TIKAL

THE CENTER OF THE MAYA WORLD

Despite plenty of recent archaeological and paleographical discoveries, ancient Mayan history and culture remain by and large great unknowns—a reality that forces even careful, reputable writers like Mann, author of the brilliant Brooklyn Bridge (1996) and other studies of great monuments, into generalizations and speculation. Here, she sketchily traces the 1,700-year career of a sprawling, strategically placed commercial center that apparently enjoyed centuries of prosperity until falling to an alliance of rivals, then rose again under a series of kings, of which little beyond major building projects and exotic-sounding names seems to be known, before suddenly, for no evident reason, being abandoned around 900 CE. For the illustrations, color photos of elaborately ornamented Mayan art, capped by a striking aerial view of Tikal’s pyramid-strewn Great Plaza today, are interspersed with sometimes uncaptioned painted scenes featuring generic figures laboring, shedding each other’s blood, or standing about to give the city’s magnificent buildings scale. Young readers will certainly come away with an appreciation for Tikal’s ruined splendors, but the art and narrative combine to communicate even more clearly a sense of how little we really know about this complex civilization. Still, a reading list would have been nice, especially considering the pace of new discoveries, and the availability of such engaging related titles as Laurie Coulter’s Secrets in Stone: All About Maya Hieroglyphs (2001). (map, timeline, glossary, index) (Nonfiction. 10-13)

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2002

ISBN: 1-931414-05-X

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Firefly

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2002

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Plenty of work for sharp eyes and active intellects in this history-based series opener.

MARY BOWSER AND THE CIVIL WAR SPY RING

From the Spy on History series , Vol. 1

Using a provided packet of helpful tools, readers can search for clues along with a historical spy in the house of Jefferson Davis, president of the Confederacy.

Fans of ciphers and hidden clues will find both in abundance, beginning on the copyright page and continuing to a final, sealed-off section of explanations and solutions. Fictionalized but spun around actual figures and events, the tale centers on Bowser, a free African-American who worked undercover as a maid in Davis’ house and passed information to a ring of white Richmond spies. Here she looks for the key phrase that will unlock a Vigenère cipher—an alphabetic substitution code—while struggling to hide her intelligence and ability to read. As an extra challenge, she leaves the diary in which she records some of her experiences concealed for readers to discover, using allusive and sometimes-misleading clues that are hidden in Cliff’s monochrome illustrations and in cryptic marginal notations. A Caesar cipher wheel, a sheet of red acetate, and several other items in a front pocket supply an espionage starter kit that readers can use along the way; it is supplemented by quick introductions in the narrative to ciphers and codes, including Morse dashes and dots and the language of flowers.

Plenty of work for sharp eyes and active intellects in this history-based series opener. (answers, historical notes, biographies, bibliography) (Historical fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: Jan. 10, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-7611-8739-4

Page Count: 96

Publisher: Workman

Review Posted Online: Nov. 16, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2016

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

GET ON BOARD

THE STORY OF THE UNDERGROUND RAILROAD

The frequently told story of the Underground Railroad has, claims Haskins, all too often ``played up the extent of its organization and the efforts of whites, especially Quakers, and played down the less organized efforts of slaves, free blacks and other whites.'' Here, he focuses more on people than process in his account of the antislavery movement, the increasingly harsh measures against fugitives in the 19th century, and the courageous work of several stationmasters and conductors dedicated to helping escapees; coded songs and other subterfuges designed to spread the word are also discussed. Haskins devotes a chapter to Harriet Tubman, one to John Brown (author of an important fugitive slave narrative), and another to some ``passengers'' who succeeded in escaping largely on their own, and concludes with the 13th Amendment and the Railroad's transmutation to legendary status. Though this brief account helps set the record straight, its dry, didactic prose limits appeal, especially for collections that already own Shaaron Cosner's Underground Railroad (1991). Archival photos, bibliography, and index not seen. (Nonfiction. 10-13)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1993

ISBN: 0-590-45418-8

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1993

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more