Children's Literature - Marianne MitchellThe conquest of the Aztecs is a mighty tale to tell and Rachel A. Koestler-Grack does a fine job of bringing history to life. The ambitions, defeats, and victories of explorer and conqueror Hernando Cortes are chronicled in ten well researched chapters. It often reads like an action-packed adventure novel. It presents a balanced account of the achievements of the Spanish and the Aztecs, as well as their dark sides of gruesome war, battles, and bloody sacrifices. Several sidebars explore related topics in more detail, including the controversial role of La Malinche, translator and mistress to Cortes, and an overview of native Mexican cultures up to the time of the invasion. The author has done careful research and includes an extensive reference list. Each chapter ends with a list of multiple choice questions to stimulate students' recall of events. The illustrations include photos and pieces of Spanish and Native artwork. It would have been very helpful to have included more maps that showed the routes traveled by Cortes and where the various Mexican cities mentioned were located. There is only one small, inadequate map in Chapter 7. There are numerous names of people and places to keep track of in this epic tale, and the author does a good job of sorting them out. Some accents are missing or misplaced, however, most notably on the name of the subject character, Hernando Cortes. This title is part of the "Explorers of New Lands" series and would be a welcome addition to any social studies or cultural history classes.
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