Children's Literature - Jeanna PottsAlthough the book is titled Ghost Walls and the prologue begins by stating “More than one kind of ghost haunts a house called St. John’s,” this book is not about ghosts. It is a history, uncovered through archeological excavations and research, of a house in St. Mary’s City, Maryland. The only “ghosts” discussed in the book are the now missing building walls and remnants of previous inhabitants. The book explains the intricate steps taken to uncover and preserve artifacts, and many colored photographs of the discoveries are presented. Discolored dirt depicting where walls and posts previously existed provide clues to the layout of the house. Artifacts found in different layers of dirt demonstrate what utensils and household items were used at different times in the history of the home. The historical writings such as letters and court information are used to generate information about what these inhabitants possessed and how they lived in the different time periods. Although the book might be interesting to someone engrossed with archeology and finite historical details, the reading material may not interest most students. The house has three different owners before becoming a public inn. The house is important in the development of St. Mary’s City, having been used for community and government meetings and trials. It is now a museum with sections of the home restored, uncovered relics displayed, and an area demonstrating the archeological aspect of reconstructing the home. There are a timeline, source information, a bibliography, an index, and additional reading sources. Although the book says there are free educational resources available online at www.lerneresource.com, a search on the site failed to locate any supplemental material for this book. Reviewer: Jeanna Potts; Ages 12 up.
The site of a 17th-century home owned by a colonial Maryland official reveals the story of its origins with the help of historians and archaeologists. An early citizen of the Maryland colony, John Lewger built a home for his family and servants that reflected his stature. One hundred years after its establishment, the house was gone, and the role it played in the early years of American history was seemingly lost. However, historians and archaeologists were able to literally unearth information about the structure of the house and lifestyle of its inhabitants. The tension inherent in operating a system of indenture alongside a growing number of slaves is just one of the stories revealed by historical documents. With great attention to archaeological detail, Sibert medalist Walker explores the work of the scientists who studied every aspect of the site, both physically and through historical records. The author's considerable skill at bringing historical stories to life is on display. However, the level of detail makes for a slow read. The text is quite dense, although the plentiful illustrations provide strong visual support. A few of the bookmaking decisions, such as the use of green ink in captions and the font size, may be problematic for some readers.Though it doesn't sparkle like some of her earlier works, there's much here for patient readers. (author's note, timeline, source notes, bibliography, further reading suggestions, index) (Nonfiction. 10-14)
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