Before Columbus: The Americas of 1491


A companion book for young readers based on 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus, the groundbreaking bestseller by Charles C. Mann.

2009 Parents' Choice Recommended winner

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A companion book for young readers based on 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus, the groundbreaking bestseller by Charles C. Mann.

2009 Parents' Choice Recommended winner

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Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature - Susan Treadway M.Ed.
Unraveling mysteries from the past involves a myriad of experts from every field of study that may take generations to sort out. As with any work of fiction or expository text, much is brought to the experience from prior knowledge, current events, and personal connections. In this case, the author's own genealogy plays a prominent role since his ancestry includes John Billington, an Englishman who came to America on the Mayflower in 1620. His previous dramatic presentation for adults, 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus, was a hefty 541 pages whereas this is just over one hundred pages to highlight his findings for children. Regardless of commonly understood historical renderings as found in most school books, students and adults can appreciate the depth of knowledge and scope of authentic resources given in Mann's research. There is no doubt about his sincerity or extensive support for his findings. However, as with any difficult subject matter (in this case due to the time period and in debunking some of the established record), readers are invited to join in the discussion with curiosity, intensity, and a genuine desire to put more of the pieces together. There are three parts to the book that endeavor to answer probing questions. First, how old was the "New World?" Next, why did Europe succeed? Lastly, were the Americas really a wilderness? Each section has several chapters that contain artifacts, photographs, artistic renderings, maps, and accompanying text boxes with additional features. A dramatic detail statement appears in extra large fonts within chapters that bring rather surprising aspects to the forefront. There is also a simple Glossaryand comprehensive Index, as well as Further Reading, Websites, and Photo and Illustration Credits. Whether or not audiences are persuaded by these retellings about many different groupings of people, all ages might well be captivated by the author's profound efforts to dig much deeper into the beginnings of the Americas. Certainly it is an inspiring work for older youngsters who may be considering a career as an archaeologist, environmental scientist, anthropologist, or ecologist. Younger children can begin appreciating the interaction of experts who bring history alive through engaging stories in the search for a more complete, vivid picture of our collective past. Exploration through probing questions and determined curiosity is, after all, the job of any scientist or historian. Reviewer: Susan Treadway, M.Ed.
School Library Journal
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
Kirkus Reviews
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)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781416949008
  • Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers
  • Publication date: 9/8/2009
  • Pages: 128
  • Sales rank: 275,277
  • Age range: 8 - 12 Years
  • Lexile: NC1080L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 10.32 (w) x 10.24 (h) x 0.66 (d)

Meet the Author

Charles C. Mann is the author of 1491, which won the U.S. National Academy of Sciences’ Keck award for the best book of the year. A correspondent for The Atlantic Monthly, Science, and Wired, he has covered the intersection of science, technology, and commerce for many newspapers and magazines here and abroad, including the New York Times, Vanity Fair, the Washington Post, and more. In addition to 1491, he was the co-author of four other non-fiction books. He is now working on a companion volume to 1491. His website is

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