VOYA - Linda RobertsThe history and culture of the people who inhabit the continent of Africa is complex and multifaceted. Archaeological evidence indicates that the human race may have originated here. The continent is the largest, comprising more than eleven million square miles. With the end of apartheid and recent developments in South Africa, there has been a renewed interest in the history of that area of the world. The Heritage Library of African People does an outstanding job of introducing students to the political, religious, geographic, social, and cultural aspects of the numerous African tribes. Each volume in the series focuses on a different tribe, and although there are different authors, the series editor, George Bond, helps create a sense of consistency in terms of style and format. Bond has written an introduction that appears in every volume and which gives a brief overview of the history and culture of Africa. The authors' credentials, based on information at the end of each book, lend much to the credibility of the information presented. Attractive and eye-catching covers are brightly colored with full-color photographs. The text is easy to read-featuring short chapters subdivided with bold headings-and is liberally interspersed with color photos, drawings, maps, and, frequently, highlighted text boxes. In Zulu, Ngwane focuses heavily on the political history of the people, who inhabit Southern Africa and are perhaps the best known of all African tribes. They became world famous for their major confrontations with the Boers during the 1800s. Even today, the Zulu face political conflict and tension and are featured frequently in the news. Interspersed throughout Ngwane's text are highlighted sections describing the crafts, carvings, and religious customs of the tribe. Although there is a wealth of information about all aspects of Zulu culture and daily life, the organization of the book is sometimes confusing. From the beginning, the author refers to Chief Shaka and Zulu history under Shaka's leadership, but does not fully explain this history until the last two chapters. The well-organized Sukumu volume does an excellent job of portraying a culture that combines the best of the old and the new. The largest culture in Tanzania, near Lake Victoria in Central Africa, the Sukuma have managed to maintain their ancient cultural traditions and still thrive in modern society. Readers will learn that this tribe is famous for its creative dancing and that members engage in dance competitions throughout the country. This series belongs in every middle school and public library. Although its size and reading level (about sixty-four pages per volume and about fifth-grade reading level) make it appear more appropriate for upper elementary grades, any student will find it a rich source of information about the African cultures, past and present. Glossary. Index. Photos. Maps. Further Reading. Note: This review was written and published to address two titles: Sukuma and Zulu. VOYA Codes: 5Q 5P M J (Hard to imagine it being any better written, Every YA (who reads) was dying to read it yesterday, Middle School-defined as grades 6 to 8 and Junior High-defined as grades 7 to 9).
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