Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Series Review, Native Americans by ABDO, reviewed by Yoda

I do so hate to give a bad review, but I also hate to be disappointed.

The topic of Native Americans is one of those perennial favorites, both for writers and for teachers assigning reports. The history, culture, and present struggles of each nation are fascinating enough to capture anyone's attention, and colorful enough to keep it.

Or should be. This series, I'm afraid, gives meaning to the expression, "Never judge a book by its cover." The covers are absolutely gorgeous - colorful, expressive photographs bordered with bright designs that are repeated on the title page. And then you open the book.

In this series I reviews the titles Caddo, Blackfoot, Arapaho, and Gabrielino, all written by Barbara A. Gray-Kanatiiosh and illustrated by David Kanietakeron Fadden. Gabrielino? Never heard of them - and that is precisely why I was so interested in this series. There are a million and one books about the Cherokee, the Navajo, and the Apaches, but I was looking forward to a series that explored some of the lesser-known nations. In that respect, these books did not disappoint. For very basic information, these fit the bill. As far as reading for pleasure or interest, however; not so much.

Let's get back to the appearance. The covers, as I said, are very nicely done - but are there no photographs in existence of Caddo clothing? Blackfoot tipis? All illustrations up until the final chapter are drawings, and - with apologies to Mr. Fadden - I think children will find these lifeless and flat.

The text itself is very basic, and reads stiltingly at times. Facts are presented rather formulaically - count how many times you see the "first, then, finally" pattern repeated. And, didn't someone's grammar teacher tell them not to start sentences with "and"?

While the books contain a glossary and an index, they miss the opportunity to enforce some new words particular to each nation. Xinesi? Conna? Gorget? These are used in the book about the Caddo and are explained in the text, but not in either the glossary or index.

All in all, a disappointing series that I had high hopes for. Still useful for the school library, especially those titles that are more obscure, but not expected to rate highly for pleasure reading.

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