Saturday, April 13, 2013

Schoolhouse Review: Sacagawea Story From Knowledge Quest

Knowledge Quest is a company that focuses on teaching history in a way that really connects the student with the events of our past.  Last year I had the pleasure of reviewing their TimeMaps which was a really great tool for that purpose.  This year I reviewed one of their history resources that really helped Gess engage in and get inspired by the lesson.  It was an enchanting telling of the story of Sacagawea.  Because of her special needs, Gess has a really hard time relating to history from text books, documentaries and yes, sometimes even maps.  Thanks to Knowledge Quest we found out that stories can teach history too.

For the purpose of our review we were given a PDF copy of Knowledge Quest's latest completed saga Sacagawea (Brave Explorers Every Child Should Know).

Sacagawea (Brave Explorers Every Child Should Know) is an interactive historical novel about the life of Sacagawea and her involvement with the Lewis and Clark expedition.  This incredible story really captures the historic bravery and strength through which Sacagawea faced many hardships and trials.

The book begins one day while Sacagawea is waiting for Man-With-Red-Hair to come and take her boy Pompey to live with him. The Man-With-Red-Hair's English name is, of course, Captain William Clark.  Little Pompey, also known as Jean-Baptiste, begs Sacagawea to tell him the story of their journey with Man-With-Red-Hair, and so she does.

I personally love how the book addresses her gentle nature and character and yet how, as a slave, she still desired and longed to be equal.  It was also endearing to see the life of the Pretty People, which is what her people called our people, through her eyes. She was fascinated by the "scratches on paper" that Captain Clark always made and referred to books as "small boxes" that speak.  Sacagawea noticed that "good medicine" came from learning to listen to the small boxes and she really wanted that for her son.

The interactive part of the book was a wonderful addition and really helped turn a story into a lesson.  Each time there was a mention of a significant person, place, thing or event you would find it highlighted with a link.  Clicking on the link would take you to a website featuring more information about that particular item.  Sometimes it would simply be a photo such as this "house with no walls."

Or it might be to an official historical site with information about a person such as Man-With-Red-Hair himself.

There was also an entire PDF about the cottonwoods.

Some links had just a blurb or two of information while others had complete documents but they were all interesting and really assisted in learning more about the story.  I did not click on each and every item but we certainly clicked on quite a few.  I only found one with a link that was broken which was a copy of Clark's Map.  I really wanted to see that so I found it on my own.

Gess and I read the book together, each taking our turn to read, but since it was long there were times she just enjoyed listening.  Because Gess struggles with understanding things she has not experienced herself it is hard for her to fathom and grasp what things were like in the past.  Having the interactive resources within the text of the story was really beneficial for her.  It was nice to be able to answer her question "what does that mean?" with more than a simple answer.  Instead she was able to see a visual, interactive explanation which certainly kept her paying attention.  There were many times that she was eager to learn more about what we read, but sometimes it was my own personal curiosity that got us checking them out.

I felt the book was very accurate and was very respectful of both the person and character of Sacagawea. In a note to the reader the author says, "All the characters of this book and the circumstances of the Lewis and Clark expedition in this story are real and true. Because so little was written about Sacagawea in the Corps’ journals, I used literary license to create dialogue and emotions that I believed could have taken place."

Overall I was impressed with the book.  The story was deeply compelling, enjoyable and full of information.  Having a historical lesson written as a novel certainly made it more interesting for Gess.  Having the links allowing you to explore the information in more detail helped her better understand many of the references.  You do have to be careful because sometimes you can begin examining the links so frequently that you lose the flow and sense of the story being told, but all in all though the author did an amazing job.  It not only captured Gess' insterest, it captured mine as well.  I am looking forward to sharing more stories of brave explorers that every child should know with Gess.  I hope they come out with many others.  I saw one other at their website that I will probably be getting soon.

Sacagawea (Brave Explorers Every Child Should Know) sells for $4.97.  It would be good for kids in upper elementary school starting about age 10 to maybe early middle school but as I mentioned I think people of all ages will enjoy reading it.  You can read the 1st Chapter Sample for free or purchase the entire book by following the links on their website.  If you want to learn more visit their website or see what other members of the Schoolhouse Review Crew thought about it by clicking on the banner below.


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