Posts tagged ‘culture’

MAGNIFICENT MALI

If Lou were Me and Lived in… the Ancient Mali Empire

Written by Carole P. Roman

Illustrated by Mateya Arkova

Take a step back in time to the 1300’s into The Kingdom of Mali, the most powerful empire in the Western Sudan. Imagine yourself as a child in a wealthy family living in the capital city of Niani at the crossroads of the caravan road that led to Mecca. Your grandfather and father are important advisers to the king. There is no written language. As the griot, your grandfather’s job is to hold in memory and recite the history of the people.

This book details the story of the Mandinka people. Learn about the culture and religions of the people, the farmers, artisans, and slaves who kept the economy functioning. The roles of family members differed greatly according to gender and order of birth. Foods, customs, and manner of dress are examined. At the end of the story, the author provides portraits of many of the individuals discussed as well as vocabulary words unfamiliar to readers from other parts of the world.

Arkova does a marvelous job of capturing the essence of the text in simple, colorful illustrations that portray its meaning in visual terms. There is an extraordinary amount of information packed into this picture book. Younger children will enjoy the illustrations, but I highly recommend it for children in grades five through eight as well. Wonderful classroom reference resource for teachers to place in their bookcase.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher and voluntarily chose to review with my honest opinions for no monetary compensation.

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ANCIENT GREECE IN A NUTSHELL

If You Were Me and Lived in …Ancient Greece

Written by Carole P. Roman

Illustrated by Mateya Arkova

ancientgreece,picThis book is part of a new series which looks at the cultures and customs not of individual countries but about civilizations throughout time. Ancient Greece is the topic of the first release. The author begins by describing the geographical location of Greece and how Greece may have looked in the past contrasting it with the present. Unlike the other series, this book covers a much broader time period, and the author chooses to stage her character as a child living around 350 B.C. in classical Greece. There is no mention of the previous Greek Archaic Period, the rule of the aristocracy or the tyrants which eventually evolved into the establishment of democratic city states. Much of the book discusses everyday life, food, dress, education, family structure, occupations, and religion. Roman ends her discussion with the military conqueror Alexander the Great who established an empire, and whose death would usher in the end of the classical period and the beginning of the Hellenistic Age.

There is a great deal of information simplified and condensed for the elementary school and middle school reader. I would have liked to see more detailed maps showing locations and some actual photographs, though the simple, soft pastel illustrations are lovely and appealing for a younger reader. The glossary and list of gods and goddesses are helpful because readers will need to reference these to keep track of all the information. No doubt this book will open a child’s eyes to the vast legacy of ancient Greece and provide an excellent starting ground for future explorations on the political, social, religious, scientific and educational contributions of ancient Greece.

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RAISING YOUR VOICE

Layla Learns to be Brave: Series for beginning readers

Written by Bron Whitley

Illustrated by Melissa Bailey

 

 

 

Layla,picReally enjoyed reading this early chapter book about a second grader named Layla who lives in Australia. Young readers learn that while it is okay to be scared of new things, it is also a brave act to try something new.

I like the way the author introduces Australian customs, culture and habitat to her readers. For example readers learn about gum trees, kookaburras and cockatoos. Layla reveals her active imagination when she imagines being a cowgirl and sees bugs in her cupcakes. The humor and large black and white pencil drawings aid in sustaining interest for beginning or reluctant readers. Layla represents the thoughts and dreams of many of her readers.

Highly recommended chapter book for beginning and reluctant readers. Look forward to reading more books in the Layla down under series.

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A LITTLE OF THIS AND A LITTLE OF THAT….

Title: Oregon Clippings

Written by: Karen Ballentine

OregonClippings,pic

Interesting collage of state, local and international news posted in the Lincoln County Leader weekly newspaper posted in Toledo, Oregon. At that time the population consisted of 300 inhabitants. The 1899 eight page newspaper covered a plethora of subjects which paint a portrait of life in 1899. The postings range from what you would expect in a local newspapers, births, deaths, weather and local gossip to a larger view of the state, country and world. For example, readers learn that Venice is sinking and that the Yellow River in China has overflowed. On the local side, a reporter tells of a local woman who is able to locate her missing husband in a dream, and a murderer who has hung himself in his cell. We learn that the US government has more gold coin than it knows what to do with, and that paper money cannot be used for exchange in the Philippines because the bugs eat it. The paper reports that a rosary in the British museum is made of the vertebrae of a snake, and another one is made of rat’s teeth.

Sundry and varied for sure, but the tiny paper presents a remarkable picture of life in 1899 both here and abroad. An interesting, if random, arrangement of facts that makes for a pleasant afternoon of nostalgic fun.

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AZTECS AT A GLANCE

Legends of History:Fun Learning Facts about the Aztecs

Written by Matt Curtis

AztecHistory,pic

This was my first time reading a book in this series. Other books in this series discuss civilizations such as the Vikings, Egyptians, and Celts. Quite a bit of knowledge packed into thirty-four pages. Curtis uses a conversational approach in discussing what peoples made up the Aztecs, where they originated, who were their leaders, and how they got elected. He includes descriptions of the cities they lived in, the pyramids within them, and their controversial religious views which involved human sacrifice. One of the sections that I found most interesting was Curtis’ explanation of the social stratification system and the erratic system of justice they followed.

Curtis gets down to everyday life when he talks about children, the games they played, their pictograph language, and the type of ornate artwork and clothing worn and displayed, especially among the noble classes. Of course the empire came to a swift end once the Spaniards landed and the welcoming Aztecs realized that Cortes and the Spaniards intended to deplete their economy and rule their lands with an iron fist. Two years later in 1521, the Aztec Empire had been conquered.

These books are targeted for ages five through fifteen. While the text is clearly written, I feel it most appropriate for readers in the eight to twelve age range. The photos included are small but relevant. Parents, teachers, students and librarians will appreciate having this book on their shelves for reference and a good starting point for further exploration of the topic. I look forward to checking out others in the series.

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The Thirty-Sixth Dimension

Come Along with Me: A Children’s Fantasy Adventure

Written by Linda Lee Schell

comealongwithme2,pic

Written for a middle grade audience of children ages eight through twelve, this tale is a mixture of fantasy, culture, and history. Main characters are Gracie, a dwarf kangaroo from the thirty-sixth universe, Gibson, a Maine coon cat, and the farmer’s young daughter. One day Gracie is bored and decides to take an adventure to St. Petersburg on Earth to experience the culture of that Russian city renowned for its museums, ballet, architecture, and music. But Gracie makes a mistake and finds the portal opening into a small farm in Pennsylvania instead. Gracie appears to be trapped when she loses her direction card. As Gracie becomes better acquainted with Gibson, who has also been stranded on the farm, they become good friends.

Lots of adventures ensue and the two friends are “skunked,” schemed upon by the jealous farm rats, and become the two darling pets of the farmer’s daughter. Gibson begins to have strange visions. Could he be experiencing life in a parallel universe? How will these two new found friends assist their farm family? Will Gracie ever find her way to St. Petersburg and back to her distant universe? In any case, all the inhabitants of the farm both human and animal will have their lives changed forever.

This first book in the series will entertain tweens with lots of their favorite themes and reward them with lots of real life issues to ponder as well. Nice read aloud for the classroom or entertaining individual read. It reminds me of Charlotte’s Web.

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PINT-SIZED MYTHOLOGY

Greek Mythology: The complete guide to Greek Mythology, Ancient Greece, Greek Gods, Zeus, Hercules, Titans, and more!

Written by Nick Plesiotis

GreekMythology,pic

That title is quite a mouthful! This kindle book will give the reader a bird’s eye view of Greek mythology, its history, and a few examples. Greek myths have been around since approximately 900 B.C. They played an extraordinary role in the growth of politics, religion, and social life of the ancient world. Much of our modern day literature reflects their influence.

The author divides the Greek mythological world into three periods: the age of the Gods, the age of Gods and Mortals, and the Age of Heroes. He explains the ancient Greek religion and gives a brief summary of the gods and their equivalents in later Roman mythology. Then Plesiotis goes into detail about some of the more popular heroes like Hercules and the twelve labors he was forced to perform. One chapter explores the Trojan War and the famous Trojan horse ploy used to defeat the Spartans. Prometheus is a Titan who was particularly close to mankind. The author describes how this Titan bestowed the gifts of fire, husbandry, and metalwork upon man.

This twenty some odd page digital book is my no means a definitive guide, but is a great reference for a middle grade school report or introduction to further exploration of Greek and Roman mythology. It would have benefited from a few illustrations to accompany the stories, but I would still recommend this book as a well-written clear reference guide for children and adults age eight and up who have an interest in the subject.

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