Review: The Crossing by Donna Jo Napoli


The Crossing by Donna Jo Napoli, illustrated by Jim Madsen

A gorgeous retelling of the Lewis and Clark story, told through the eyes of Jean Baptiste Charbonneau, the infant that Sacagawea carried on her back during their explorations.  Readers will see mountains, rivers and forests.  They will also meet bear, elk, cougars and more.  Napoli’s poem captures the rhythm of the journey, the stroke of the oars, the moments of quiet.  It is an immersive book where readers get to see the glory of the land that makes up our country, unspoiled by man-made structures.

Napoli’s verse incorporates many senses.  There are the sounds of the animals and humans that work to bring the entire setting to life.  There are the views that the baby sees, a wildness that is a large part of the story, a sense of expanse and freedom.   The author’s note adds much to the book, including the duration and length of the journey.

Madsen’s illustrations have a depth to them that adds much to this title.  He uses deep colors and uses the beauty of the land as the perfect inspiration for his work.  There are small moments of a child growing from infant to toddler, but also moments where the world is spread before them and reveled in. 

A beautiful and creative look at Sacagawea’s journey with Lewis and Clark, this book is a luminous look at the origins of our country.  Appropriate for ages 5-7.

Reviewed from copy received from Atheneum Books for Young Readers.

Also reviewed by The Fourth Musketeer and Kiss the Book.