I Am Sacagawea: Ordinary People Change the World

Book review by
Mary Eisenhart, Common Sense Media
I Am Sacagawea: Ordinary People Change the World Book Poster Image
Strong Native American teen guide shines in lively history.

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The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Like other books in the Ordinary People Change the World series, I Am Sacagawea offers lots of age-appropriate historical detail about the Louisiana Purchase, the Lewis and Clark Expedition, and other facets of a bygone period. Sacagawea's story may lead to some interesting discussions -- especially about things that seem outrageous or appalling now, but "that's how life was back then."

Positive Messages

As with other books in the series, plenty of positive messages -- e.g., defying expectations, finding your own way, and coming to the rescue yourself instead of waiting for someone else to rescue you. Also, unjust practices of the past aren't right, and we should do better.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Narrator/protagonist Sacagawea has a lot to contend with, being ripped from her family at 12, married off by her captors at 14, and sent off to the wilderness as a pregnant teen/young mother, and the only woman on the Lewis and Clark Expedition. Also, she's a a Native American girl, and nobody takes her seriously. None of this keeps her from saving the day many times and playing a vital role in far-reaching events. Other kind characters include her long-lost brother and, occasionally, Lewis and Clark themselves.

Violence & Scariness

The girl later known as Sacagawea is captured and stolen from her family by an enemy tribe when she's 12. The explorers face many dangers, including near-drowning and deadly disease.


What parents need to know

Parents need to know that I Am Sacagawea is a great addition to Brad Meltzer's Ordinary People Change the World series, which packs a lot of quirky charm and period detail into a picture-book format to introduce important historical figures and their times to young readers and pre-readers. As we learn about the Native American teen mom who played such a vital role in the Lewis and Clark Expedition, we also learn a lot about now-shocking realities -- kids stolen from their families in war and married off to perfect strangers, prejudice against girls and Native Americans, taking a pregnant teen on a wilderness expedition -- that were "just the way it was back then." We also get a lot of positive messages about not being limited by other people's opinions of you or by bad circumstances, and also about coming to the rescue yourself instead of waiting for someone to rescue you.

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What's the story?

I AM SACAGAWEA makes it clear that the famed Native American guide of the Lewis and Clark Expedition had a lot of adversity to deal with -- starting with the fact that we have no idea what her real name was, as it was her captors who gave her the name "Sacagawea." Storyteller Brad Meltzer and illustrator Christopher Eliopoulous bring the title character (and the baby who's her constant companion) to life in a series of engaging episodes as she faces many challenges and saves the day more than once.

Is it any good?

The story of Lewis and Clark's intrepid Native American guide is a great addition to this series, with a strong female hero who faces many dangers and passes along wise insights to kids today. Like "Make your own path. Shatter expectations," a point brought home by the accomplishments of this brave woman, who played an essential role in historic explorations despite being born in a world that placed little value on girls or Native Americans.

This installment of the Ordinary People Change the World illustrated biography series encourages readers to blaze their own trails as well, and not let setbacks keep them from accomplishing their goals.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how things have changed since the era described in I Am Sacagawea. What do you think has changed for the better? Do you wish anything was still like the old days?

  • Have you ever had to travel or live in a place you'd never been, where people spoke a different language and nothing was familiar? How did you deal with it?

  • Have you read other books in the Ordinary People Change the World series? How do you think this one compares with the others?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love history and Native American stories

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