By organizing his narrative along the lines of the actual journal entries themselves, Daugherty re-creates the sense of exploration and excitement found in the original documents. The overwhelming odds that the party faced are preserved, while many of the details regarding distance, provisions, and location are condensed without loss to the narrative. The characters of the men behind the historical account become one of the book’s main focuses, and thus a sense of living history is created for younger readers. The doubts and fears of both Lewis and Clark, while somewhat fictionalized, are nevertheless well substantiated, perhaps because the original journals on which the book is based provide rich ground for such treatment.
By beginning with the early lives of each of the principal figures, Daugherty reveals his interest in the individuals themselves. While much of the first section departs from the rest of the book’s close rendering of history, it helps to create characters that are real. Lewis’ boyhood in Virginia is paralleled by Clark’s upbringing in Kentucky, and their mutual role in the army is given emphasis. Daugherty also points out that, while Lewis may not have been the most qualified person for the command of the expedition, Jefferson gave him the job out of respect and friendship. History, in this sense, is shown to be personal.
The party’s journey up the Missouri River occupies a main portion of the book and demonstrates an important sense of geography with which a young audience might not be familiar. An entire year is spent traveling the course of the Missouri, with such close calls as the incident with the Sioux, who followed...
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Daugherty’s book provides an excellent access into the overwhelmingly complex story of Lewis and Clark. Although similar versions of the expedition appeared both before and after Of Courage Undaunted, the book remains as one of the best for younger readers, both for its closely knit format that follows the original dates and campsites and for its balance of historical fiction and fact.
The book’s best attributes appear in the account of the journey itself. Not surprisingly, Daugherty relies heavily on the journals themselves to capture much of the firsthand style of the original account. Written prior to much of the attention on Native American rights, the book inevitably characterizes a period in which Native Americans were seen as obstacles to American expansion to the West. Nevertheless, Of Courage Undaunted serves as an excellent and personalized account of perhaps the greatest American story of exploration, one that opened the West to settlement and expansion. In Daugherty’s own words, Lewis and Clark “were the first but not the last of a long line of pathfinders of the West. They were samples of the true breed, of what the new nation could be and do.”