Beautiful New Found Land needs to be discovered!

New Found Land: Lewis and Clark’s Voyage of Discovery by Allan Wolf; published by Candlewick Press, Cambridge, Mass., 2004; 501 pages.

Poetry and prose blend to tell the adventure story of Lewis and Clark’s adventure west in which they discover the Northwest Passage.  Although told by fourteen members of the discovery team, the tale is bound together by the voice of Oolum, the Newfoundland pet of explorer Meriwether Lewis.  Other voices include Thomas Jefferson, Lewis and Clark, Sacagawea, a slave, a kid and a drinker.  Their excitement, wonder and fear as they trek the unknown territory between the western-most boundaries of United States and the Pacific Ocean is beautifully portrayed in poetry and prose.  In addition to discussions about their geographical discoveries, they also examine social issues like slavery, bigotry (toward Native Americans), and the class system.  Their voices bend our ears with a rich history of our social and political past. 

What a pleasure it was to read historic fiction so beautifully written.  The lyrical text is the river that propels the reader, as if a member of the Corps of Discovery, through this piece of history.  Aside from being well-crafted literature, New Found Land opens the social scrapbook of American history in which we gaze at vignettes of a slave’s life, a kid’s life, and an Indian woman’s life, among so many others.  Young adults will appreciate the language and the fact that the chapters are never more than three pages long, so although it is historical fiction, it can be read in small increments or long stretches without affecting the rhythm of the story. 

In addition, the book is rich in resources.  When the story is done, the author includes “some post-expedition history” about the characters; a list of the Corps of Discovery members; an index of American Indian Nations encountered along with a pronunciation guide; a list of trivia about the expedition, such as the amount of meat consumed and most popular trade item; a bibliography for further reading includingInternet resources; and a glossary with pronunciation guide. 

New Found Land works on so many levels—historic fiction, social commentary, poetic prose—that it should be on the recommended reading list of all college-bound students.  Maybe that’s why it made YALSA’s “Outstanding Books for the College Bound” list!

Unfortunately, I think because it is historical fiction, and because the poetic form is harder to read than straight prose, it will take a very specific teen to seek out and read this book.  It will be read only with urging from a teacher or librarian.

 2P     5Q     Grades 7-12

new_found_landCover Art: This is historic fiction and the cover art screams this loud and clear.  I don’t think the image portrays the drama and adventure that is illustrated by the poetic prose inside.  The cover will not make this book stand out on the shelves so young adults will have to be advised to seek it out and discover the adventure.

From Reading List: “Outstanding Books for the College Bound, 2009 History and Cultures List”


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