Classical Childrens Books

Streams to the River Themes and Symbols

This page summarizes the themes, symbols, action plot, and literary elements in Streams to the River, River to the Sea.


Streams to the River Theme Word Search

Throughout our Streams to the River Unit Study, students identify the themes in the chapter. Major themes of the book include:

Activities With Themes

The unit study provides these activities to highlight the themes of the book:

Symbols and Motiffs in Streams to the River


The river is an obvious symbol and motiff. It is boldly featured in the title, in the opening sentence of the story, and throughout the chapters.

The river is the pathway on which the journey occurs. It is the location of the opening and closing events as well as the "road" that the expedition travels.


The motiff of name reflects the theme of identify. Sacagawea's name is not mentioned in the first chapters; she remains a nameless captive until Blue Sky inquires about her.

She was given a nickname by Captain Clark, and even has a secret name that is never mentioned. In addition, her son is named Meeko, Pompey, and Jean Baptiste by different individuals.

Streams to the River Summary

Chapter by Chapter Action Plot

Streams to the River Action Plot
The main action of each chapter is plotted on the diagram.

A unique feature of this story is that the climax occurs in the last few paragraphs. The denouement is almost a mental activity as readers picture what her future will hold.


The climax is marked by her decision to turn down Clark's offer and leave her husband as well her home with the Hidatsa.

Denouement: What Happened to Sacagawea?

The Unit Study provides a brief recount of three different contradictory historical accounts of Sacagawea.

Students contrast O'Dell's ending in Streams to the River to the three different historical accounts.

O'Dell's ending is unique but it serves a literary purpose. It brings the story full circle back to the beginning AND completes the narrative's themes:

Buy Streams to the River Unit Study

Literature Study Based on Scott O'Dell's novel about Sacagawea

Streams to the River Worksheet Streams to River Teachers Key
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Streams to the River, River to the Sea

Information on the historical fiction novel about Sacagawea by Scott O'Dell

Unit Study

Steams to the River Unit Study
121 page unit study with chapter activities

Steams to the River Maps
8 different maps of the Lewis & Clark Expedition

Steams to the River Vocabulary
Vocabulary lists for each chapter

Streams to the River Themes
Themes, symbolism, and literary analysis

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