Lewis & Clark Reviews

UPDATE TIME: 2016-08-14 
Review Score: 3 out of 5 star From 10 user ratings

""Lewis And Clark"
Written and Illustrated by Nick Bertozzi
(First Second, 2011)
This is an outstanding graphic novel telling the story of Merriweather Lewis and William Clark's fabled 1804-1806 journey across the American frontier in search of a water route, or "Northwest Passage," from the Mississippi River to the Pacific Ocean. (They failed to find one: the Rocky Mountains got in the way.) Working from the extensive journals compiled by explorers Lewis and Clark, artist Nick Bertozzi crafts a brisk, lively and humor-filled version of their journey, in which a small but hardy group of frontiersmen braved the hazards of harsh weather, unknown geography and unpredictable native tribes, and mapped out a hefty chunk of what would become the new American West.

I am a total sucker for this kind of stuff, particularly when told in comicbook form, and Bertozzi's book ranks right up there with William Messner-Loebs' "Journey" and George O'Connor's "Journey Into Mohawk Country" (also published by First Second). The narrative is true to the original journals and although it could have been longer, it races along at a fine clip yet also has some heft. Bertozzi's artwork is as subtle as his script, evoking the wonder of the unspoiled vistas as well as the constant perils that confronted Lewis and Clark faced. This book is an ideal companion to the original text: students who find it difficult to picture the landscapes and scenes described in Lewis' prose will find this version immensely helpful. The book ends abruptly, however, and Bertozzi largely sidesteps the controversies concerning Merriweather Lewis's death -- he died of gunshot wounds in a Tennessee tavern; some historians think he was murdered, while most believe it was suicide: in this comic, he is last seen walking off into the woods, and later we are told he is dead. Although that sequence is unsatisfying, the book as a whole is not, and indeed is highly, highly recommended. And while you're at it, pick up a copy of the full "History of the Expedition under the Command of Captains Lewis and Clark", one of the finest American history books you'll ever read. (Joe Sixpack, ReadThatAgain children's book reviews)
" said.

"Reason for Reading: I enjoy Western history.

I've read a few books on Lewis & Clark before (children's books) and read many books on the expansion of the west where the Lewis & Clark story would take up a chapter so I am familiar with this story. This book is recommended for ages 12 and up but it isn't written down to a young audience, adults will enjoy it as much or more. The book of course tells the story of their epic journey from St. Louis to the Pacific Ocean, in search of a viable water route. That journey was fraught with accidents, bad luck, aggressive Indians, injuries and setbacks from nature itself. Bertozzi manages to tell a fine introductory tale of this expedition and these adventurers who were full of their success before they had even started.

Bertozzi also brings to life the personalities of Lewis and Clark in a way that I haven't encountered in my previous reading. Captain William Clark is shown as the level headed partner and thus is not the one that stands out. He is always reasoning with Lewis about there plans, calming him down, and putting out the flames of discord with others. He is shown as a quiet, intelligent, reasonable, respectful man who probably kept the expedition from becoming a mess, in more ways than one. Though he was willing to have as much fun as the next guy and went along easily enough with Lewis' more thrill-seeking adventures. On the other hand, Captain Meriwether Lewis was a man with a volatile temper, quick to anger, and if not for Clark's levelheadedness may have caused some serious trouble on their adventure. Lewis was obsessed with the expedition and finding a water route to the Ocean. When coming first upon a huge waterfall and eventually hitting the Rocky Mountains he took these hits deeply and went into deep depressions, took to drink, and could not be reasoned with. When they finally made it to the Pacific Lewis was not happy as they had not made it entirely be a water route and their stay at the end dragged on because he entered a deep depression. Bertozzi also plays up a story involving Lewis, his reactions and feeling which along with many other factors may have lead to his final act of ending his life.

Done in black and white, which I always think suits historical non-fiction well, the art is kept simple without a lot of background within the frame by frame discussions of characters. Lovely backgrounds are used but when necessary and are never added clutter. The one problem I did have though, was that at times we are supposed to read horizontally across both pages and this was not always made evident. Sometimes it was obviously clear, other times the reading went down one page and started up again at the top of the other and then there were those times you were reading along and realized you should have read horizontally across both pages once you got to the top of the second page. A minor annoyance that happened to me more times than it should have. A good, interesting story, which Bertozzi has written with a fine sense of humour but not exactly a page-turner.
" said.

"As excited as I was about getting my hands on Nick Bertozzi's LEWIS & CLARK, I have to say that it turned out to be a sad disappointment to read. Full of inacccurate historical details and incorrect details in Bertozzi's illustrations; the book fell far short of my expectations. Bertozzi's uniforms are pretty sad. His Indians are cookie-cutter stereotypes, both in appearance and in their speech. Lewis comes off as a raging lunatic (hardly the sort of man that Thomas Jefferson would have had as a Private Secretary...or sent to lead an expedition!). Having participated in the recent L&C Bicentennial observance, I just found myself wondering where Bertozzi got his information and his ideas? It seems to me that Nick Bertozzi took a fantastic tale of true adventure and tried to 'improve' on what is already a great story. Sometimes you just cannot make a great story better by exercising 'artistic license'. Looking at the bibliography on the last page of the book, I found myself wondering if the author READ any of the volumes he cites???

Nice 'comic book'. Disappointing historical graphic novel.
" said.

"You could spend hours getting lost within the pages of Lewis & Clark, which is, of course, the point. Writer/artist Nick Bertozzi quite modestly notes in his foreword that he hopes his new nonfiction work will be taken as "in no way intended to be a replacement for the many scholarly recountings of the journey" of the famed historical explorers, but the truth is that he's created such a smashingly engaging piece of historical narrative that it deserves to be included along with those references.

Bertozzi begins in 1803, as Meriweather Lewis receives notice that congress has approved of his exploration--all $2,500 of it. He recruits his partner, William Clark, and begins to plot his course through history--the Redcoats will obtain not one more beaver pelt, Lewis promises. And here is where Bertozzi has his most fun, dismantling history into comical tidbits that belie the massive undertaking that both Lewis and Clark are about to make their own. In a series of briefly paneled descriptions, Bertozzi depicts Lewis's fast-paced education in botany, medicine, geology, and navigation...and we begin to piece together just how daunting the task that lay before him truly was.

Lewis & Clark is a dense book, and it's also a historically accurate one. Beyond that, though, it's a fun and exhilarating look at one of the most remarkable pieces of American history: the exploration of the west that Lewis and Clark embarked upon was so fraught with danger and mayhem that it's almost unbelievable now. Yet watching it unfold and come alive under the dazzling pencil work of Bertozzi it becomes compelling.

What Lewis and Clark endured has all the markings of the most rigorous of adventure tales, and that should not be ignored. It isn't here. But as everyone knows, there were many personal demons that needed to be faced, particularly by Lewis, and Bertozzi does not shy away. It would be wrong to spoil the coda that but suffice to say that Bertozzi satisfactorily brings this tale to a close and gives it the poignancy it so deserves.

This is a rich work and an important one.

-- John Hogan
" said.

"It's hard to imagine what the world looked like in 1804. So much of what we know now as the United States was wide open, undiscovered. Lewis and Clark with the help of others braved the unknown. This historical fiction book is unique because it's written in comic book form. Kids that think history is boring just might sing a different tune after reading this." said.

"When I read this I thought, "Well, that's the good, the bad and the ugly of the Lewis and Clark story." Fun to read, but definitely comic book fiction, this will probably appeal most to middle school boys, after all it's a story about a bunch of men basically living together for a long period. I was disappointed that Sacagewea's prowess was not applauded. Most of the story is about Meriwether Lewis, who deteriorates into a not-so- likeable guy. Mild-mannered Bill Clark seems to get lost in the shuffle. Dare I say that although Native American tribes are named and differentiated, they blend into the same stereotype. However, dates, territorial maps, and historical informative bits are helpful to those who have forgotten or were never taught about this expedition: Jefferson is president, the USA ends at the Mississippi River, the date of the expedition is 1803/4 to 1806." said.

"Gave this as a gift... Haven't read it myself, but enjoyed glancingt hrough it and seeing their journeying portrayed in such a lively way." said.

"It's fairly shameful that I went to a college named after these guys, and I know very little about their expedition. So when I came across this in a search for stuff for my 3rd-grader to read, I figured the least I could do was spend the hour to read it myself. It's kind of an impressionistic take on what really comes across as an astonishing trailblazing venture. The artwork and approach is quite good at conveying the sense of some of the hardships involved. There's a lot going on, with minor threads involving Clark's slave, Sacajawea, Lewis' depression, and more. It's kind of a lot to take in, along with tonal shifts (including fart gags) that are occasionally jarring. Probably the most interesting aspect, which is kind of confusingly rendered here, is all the interactions with various tribes they encountered along the way. It kind of sparked my appetite to learn a little more, and maybe pick up one of the standard histories, such as Stephen Ambrose's Undaunted Courage: Meriwether Lewis, Thomas Jefferson, and the Opening of the American West. And although I lament the absence of a more detailed map of the route, the book's overall design and repeated commitment to inventive double-page spread layouts made it a little more interesting than the standard graphic book." said.

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