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Children's LiteratureWith the Eyewitness book on this same subject out of print and the nearest competitor, The Encyclopedia of the Ancient Americas (Southwest, 2001) weighing in at over 250 pages, this book is just right for interested upper elementary age students. The omnibus approach to pictures, text and sidebars insures that browsers can find interesting things to pick up while the main and sub-headings on each page help readers locate information. Topics include farming, settlements, religious celebrations and beliefs, and the rise of each civilization. Four acetate overlays lift to reveal what interiors of temples, houses, or subterranean interiors held further feeds reader curiosity. Pictures are drawn from photos of antiquities or painted to illustrate some practice or aspect of South or Central American culture. A crowded double-page spread on the Spanish Conquest and an index placed on an endpaper provide a hurried look to the conclusion. An opening map shows settlement of North and South America from the land bridge theory of origin, which contemporary research is now augmenting. Unfortunately, aside from this map and a few very small area maps, there is no larger map placing these civilizations in any geographical context. However, the otherwise handsome design and the variety of information make this a book that report writers can easily work from. 2004, Smart Apple Media, Ages 8 to 14.
— Susan Hepler, Ph.D.