who already knows the famous man's life story and accomplishments however briefly. Since Ben Franklin had been brought up in our other recent read-alouds my 8yo understood the comedy of the situation and really found the mouse and the circumstances Ben found himself in quite funny. This is the second time I've read this book and think it is a delightful book for children. But do make sure they know who Franklin is first so they can enjoy the book to it's fullest.

He has one other book written in similar format called Revere and I, which I have never read but do own. I'll have to make a point of reading it soon.


  1. I loved Ben and Me and read it several times as a child. The Revere one is fun, too - told from the horse's point of view - I'm sure you two will like that one. I've been meaning to read them to my girls at some point - but you're right, we should review Franklin's life & accomplishments, first. Have you seen Ben Franklin & His Magic Squares? It's an easy reader that your son might enjoy.


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