I was disappointed in this book after being excited by the cover, a glance at the illustrations, and the subject. A comparison of prehistoric cities i...moreI was disappointed in this book after being excited by the cover, a glance at the illustrations, and the subject. A comparison of prehistoric cities in the New World - Cahokia (near St. Louis), and Mayan, Aztec, and Incan cities, with some explanation of what makes a city and how it comes to be is a wonderful and long overdue topic for a kid's book.
Unfortunately, "Buried Beneath Us" is rather confusing (as other reviewers note, the text jumps from one city & ancient culture to another very quickly), and I think that the blocks of text are too long for the target audience. The vocabulary is difficult for younger kids and a bit dry, too (e.g. "The foundations of religious worship probably go back to Paleolithic times. Humans have always depended on the proliferation of other species..." (pg. 49).
Religion is given priority both for origins and its role in the day-to-day life of these civilizations, but the other elements that contributed to the emergence, function, and growth of prehistoric cities (hereditary political power, warfare, agriculture, population growth, specialization, etc.) are given short shrift.
I was willing to go along with this perspective and style (if not overlook it entirely) for the sake of the narrative, but a couple of basic errors about Cahokia stopped me in my tracks.
First of all, Cahokia was not "built on bluff overlooking the Mississippi River" (p. 14). As any visit or a look at a description of the site shows, Cahokia was constructed on the floodplain, in an area known as the American Bottom (a geographic name that rivals Lake Titicaca in its snicker-potential for kids).
Futhermore, we do not know that "Cahokia's biggest holiday of the year happened in mid-July", nor that this was called "the Busk Festival" (p. 28). Aveni is careful to separate speculation about prehistoric religion from established archaeological fact elsewhere (as in the evidence for human sacrifice at Cahokia), so this statement attributing Cahokian ceremony to the historic Cherokee was surprising.
One sentence mentioning "smallpox and other diseases to which the natives were not immune" (p. 75) is overshadowed by lengthy descriptions of political unrest and Spanish alliances with Aztec and Incan neighbors, which may lead kids to believe that Tenochtitlan and Cuzco fell (like Cahokia and the Mayan cities) as part of a natural process or as a result of the Spanish invasion, instead of a result of deadly epidemics that may have killed 9 out of 10 people in these areas.
So yeah. Disappointing. But maybe some snippets of text or illustration will inspire some kids to examine what's "Buried Beneath Us" further.
I got this book of short childhood memoirs for my soon-to-be a 4th grader, but I don't think he would be into them. They're a little advanced, in some...moreI got this book of short childhood memoirs for my soon-to-be a 4th grader, but I don't think he would be into them. They're a little advanced, in some ways...there are some wonderful stories in there, though. My favorite was one about Esme and her cousin and how they decorate their grandma's house for a party when she falls asleep on the couch.
Set in Chicago in 1979 - if any of you are from Chicago, and born before 1970, you would almost certainly enjoy this. Otherwise, I think 10-12 year old girls would be the perfect audience. (less)
Violent mash-up of Stephen King and "The Time Traveler's Wife", with a less Mary Sue-ish "Girl with Dragon Tattoo" thrown in for the main character, K...moreViolent mash-up of Stephen King and "The Time Traveler's Wife", with a less Mary Sue-ish "Girl with Dragon Tattoo" thrown in for the main character, Kirby. Not as creepy as I thought it would be (but more gruesome), and I really enjoyed the historical details about snippets of Chicago between 1929-1993. (less)
Very nice humorous explanation of American archaeology for kids - but I was sometimes frustrated that the things described in the text weren't illustr...moreVery nice humorous explanation of American archaeology for kids - but I was sometimes frustrated that the things described in the text weren't illustrated (like Clovis points, Cahokia, or Pueblo Bonito), to give kids a better idea of the artifacts and places. (less)
I was a little disappointed in this story of a young boy who travels from his village near Lake Erie to the ancient city of Cahokia around 1300 AD (th...moreI was a little disappointed in this story of a young boy who travels from his village near Lake Erie to the ancient city of Cahokia around 1300 AD (though if he went at the center's zenith, it should have been around 1100 AD).
The people in the illustrations seem a little awkward, with some weird smiles, and the settings are too clean. They look like museum dioramas - the corn growing in straight rows without weeds, the villages with their walls with straight edges, etc.
The story is simple and Lorenz did a nice job of incorporating some Native mythology (the origin of Red Horn) into it - but it is a little bland and bloodless. There is no mention of sacrifice or even tribute or feasts at Cahokia, and the artifacts (which are very nicely portrayed and explained) are not really put into a convincing cultural context - they are simply trade items. A lot of this prehistoric trade seems to have centered around items with religious significance - and the question of why Little Hawk's family travels all the way to Cahokia to trade isn't answered.
Still, considering the dearth of information on prehistoric Native peoples out there, I was glad to see this book - especially predominantly displayed at my local library. I hope this encourages lots of people driving by East St. Louis on their summer vacations to stop and see this relatively unknown World Heritage site. (less)
Contemporary romance - improbable but entertaining story about an heiress who owns a wine shop and an FBI agent. My suspension of disbelief got jarred...moreContemporary romance - improbable but entertaining story about an heiress who owns a wine shop and an FBI agent. My suspension of disbelief got jarred a couple times too much for me to endorse this with a lot of enthusiasm, but I did like the humor and the characters and will check out more by James. (less)