Adler, David. A and Brown, Dan. A Picture Book of Sacagawea.  New York: Holiday House, 2000.

The illustrations in this picture book biography are vivid and engaging, and it’s wonderful to have a biography of Sacagawea with four-color art. Nevertheless, I had some concerns about the quality of the illustrations.

First, I wondered why the illustrator did not show an example of the Minnataree homes, which were described in the accompanying text as round, earthen houses. Only teepees are shown in the illustrations throughout the book. This is a serious flaw, in my opinion, as it promotes the stereotype of all Indians living in teepees.

Moreover, on page 9, the color of York’s skin, the black slave on the expedition, appears grayish (probably as a result of the printing process) and that is hardly acceptable given his central role on the page. In a way, it diminishes the impact of his placement in the picture. I suspect some children of African American descent would find it odd.

The expressions on all the faces are highly dramatized, and while it makes the illustrations lively, I also thought it gave the book a television/cartoon-like quality. While this book is a step in the right direction in terms of putting a biography into a standard 32-page picture book format, the illustrations could have been more authentic and of a higher quality. The text is wonderful; however, and makes the story of Sacagawea very accessible to young readers. I would certainly recommend using it in the classroom or library, but might write to the publisher about the print quality of York's skin tone so it could be adjusted when the book is reprinted. : )


Markovitz, Hal. Sacagawea: guide for the Lewis and Clark Expedition. Philadelphia: Chelsea House Publishers, c. 2001.

Although this is not a picture-book biography per se, it has wonderful, authentic images. Photographs, as well as richly detailed illustrations appear throughout the seven chapters. York is portrayed in a positive light: in military uniform with beautiful, glowing skin. Of course, he is placed off to the far left side of the picture in which he appears, and that perhaps suggests he did not have a lead role in the expedition. Sacagawea appears in what must be a period illustration of her, and it is wonderful to see such a realistic portrait reminiscent of the period illustrations and photographs of Crazy Horse and Sitting Bull that so magnificently capture their facial features and clothing.

Unfortunately, there are only two pictures of Sacagawea in the entire book, the one mentioned above and the other is a twentieth-century rendering of her and Pompey in a memorial sculpture. Consequently, the book has a bit of the feel of an "old" history book despite the many photographs and illustrations. Also, the images are often traditional ones: Native Americans in battle, white men with powdered wigs, photographs of pages from the journal.

It's a good book to have on hand for reference and comparative purposes in an elementary school; however, it's probably most valuable in the middle-school or high-school library.