Reviews for Before Columbus : The Americas of 1491

Booklist Reviews 2009 September #1
*Starred Review* Mann's successful adult book 1491 (2006) is reshaped here for a younger audience, to good effect. Certainly, the material is fascinating. Mann's major point is that much of what's considered common knowledge about the Americas is now under reconsideration. Moreover, new discoveries make possible a rethinking of civilization's beginnings altogether. The book starts with the discovery of prehistoric inhabitants in Peru, whose civilization is as old as, or older than, Sumer in the Middle East. Moreover, pyramids appeared in Peru first as well. After these startling observations, Mann divides his book into several parts, one of which looks at how the Old World was able to defeat the New World (disease helped) and the question of whether the Americas were actually a wilderness. Much has been done to repackage the information for a middle-school audience. Historical engravings and bold art, including work from Diego Rivera, demand attention, meshing well with clean pages and a good-size typeface (yet the maps could use more explanation). The narrative is inviting, too, though the material still remains dense in places. Catnip for budding historians or archaeologists. Copyright 2009 Booklist Reviews.

Horn Book Guide Reviews 2010 Spring
Based on the author's adult title 1491, this well-written adaptation strives to answer three questions: How did the ill-prepared Pilgrims survive? What were Native Americans' lives really like? And how did the indigenous peoples with their vast numbers leave the land mostly untouched? Eye-catching reproductions of paintings and drawings, crisp photographs, detailed maps, and thoughtful sidebars add to the appeal of this well-researched historical resource. Reading list, websites. Glos., ind. Copyright 2010 Horn Book Guide Reviews.

Kirkus Reviews 2009 September #1
Mann adapts his acclaimed portrait of the Americas before European conquest and settlement into an engrossing, highly readable account for young people. The title-subtitle combination is somewhat misleading, as this sweeping chronicle of the Americas covers thousands of years before Columbus and a couple hundred years after. Presenting fascinating discoveries and hypotheses of anthropologists, archaeologists, geologists and historians, the author effectively supports his thesis that "Native Americans created societies that were older, bigger, and more highly developed than we used to think." He shows that catastrophic epidemics were most responsible for enabling small parties of European conquerors and colonists to overwhelm much larger Indian societies and demonstrates how Native Americans employed sophisticated agricultural methods that transformed ecosystems and shaped landscapes that Europeans assumed were "wilderness." Attractively designed, the book is abundantly illustrated throughout with maps, photographs and reproductions of art works. Especially appealing is how the author shows young readers that history is not static, but dynamic, organic and ever-changing. (introduction, glossary, further reading, bibliography, index) (Nonfiction. 10 & up) Copyright Kirkus 2009 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

Library Media Connection Reviews 2009 November/December
This attractive oversize book addresses recently revised theories of origins and lifestyles of native North, Central, and South American cultures. The author has summarized his ideas first presented in his 2005 book for adults in an interesting and thought-provoking book for young adults. Citing archeological and scientific research, he deduces that native Indian cultures were much older and more diverse than previously thought, and had developed skills for survival more complex than evidence had shown. Mann acknowledges that his theories contradict information found in textbooks as late as the 1980s, but these new facts will add to our understanding of ancient American history. The book is enriched by interesting sidebar articles, significant text quotes, and numerous color drawings, photographs, graphics, and maps. Librarians should be aware of Diego Rivera artwork that depicts shirtless native women. A higher reading level and advanced vocabulary make this book a worthy addition t a serious middle or high school library. Earnest student researchers will appreciate the detailed factual explanations, while readers interested in the topic will be fascinated by the new ideas presented. Bibliography. Glossary. Websites. Index. Highly Recommended. Anna Hartle, Integrated Technology Teacher/Librarian, Cincinnati (Ohio) Country Day School ¬ 2009 Linworth Publishing, Inc.

School Library Journal Reviews 2009 September

Gr 6 Up--In this beautifully illustrated and concise adaptation of 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus (Vintage, 2006), Mann paints a superb picture of pre-Columbian America. In the process, he overturns the misconceived image of Natives as simple, widely scattered savages with minimal impact on their surroundings. Well-chosen, vividly colored graphics and photographs of mummies, pyramids, artifacts, and landscapes as well as the author's skillful storytelling will command the attention of even the most reluctant readers. Eye-catching sidebars and oversize chapter headings seem to pop from the pages. Mann constructs the narrative around three crucial questions that continue to confound historians today: Was the New World really new? Why were the Europeans successful? What ecological impact did Natives have on their surroundings? From the pre-Columbian genetic engineering of maize to the existence of pyramids older than the Egyptian variety, Mann's lucid answers to these questions represent current scholarly opinion and point the way toward future exploration and discovery. Students and teachers will benefit greatly from this engaging exploration of America's most overlooked and misunderstood historical periods.--Brian Odom, Pelham Public Library, AL

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