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Reviewed by Peggy Jo Wipf for Readers' Favorite
Five Months on the Missouri River: Paddling a Dugout Canoe by Thomas Elpel is an intriguing book that maps out what Meriwether Lewis and William Clark could have experienced when they made one of their more famous expeditions. The author teams up with Churchill Clark, a descendant of Captain William Clark, to hollow out a log large enough to carry him down the Missouri River. Elpel fully illustrated this book with photos of his progress from Montana to St. Louis, Missouri. The author tries many new foods, learns in-depth navigational knacks, and has a greater understanding of the skills these men needed to survive in an uncivilized land. He believes, “Life is too short for ordinary dreams.” This journey is one few have traveled.
Living along the Natchez Trace, I have visited many places the great explorers surveyed. The Meriwether Lewis Monument has been a highlight in our historical field trips. Thomas Elpel brings Lewis and Clark’s expedition alive as he tries to replicate what they would have done. Digging out a canoe, eating food that they would have eaten, keeping a detailed journal, and documenting the plant and animal life; this book gives you a visual idea of what these men experienced. It’s interesting the changes Thomas Elpel encountered, such as dams that are now in place, currents have changed, and islands have appeared or disappeared. Overall, this book has an amazing way of bringing history alive in a colorful way. You feel as if you explored these lands as Lewis and Clark. I would highly recommend Five Months on the Missouri River to anyone who loves American history, teachers, and parents.