Gr 4-7-- Hernandez uses a ficticious city as the prototype for all Central American cities of Mayan descent. Each stage in its development, from its birth as a small village 3000 years ago, through its uncertain future in the late 20th century, is examined in double-page spreads. For each time period, a detailed architectural rendering provides a panoramic view of San Rafael and the surrounding area. A half-page inset then diagrams that scene, identifying land usages, buildings, and infrastructure. Text and additional pen-and-ink illustrations explain other aspects of Mayan society that, after rising out of the jungle to glory, collapsed in ruin to emerge as a mixture of Spanish colonialism and New World cultures. The text is brief but clearly written, offering readers a great deal of information in a small amount of space. Although most children will be fascinated by the intricate detail, some may be confused by the terrain analysis and overwhelmed by the volume of textual and visual material. There is no glossary to explain the sophisticated vocabulary and concepts, and the index is nothing more than a table of contents. Useful, but of limited appeal. --Jeanette Larson, Texas State Library, Austin
This inviting oversize volume features 14 carefully detailed ink drawings, presented in two-page spreads, that function like aerial photographs, reconstructing the development of a fictitious yet prototypical urban settlement in Central America. Originally a great Mayan cultural and political center, Uaxacmal, the city was renamed San Rafael after its conversion to a Spanish colonial settlement in the seventeenth century. Independence from Spain came in the nineteenth century, and in later chapters, the city is shown experiencing the trials and tribulations common to urban environments all over Latin America. Following each wordless spread are captioned diagrammatic renderings of the site; unfortunately, the minuteness of the detail makes it difficult to distinguish occasional areas and constructions. Also included are interesting close-up ink sketches of housing situations, food preparation, and other facets of urban living during each of the highlighted eras in the city's history. Although the index is simply a table of contents at the back, this is an effective pictorial approach to history and civics that will attract browsers as well as students.