Saturday, June 14, 2014

School Book Saturday: Aztecs & Antarctica

As a school librarian I buy, skim and shelve a lot of non fiction for children and youth. One benefit to being in the States during the summer is that I can borrow stacks of books from the library to evaluate them for my school.

So I decided to start a (hopefully) regular feature focusing on elementary, middle school and high school non fiction. If anyone else is interested I could even figure out how to do a link up thingy (a very technical blogging term ;-)

I'd love feedback and opinions! How many books should I write about in each post? Should I group books by topic, by age range, by series, all or some of the previous?

You Wouldn't Want to Be an Aztec Sacrifice!: Gruesome Things You'd Rather Not Know (Revised Edition) 
by Fiona MacDonald, illustrated by David Antram. Franklin Watts (Imprint of Scholastic), 2013. 32 pg. (9780531271049)
Series: You wouldn't want to be...
Dewey: J972
Reading level: 5th grade and up
Interest level: 3rd-6th

Publisher Description:
You are a young man of noble family in the Central Valley of Mexico. Your city is about to be visited by your overlords, the Aztecs: fearsome warriors who practice human sacrifice. Will you be one of their victims? This new extended edition includes a map and a timeline of the Aztec civilization, and a selection of chilling facts.

My Review:
This is from a fun series that ought to appeal to kids. However, the students at my school are more drawn to the topic than the fun illustrations. We don't have this book but we do have the Pony Express one and Ninja Warrior. There is absolutely no interest for the pony express, but I've had lots of boys and a few girls ask where the book is about ninjas.

A few observations I jotted down after reading this book:
- There's no bibliography.
- It does have a timeline, index and glossary.
- How do they know some of that stuff?!
- Makes light of human life / murder / sacrifice. [And it's rather gruesome]

"Walking slowly up the temple steps, you are grabbed by five priests and flung on your back across a sacrificial stone. You see no more..." pg 24
"You die quickly and with little pain, but the sacrifice is not over yet. the priests cut your heart from your body and raise it high toward the sky to show it to the gods.  ... Next, they cut off your head and display it in a skull rack along with hundreds of others. ... Finally, your blood is poured down the temple steps, and your limbs are tossed to the crowds of worshipers below. The warrior who captured you collects the limbs and takes them home. He cooks and eats your sacrificed flesh." pg 26 

Several grades study the Incas, Mayans and Aztecs which is why I was considering this book. However, since this is a period in history I'm less familiar with and it's not one that we have a lot of easily understood written records of, I would have liked a bibliography to prove that the authors know what they're talking about.

Aside from the gruesome description of the human sacrifices, I don't like how the texts portrayed human sacrifice as a perfectly acceptable ritual. In a way it's actually good that it's gory because it shows how terrible human sacrifice and cannibalism is.

Find it at a library near you; Buy it from AmazonBuy it from Barnes &Noble

The Antarctic Habitat 
by Molly Aloian, Bobbie Kalman. Crabtree Publishing Company, 2007. 32 pg. (9780778729563)
Series: Introducing Habitats
Dewey: J577
Reading level: 3rd
Interest level: K-1st

Goodreads Summary:
This detailed description of the snow- and ice-covered continent of Antarctica features birds, seals, and whales of the Southern Ocean.

My Review:
I thought the reading level was more second grade. Most sentences have about 6-8 words. Unfortunately there is no pronunciation guide, especially for 'phytoplankton', 'photosynthesis', 'herbivore', 'carnivore', and 'omnivore'. But all other words and terms should be somewhat familiar to kids.

Some words are in bold but there is no glossary at the end with definitions, just an index of where those words are found in the book. The words are defined in the text.

"Millions of tiny plants grow in the Southern Ocean. They float near the top of the water. These ocean plants are called phytoplankton."

The photos and illustrations are all nice and enhance the text. But I wish some scale had been provided as it's impossible to tell just how huge the blue whale really is (a full length photo is included) nor how wide the wing span of the albatross is.

I like that this book doesn't combine the arctic and antarctic regions, the amount of material covered and the illustrations. I'll take a look at the other books in the series and will keep this in mind if/when we need some habitat books for the younger grades.

Find it at a library near youBuy it from Amazon; Buy it from Barnes & NobleBuy it from an Indie Bookstore near you

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