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

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In the rush to assess and reinterpret the former USSR, Millbrook's six-title series by different authors is serviceable enough, though it has neither the lucid intelligence of Clark's single-volume coverage, The Commonwealth of Independent States (above) nor the detail of Lerner's as-yet incomplete series on individual states, edited by Mary M. Rodgers et al. (e.g., Lithuania, p. 1508). This volume of ``The Former Soviet States'' series, for instance, suffers from awkward phrasing (``...the standard of living of most of the people of the Soviet Union [in 1985] was unbelievably low''—What does ``unbelievably'' mean here? ``Low'' compared to what?), while of the information is oversimplified and some explanations are too truncated to be clear. Still, Roberts makes an adequate introduction to the historic crossroads occupied by Russian Orthodox Georgia and Armenia and their Muslim neighbor, an area with particularly bitter ethnic strife, and also threatened by interference from neighbors Turkey and Iran. ``Outlook'' (summary of major current issues); ``Facts and Figures''; chronology—confusingly formatted with six ``Famous People'' (Peter I, Stalin, Mstilav Rostopovish, et al.); maps, photos, and historical prints; index. (Nonfiction. 10-13)

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 1992

ISBN: 1-56294-309-X

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Millbrook

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 1992

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In this companion to Portraits of War: Civil War Photographers and Their Work (1998), Sullivan presents an album of the prominent ships and men who fought on both sides, matched to an engrossing account of the war's progress: at sea, on the Mississippi, and along the South's well-defended coastline. In his view, the issue never was in doubt, for though the Confederacy fought back with innovative ironclads, sleek blockade runners, well-armed commerce raiders, and sturdy fortifications, from the earliest stages the North was able to seal off, and then take, one major southern port after another. The photos, many of which were made from fragile glass plates whose survival seems near-miraculous, are drawn from private as well as public collections, and some have never been published before. There aren't any action shots, since mid-19th-century photography required very long exposure times, but the author compensates with contemporary prints, plus crisp battle accounts, lucid strategic overviews, and descriptions of the technological developments that, by war's end, gave this country a world-class navy. He also profiles the careers of Matthew Brady and several less well-known photographers, adding another level of interest to a multi-stranded survey. (source notes, index) (Nonfiction. 10-13)

Pub Date: March 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-7613-1553-5

Page Count: 80

Publisher: Twenty-First Century/Millbrook

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2001

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