Reviews for York's Adventures With Lewis and Clark : An African-American's Part in the Great Expedition


Booklist Reviews 2003 December #1
Gr. 4-8. Blumberg, author of The Incredible Journey of Lewis and Clark (1987), now offers an account of the same journey featuring York, the only African American member of the Corps of Discovery. William Clark's playmate as a child and later his personal slave, York joined his master on the expedition, where his strength, skills, and courageous acts were recorded in the journals. His black skin and strong physique amazed and impressed many of the Native Americans, perhaps helping the corps gain acceptance. Blumberg notes that without York, the expedition might have failed. Reproductions of paintings, prints, photographs, documents, and artifacts illustrate this large-format book, which concludes with a bibliography, Internet sites, and several pages of endnotes, containing background information and citations for the many quotations from books, letters, and journals. Although much of York's life was unrecorded, this clearly presents what is known and acknowledges speculation where it occurs. Your shelves may be bulging with Lewis and Clark expedition books in this bicentennial year, but make room for this one. ((Reviewed December 1, 2003)) Copyright 2003 Booklist Reviews

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Horn Book Guide Reviews 2004 Fall
York, William Clark's "personal 'body servant'" (i.e., slave), couldn't write, so Blumberg charted a difficult task for herself when she chose to make York the focus of this book. Remarkably, she succeeds. She consistently distinguishes between facts and her opinion, using suppositions to convey the history of the times or the expedition as a whole. Black-and-white illustrations accompany the clear narrative. Bib., ind. Copyright 2004 Horn Book Guide Reviews.

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Horn Book Magazine Reviews 2004 #1
All of the members of Lewis and Clark's Corps of Discovery were recruited, save one: York, William Clark's "personal 'body servant'" (i.e., slave). And even though the members of the expedition have been described as "the writingest explorers of all time," York could not write, and therefore left no record of his experiences. So Blumberg charted a difficult task for herself when she chose to make York the focus of this account of Lewis and Clark's journey. Remarkably, she succeeds. Journals, liberally quoted and thoroughly documented, reveal that York was an accomplished hunter and successful trader. They contain references to the Indians' belief that the color of York's skin implied spiritual powers. Records also show that York, as a slave, was never paid for his contributions but that he did vote on where to spend the winter on the West Coast. These few facts cannot hold a book together, and Blumberg is left to speculate about York's actions, thoughts, and contributions. But she never fabricates. She consistently distinguishes between fact and opinion ("Because he could swim, York was probably of great value in the water shoving, guiding and freeing the boats") and uses such suppositions to reveal something about the history of the times or the expedition as a whole. "At the start many of the men undoubtedly wondered how York would fit in. In line with the prejudices of the time, they believed that black people were inferior human beings who had little feeling and low intelligence.... York was surely troubled, too. Because he was a slave, he must have feared he would be disdained and singled out to do demeaning, disagreeable tasks for everyone." The clear chronological narrative encompasses biographical elements, historical events, and social customs. Explanatory endnotes, a bibliography, and an index (not seen) complete the book. Copyright 2004 Horn Book Magazine Reviews

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Kirkus Reviews 2003 November #2
An account of York and the Lewis and Clark Expedition is two stories in one: the grandeur of the expedition and the cruelty of slavery. The story of Lewis and Clark is well known; York's story-an enslaved man on the journey with his master, William Clark-may be new to many readers. York returned from the heroic journey only "to realize, once again, that he was totally a slave, considered to be inferior to every white person." York did not receive the double pay and 320 acres of land each enlisted man received and was not even included in the official list of men who had gone on the expedition. Blumberg's fine writing, the attractive text full of maps, sketches, portraits, and other archival materials, and the dramatic cover with a detail from Ed Hamilton's sculpture memorializing York make this one of the best new works on the subject and a fine one-two punch with the author's The Incredible Journey of Lewis and Clark (1999). (introduction, endnotes, bibliography, index) (Nonfiction. 8-12) Copyright Kirkus 2003 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

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School Library Journal Reviews 2004 February
Gr 5-8-Renewed attention is being focused on the astonishing achievements of Lewis and Clark and their Corps of Discovery during this bicentennial of their expedition, but the focus of this book is rare. The participation of Clark's slave, York, is mentioned in most accounts of the expedition, but Blumberg centers on his contributions, which were significant. His strength and hunting abilities were invaluable. Readers are told repeatedly of the Native Americans' fascination with him, supposedly because they had never seen a black person before. York's agility in spite of his size also impressed the indigenous people the Corps met. The social history included in this account is also of interest. Although Lewis and Clark felt superior to the Native Americans, they managed to negotiate with them peacefully. The seeming respectful treatment of York during the expedition did not carry over after the return. Clark truly believed in slavery and in his right to dictate the man's life. York did not personally reap any benefit from the expedition and was not even officially listed as a member of the Corps. This well-researched selection helps to round out the study of an amazing event in our country's history and is a good companion to Blumberg's award-winning The Incredible Journey of Lewis & Clark (Morrow, 1995). Meticulously documented and illustrated with black-and-white photos and reproductions, this is a solid purchase for all collections.-Renee Steinberg, formerly at Fieldstone Middle School, Montvale, NJ Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.

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