From Sea to Shining Sea By Callista Gingrich

Callista Gingrich is adding another book to her New York Times best selling Ellis the Elephant series. Gingrich has already used America’s “favorite time-traveling pachyderm” to teach young children about important moments in American history. Gingrich and illustrator Susan Arciero have already teamed up to produce and publish three Ellis the Elephant books to date: Sweet Land of Liberty, Land of the Pilgrims’ Pride, and Yankee Doodle Dandy.

This time, Ellis the Elephant stars in From Sea to Shining Sea to teach kids about the Lewis and Clark expedition. This is a captivating time in America’s history, and it’s great that Gingrich is getting in on the excitement of American exploration. She starts by setting the stage—George Washington was our first President, Washington, D.C., became our Capitol, and presidents started to live in the White House with the second president.

The story really takes off when Thomas Jefferson is elected. Jefferson signed off on the Louisiana Purchase, an area that needed serious exploring. He hired friends Meriwether Lewis and William Clark to do that job for him. Gingrich skips over the years of preparation these two men endured, which is a shame, I think, but not a fatal flaw. Maybe it’s just me who finds it fascinating that Lewis and Clark had to become experts in botany and astronomy and other subjects before embarking on their mission?

The book continues over the well-known parts of their expedition: they meet Sacagawea, they journey across the Great Plains, the Mandans offer a place to stay during the winter, the Nez Perce help them fabricate canoes out of trees. Throughout all of this, Gingrich is sure to point out that they took detailed notes to send back to Jefferson, so he could learn what was out there in the western frontier. Finally, they arrive at the Pacific Ocean.

For me, this book is just okay. The recommended age is 4 to 8 years old, and I think that’s a little young. The book is loaded with hundreds of words and dozens of facts appropriate for elementary school, so I think 6 to 9 is more realistic. Ellis—an elephant!—is an odd addition to Lewis and Clark expedition, and there’s no introduction about how she travels through time to find out for herself. Instead, she just sort of shows up, dresses appropriately, and hops into the story.

Finally, there is only one page on which Lewis and Clark have something other than an easy smile on their faces. (And rightfully so—they are surprised to be looking at a big grizzly). I understand that kids want to see friendly, welcoming faces, especially in a history book heavy with facts. But I think there’s some underestimating kids here…I think kids can and should grasp that this was a seriously tough undertaking, one that required concentration, hardship, fear, and worry. In the face of the unknown, Lewis and Clark showed determination and courage, and that is something to celebrate and point out to the kids reading this book.

Publisher: Regnery Kids

URL: www.RegneryKids.com

Available through Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Books-a-Million!

MSRP: approximately $11.50

Ages: 4-8 years

Readability: 3

Illustrations: 4

Kept My Children’s Interest: 3

Appealed to Advertised Age: 3

I Would Purchase for My Child: No

I Would Purchase as a Gift: No

Overall Rating: 3

All ratings on a scale of 1 (low) to 5 (high).

Meet the Reviewer!

Kate Schwarz is a full-time mom and wife living in Great Falls, VA. In addition to being a reader to her three small children, Kate is a writer, distance runner, Crossfitter and blogger of raising kids with books at www.katesbookery.blogspot.com.

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