Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Review: Knowledge Quest

I confess that growing up I didn’t like history class.  The textbooks seemed like paragraph after paragraph of name, date, name, battle, name, invention, etc., etc. I did my best to keep everything straight for a week or two until test time and then I flushed it all out to make room for the next chapter of information.   Now, thanks to vendors like  Knowledge Quest , I’ve been able to teach my son history with books and stories that “put skin on” the names of historical figures—heck, sometimes they even put blisters and callouses on the skin.   Such is the case with Sacagawea (Brave Explorers Every Child Should Know) Complete PDF e-book .

Growing up, my only exposure to Sacagawea was the Schoolhouse Rock cartoon “Elbow Room”  (sing along if you remember…)

They hired Sacagawea to be their guide
She led them all across the countryside
If this is the extent of your knowledge too, then you might be surprised to learn she wasn’t hired as a guide.  Her husband was hired to be a translator for the Corp of Discovery and she came along because she was familiar with the Rocky Mountain territory, having been kidnapped from there 4-5 years before.

  The e-Book is available in Kindle format ($4.97) and is targeted to kids ages 10 and up.  There is an interactive feature with certain words and phrases underlined.  When you click on them you are directed to a variety of educational websites with photos and more information on the subject.  This feature may work well on tablets where you can zoom in and out or a regular computer screen, but it wasn’t so great on our Kindle Keyboard .

I started this book as a read aloud with my son, but ended up finishing it on my own.  To be fair, this isn’t the first time we’ve studied the Corp of Discovery.  We learned about them in our Missouri History, we’ve visited the Fort where they prepared for the journey and several of their campsites along the Missouri River.  We make annual trips to Lewis & Clark Days in St. Charles, MO and Hermann, MO to see the re-enactors.   This book was written from the perspective of the one person on the trip he was least interested in….the girl!  On the other hand, this may make the exploration story more appealing to female students.

I wouldn’t just hand them the novel to read on their own though.  Everything we know about Sacagawea comes from the brief mentions in the journals of the exploratory party.  The author has had to fill in the dialogue and details from her imagination.  She hints at a romantic attraction between the young Indian girl and Captain Clark (although there is no written evidence of such).  This creates a love triangle where Charbonneau (Sacagawea's husband) becomes jealous of their relationship.  In perhaps the most disturbing passage he begins to beat her savagely.
Charbonneau slapped me and threw me to the ground. “Man-With-Red-Hair! [Capt. Clark] That’s all you ever talk about.”
He pinned me down and leaned into my face. “France sold this land to these Americans. And now they will take it from you and all your kind. They are your enemies. You understand? Man-With-Red-Hair is your enemy.”
I do not know how long I lay on the ground feeling the blows of my husband. I had been beaten many times by Buffalo Woman.  I was not afraid of being beaten. I learned to go inside myself to a secret place where I could not feel the blows.  Inside myself was courage and strength. I wrapped my emotions around them and held on until the beating  time was over. ..
Once, when Charbonneau thought no one was looking, he hit me so hard I fell to the ground and cried out because I had not seen him coming.
Man-With-Red-Hair grabbed Charbonneau’s fist and stopped it from finding my face. “You will not put your hands on Janey again.”
I’m not denying that Charbonneau hit his wife.  Clark’s own journal states “I checked our interpreter for Strikeing his woman at their Dinner..”   Still, I don’t think it was necessary to expound on this event in a book meant for children.  I certainly wouldn’t let this passage pass without explaining to my daughter that going to a secret inner place is NOT  the way to handle physical abuse.


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