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Gossamer Books LLC’s latest educational graphic novel, ‘Pacific Bound: The Adventures of Lewis & Clark’ (ISBN: 9742502-3-6)  by Lauri Olsen is an engaging story of Lewis & Clark’s expedition to discover a direct water route across the North American continent following President Jefferson’s purchase of the Louisiana territory in 1804. This expedition was led by two seasoned soldiers and friends, Meriwether Lewis and William Clark. The graphic novel follows a the Corps of Discovery (as the expedition calls itself) along with Lewis and Clark and their faithful dog Seaman, as the expedition travels thousand of miles, experiencing lands, rivers and people that no American had ever seen or experienced before.

Lauri Olsen, who has written two romance novels, one mystery/ghost story and one non fiction book, ventured into the genre of graphic novels very successfully. Her diversity and variety as a writer comes out in this novel where she gives a new dimension to the sequential art genre of writing with her deep insight and research of historical events. Her primary focus while writing the novel was historical accuracy for which she used the story telling technique as a vehicle for achieving that goal. When one reads the novel, the consistency with which the historical accuracy has been maintained strikes ones attention. The use of narration, dialog and visual interpretation to explain the journey are remarkable. This book deals with the adventures and misadventures that the Corps encounters in its journey spanning more than two years through the experiences of a composite character, Daniel. Though Daniel is a fictional character, named after the author’s grandson and dog, the whole story is told from his perspective, which was a challenge for the writer. Daniel’s adventurous spirit, devotion to the Corps and kindness to others come alive in the novel.

As Lauri points out, “I’ve always been interested in other cultures and races. I feel that understanding what is important to other people helps us appreciate each other’s dignity”, the educational graphic novel will help parents explain the values of hospitality and heritage in different cultures.

The graphic novel is a labor of love for the writer who enjoys historical research and for whom studying reports and journals of the Corps proved both fascinating and perplexing. Spelling was not the strong point of the people in 1804; as a result, she found various spellings of Shoshoni, Sacagawea, Cameahwait, and several of the mountains. In these instances, she used the most widely accepted spellings. The readers will come across myriad of characters, both from the western and the tribal worlds, with their own peculiar characteristics and mannerisms in the novel. The story is powerful and well plotted out with the visual and written form interwoven very skillfully. The writer has been able to achieve the purpose of accurately detailing the historical background and events in the novel for her intended audience (specifically students). The use of illustrated, hand drawn frames, pictures and colors gives the novel a vibrant look. Every character has been sketched with minutest of detail- whether it is dress or language spoken or culture. The characters are very real to life and do not appear to be imaginary or unbelievable. The landscape and the beautiful illustrations create an amazing ambience of the west. The illustrations’ detailed and colorful presentation of the difficult terrain and people, look very real and visually appealing. They capture the mood and expressions of different communities, cultures, flora and fauna with great ease and power.

The graphic novel has a lot to offer to the librarians, teachers and parents. For students, it is “history coming live”, to quote Lauri Olsen’s words. The teachers can also use the novel for readers with disabilities, or readers who like visual materials. In other words, teachers can experiment with different types of learners using the novel as the text to teach not only history, but also language arts skills, stimulating imagination, inspiring kids and teens in creative writing, and engaging them in other creative pursuits like movie making, role-playing, and costumes.

The educational graphic novel will be a powerful tool in parent-child settings where parents get a chance to read-aloud with their children, improving their oral communication as well as helping achieve higher literacy levels. The graphic novel is fun to read and is going to appeal to kids and young adults alike as it deals with themes and topics meaningful to all – hardship, perseverance, adventure, friendship, courage, loyalty, enterprise, hope, family, love, determination – to name a few. The novel will not only motivate reluctant readers, but also stimulate them toward literary exploration. Since the language of the novel is as complex as any other normal book, it could be used as a “bridge” to more complex material or higher level of literature that the students may otherwise be scared to even touch. By placing the novel into the context of the classroom, teachers can catch students off guard in a positive way leading them to become more engaged in a given work.

All good things come in small packages. This novel on the adventures of the Clark & Lewis expedition is a visual feast with all the ingredients of a well written book. It will cater to varied palates and ages, as it has a universal appeal. It will be a useful tool for teachers, parents and librarians in bringing kids closer to their historical past, and teaching them to appreciate good literature. They will learn history and many other things along with it without being aware of it. The novel should be read by everyone who likes good literature.

Pacific Bound: The Adventures of Lewis & Clark” (ISBN: 9742502-3-6) is available from Baker & Taylor, Brodart Books, and BWI. It has been released by Gossamer Books LLC, a small privately held publisher of Educational Graphic Novels. A pioneer in graphic novels, Gossamer Books is revolutionizing the way we learn US history. Gossamer Books is passionate about the importance of history and believes that learning history should be fun for all ages. The graphic novel will be available in March 2005.

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