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February 15, 2016 BOOKLIST
Find more Classroom Connections
Hook readers with nonfiction and fiction featuring history’s most puzzling mysteries, myths, and legends.
Are you ready for December 21, 2012? Many scholars believe this is the day when the ancient Mayan Long Count calendar will come to the end of its current 5,125.37-year cycle and revert to zero. This date also marks when the sun will be aligned with the center of the Milky Way for the first time in about 26,000 years. Some doomsdayers predict dire consequences, such as a flurry of natural disasters, loss of electronic communication systems, and even the end of the world. Optimists believe that the event will bring a spiritual reawakening as well as peace and harmony.
With a wave of recent fiction on the ancient Maya and their calendar, not to mention nonfiction titles about ancient Mayan culture, students can come to their own conclusions about the 2012 phenomenon. After investigating this mystery, they can move on to other world mysteries—from Stonehenge and Easter Island to King Tut and the Lost City of the Incas, all of which are represented in the bibliography below—and explore how archaeologists, anthropologists, and other scientists have attempted to solve them. Of course, only if time allows!
Ancient Maya: Archaeology Unlocks the Secrets of the Maya’s Past. By Nathaniel Harris. 2008. 64p. illus. National Geographic, $17.95 (9781426302275); lib. ed., $27.90 (9781426302282). 972.8. Gr. 5–8.
Part of the National Geographic Investigates series, this book shows how archaeologists have uncovered many mysteries about the life and architecture of the ancient Mayas and still have more to solve. Color photographs of archaeologists at work and the artifacts they have found, as well as a map, a time line, a glossary, further reading, and websites, add more details. Other titles in the series include Ancient China, by Jacqueline Ball and Richard Levey (2006); Ancient Egypt, by Jull Rubalcaba (2006); Ancient Inca, by Beth Gruber (2006); and Ancient Pueblo, by Anita Croy(2007).
Invisible City. By M. G. Harris. 2010. 368p. Walker, $16.99 (9780802720955); paper, $8.99 (9780802720849). Gr. 6–8.
After hearing that his archaeologist father died while searching for a Mayan codex that pertains to the 2012 end-of-times prophecy, Joshua Garcia heads to Mexico to investigate. Snapping crocodiles, high-speed chases, CIA agents, a secret society, and more adventures ensue in this first Joshua Files novel.
Lost Souls: Burning Sky. By Mel Odom and Jordan Weisman. 2010. 288p. Running Press, $17.95 (9780762437658). Gr. 6–9.
In this Lost Souls trilogy opener based on the 2012 ancient Mayan prophecy, Nathan finds a board game (a replica of which comes packaged with the book) in the closet of his archaeologist father. Picked by the Mayan god Kukulkan, the teen begins a competition in which he opens new worlds (called frequencies), discovers new abilities, and meets ghosts who need help putting their souls to rest.
Middleworld. By Jon Voelkel and Pamela Voelkel. 2010. 416p. illus. Egmont, lib. ed., $20.99 (9781606840931); paper, $8.99 (9781606840719). Also available in audio and e-book editions. Gr. 5–8.
Max Murphy arrives in San Xavier, a fictional Central American country, only to discover that his archaeologist parents have disappeared. With the help of Lola, a descendant of the ancient Maya, he sets out on an Indiana Jones–like adventure, the first in the Jaguar Stones trilogy, involving myriad artifacts to rescue his parents from the ancient Mayan underworld. Detailed appendixes provide more information on the ancient Maya.
Prophecy of Days: The Daykeeper’s Grimoire. By Christy Raedeke. 2010. 360p. Flux, paper, $9.95 (9780738715766). Gr. 7–10.
Caity has been uprooted from San Francisco to spend the summer in her parents’ newly inherited Scottish castle full of strange symbols and hidden spaces. In this Prophecy of Days mystery—which involves the countdown to 2012, mystic runes, and other ancient prophecies—she discovers she is one of the teenagers who will bring the world to a new enlightenment by overturning some very secret societies.
Secrets in Stone: All about Maya Hieroglyphs. By Laurie Coulter. Illus. by Sarah Jane English. 2001; reissued 2010. 48p. Madison, $16.95 (9781897330579). 497. Gr. 3–6.
Numerous photographs and illustrations representative of Mayan art accent this look at the long and painstaking process of unlocking the secret of ancient Mayan hieroglyphics, including their number and calendar systems. Ideas for games and activities appear throughout this engaging book, which ends with a time line, a glossary, and a bibliography.
The Lost World of the Anasazi: Exploring the Mysteries of Chaco Canyon. By Peter Lourie. Illus. by the author. 2003. 48p. Boyds Mills, $19.95 (9781563979729); paper, $11.95 (9781590784754). 978.9. Gr. 4–7.
Lourie gives a first-person account of his visit to Chaco Canyon, New Mexico, to look for clues to the mysterious disappearance in the thirteenth century of the Anasazi, an ancient Pueblo people. With the help of an archaeologist, he learns about the Anasazi’s masterful stone buildings and culture. Color and archival photographs highlight the region.
Angkor Wat. By Alison Behnke. 2009. 80p. illus. Lerner/Twenty-First Century, lib. ed., $30.60 (9780822575856). 959.6. Gr. 5–9.
This nonfiction title focuses on Angkor Wat, an elaborate temple built during the Khmer Empire in Cambodia, describing its discovery and the extensive efforts to preserve the temple and understand such mysteries as why Angkor Wat faces west (when other Khmer temples face east) and the collapse of Angkor. Special features comprise historical and modern photographs, a map, a time line, a glossary, a pronunciation guide, and a bibliography. Other titles in the excellent Unearthing Ancient Worlds series focus on Palenque, King Tut, Machu Picchu, and Pompeii.
Bodies from the Bog. By James M. Deem. 2003. 48p. illus. Houghton, paper, $5.95 (9780618354023). 569.9. Gr. 5–8.
Accompanied by photographs of equally fascinating and gruesome bog bodies, this book details how bodies have been mummified over time in peat bogs in northern Europe, the discovery of these bodies, and how scientists work to determine how these individuals died.
Bog Child. By Siobhan Dowd. 2008. 336p. Random/David Fickling, $16.99 (9780385751698); paper, $9.99 (9780375841354); lib. ed., $19.99 (9780385751704). Also available in an e-book edition. Gr. 8–11.
During the 1980s troubles of Northern Ireland and the hunger strike of the Long Kesh political prisoners, 18-year-old Fergus McCann crosses the border to help his uncle steal peat to sell as fuel. There the two discover the body of a child that has been preserved by the bog, and Fergus names the girl Mel. Fergus’ dreams soon reveal Mel’s mysterious death and a story line that parallels the difficult choices he’s forced to make when blackmailed by the IRA.
The Lost Colony of Roanoke. By Jean Fritz. Illus. by Hudson Talbott. 2004. 64p. Putnam, $16.99 (9780399240270). 975.6. Gr. 3–6.
In this title Fritz sets the scene—the English exploration in the 1580s off the coast of present-day North Carolina—by combining historical anecdotes, multiple voyages, and a cast of important figures. She follows with evidence and a host of conjectures and hoaxes that continue to fuel speculation about the fate of the missing colonists. Watercolor illustrations, including clever cameo portraits, are scattered throughout. Also see Roanoke, the Lost Colony: An Unsolved Mystery from History, by Heidi E. Y. Stemple andJane Yolen (2003).
Roanoke: The Mystery of the Lost Colony. By Lee Miller. 2007. 112p. illus. Scholastic Nonfiction, $18.99 (9780439712668). 975.6. Gr. 4–7.
With an in-depth focus on the people and politics in England during the early exploration of Roanoke Island, this book presents the theory that the expedition later known as the Lost Colony was sabotaged by one individual. Color photographs and reproductions are interspersed throughout the text, which was pared down from Miller’s adult edition, Roanoke: Solving the Mystery of the Lost Colony (2001).
Sabotaged. By Margaret Peterson Haddix. 2010. 384p. Simon & Schuster, $16.99 (9781416954248). Gr. 5–8.
Thirteen-year-old Jonah and his younger sister, Katherine, are sent back in time to try to help Virginia Dare, but their task is complicated when two additional lost-in-time children suddenly appear. In this entry in the Missing series, Haddix skillfully weaves her story around the mystery of the Roanoke Colony. An author’s note provides the few facts known about Roanoke and its missing settlers.
Written in Bone: Buried Lives of Jamestown and Colonial Maryland. By Sally M. Walker. 2009. 144p. illus. Carolrhoda, $22.95 (9780822571353). 614. Also available in an audio edition. Gr. 7–12.
With fascinating details, Walker describes discovered human remains in Jamestown, Virginia, and southern Maryland and explains how archaeologists and forensic anthropologists piece together clues to determine such information as gender, race, age, and station in society, as well as how these details contribute to historians’ understanding of colonial life. Other features include color photographs of scientists in the field, charts, a time line, and further reading and related websites.
The Day the Stones Walked. By T. A. Barron. Illus. by William Low. 2007. 32p. Philomel, $16.99 (9780399242632). Gr. 2–4.
Vibrant paintings that incorporate both light and shadow lend a dramatic effect to this legend of Easter Island’s statues. Young Pico, the son of a stone carver, doesn’t believe the old stories that the giant stone moai come alive and walk when help is needed until he’s swept under the ocean during a violent storm. An author’s note addresses some of the island’s mysteries and the threat of tsunamis.
Easter Island: Giant Stone Statues Tell of a Rich and Tragic Past. By Caroline Arnold. Illus. by the author. 2004. 48p. Clarion, paper, $5.95 (9780618486052). 996.1. Gr. 4–7.
Accompanied by numerous eye-catching photographs of the island’s giant stone statues and other artifacts and scenes, this straightforward text gives a chronological account of the settlement of Easter Island. It also addresses many of the island’s mysteries, including the formation of the moai and the disappearance of the island’s early inhabitants. A glossary and a bibliography conclude the book.
The Curse of King Tut. By William W. Lace. 2008. 104p. illus. ReferencePoint, lib. ed., $26.95 (9781601520241). 932. Gr. 5–9.
This Mysterious and Unknown series title opens with an overview of Tutankhamun’s life, the mysteries surrounding his death, and his funeral preparation. The bulk of the text provides an in-depth look at the expedition to find Tut’s hidden tomb, the curse surrounding it, and possible explanations for the deaths associated with the tomb and its artifacts. Also included are extensive notes, a bibliography, and a list of related websites.
Tutankhamun. By Demi. Illus. by the author. 2009. 64p. Marshall Cavendish, $19.99 (9780761455585). 932. Gr. 3–6.
Stylized, gilded illustrations inspired by ancient Egyptian art accent this picture-book biography of Tutankhamun. Starting with his great-grandfather, Thutmose IV, the book covers King Tut’s family history, boyhood, and reign; the feud between his powerful advisors; the discovery of his tomb; and the continuing mystery surrounding his death. A family tree, a map, and an author’s note complete this beautiful book.
Tutankhamun: The Mystery of the Boy King. By Zahi Hawass. 2005. 64p. illus. National Geographic, $17.95 (9780792283546); lib. ed., $27.90 (9780792283553). 932. Gr. 4–7.
Hawass, director of excavations at the Giza Pyramids and the Valley of the Golden Mummies, discusses the discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb, his ancestry, and his brief reign as king, as well as the mystery of his death. The author explains how CAT scans and other modern technologies have been used to produce various theories. Compelling photographs of artifacts and a re-creation of King Tut’s face add further interest. A time line and bibliography are appended.
Lost City of the Incas
The Inca Empire. By Sandra Newman. 2009. 48p. illus. Children’s Press, paper, $6.95 (9780531241097); lib. ed., $28 (9780531252284). 985. Gr. 2–5.
Part of the True Book: Ancient Civilizations series, this excellent overview of the Inca Empire comprises the geography, plants, animals, and art of the region; the empire’s power structure; its fall to the Spanish; and recent archaeological discoveries about Inca history. Dazzling photographs, statistics, a time line, a bibliography, a list of websites, and a glossary round out the text. The series also includes Jackie Maloy’s The Ancient Maya (2010).
Lost City: The Discovery of Machu Picchu. By Ted Lewin. Illus. by the author. 2003. 48p. Philomel, $17.99 (9780399233029). 985. Gr. 2–5.
Realistic, detailed watercolor illustrations and lovely prose re-create Yale professor Hiram Bingham’s thrilling 1911 discovery of Machu Picchu, the lost city of the Incas hidden behind jungle and clouds. An appended note explains the excavation of the site and the fact that these Inca and their disappearance remain a mystery. Also included are an author’s note and a pronunciation guide.
Machu Picchu. By Elizabeth Mann. Illus. by Amy Crehore. 2006. 48p. Mikaya, paper, $9.95 (9781931414104). 985. Gr. 4–6.
Dramatic oil paintings illustrate this Wonders of the World book that begins with the discovery of Machu Picchu. It then goes back in time to examine the rise and fall of the Inca Empire, how Machu Picchu was built, and possible theories about its abandonment. Modern photographs, a fold-out diagram, a map, and a glossary add more details.
Bodies from the Ash: Life and Death in Ancient Pompeii. By James M. Deem. 2005. 64p. illus. Houghton, $17 (9780618473083). 937. Gr. 5–8.
Deem offers solid information, some of which was acquired in on-site research, in this attractive photo-essay about the disaster of Pompeii. The excavations and body preservation techniques are explained in detail, and everyday life in the city and later tourist activity centered in Pompeii are also highlighted.
The Buried City of Pompeii: What It Was like When Vesuvius Exploded. By Shelley Tanaka. Illus. by Greg Ruhl. 1997; reissued August 2010. 48p. Madison, paper, $9.95 (9781897330616). 937. Gr. 4–7.
Blending facts about the destruction of Pompeii with a fictionalized account from one of the victims, this I Was There title follows Eros, a steward for a wealthy man, during the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius. An epilogue explains how the city was buried, how it was discovered centuries later, and why it still holds many mysteries. Piquing readers’ curiosity with colorful illustrations and photographs, the book closes with a glossary and a bibliography.
The Last Girls of Pompeii. By Kathryn Lasky. 2007. 160p. Viking, $15.99 (9780670061969). Also available in an e-book edition. Gr. 7–10.
Born with a withered arm and considered unfit to marry, 12-year-old Julia is destined to be locked away as a priestess in the Temple of Damia, while her slave and best friend, Sura, will be sold as a concubine. In this meticulously researched novel, the two girls help each other escape Pompeii when Mt. Vesuvius erupts. For younger readers, try Mary Pope Osborne’s Vacation under the Volcano (1998).
Through Time: Pompeii. By Richard Platt. Illus. by Manuela Cappon. 2007. 48p. Kingfisher, $16.99 (9780753460443). 937. Gr. 3–6.
Detailed views and short, engaging paragraphs depict the evolution of Pompeii as the book follows a single home through time, beginning in 750 CE and continuing to the city’s burial. This Through Time volume also reveals how artifacts led to the discovery of the lost city, its plundering, and its eventual conservation. Maps, time lines, and a glossary promote further interest. Liz Sonneborn’s Pompeii (2008) will engage older readers.
If Stones Could Speak: Unlocking the Secrets of Stonehenge. By Marc Aronson. 2010. 64p. illus. National Geographic, $17.95 (9781426305993); lib. ed., $26.90 (9781426306006). 936.2. Gr. 4–8.
Using a reflective yet casual style, Aronson relates how the Riverside Project has applied science to debunk the theory that Stonehenge was used as a temple and proposes that it was actually built to honor the dead. Photographs of archaeologists at work, a glossary, an index, previous theories about Stonehenge’s origins, a chronology of Riverside digs, a time line, a bibliography, and online resources make up the book’s numerous features.
Terra Cotta Warriors
Emperor Qin’s Terra Cotta Army. By Michael Capek. 2008. 80p. illus. Lerner/Twenty-First Century, lib. ed., $30.60 (9780822575078). Also available in an e-book edition. Gr. 5–9.
After centuries of stories of spirits living underground in northwestern China, an army of terra cotta warriors was discovered near the tomb of Qin Shi Huangdi, the country’s first emperor. Accompanied by maps, numerous photographs, a time line, a glossary, a pronunciation guide, and a bibliography, this Unearthing Ancient Worlds title gives an in-depth look at the retrieval and preservation of these warriors and the unanswered questions that still remain.
The Emperor’s Silent Army: Terracotta Warriors of Ancient China. By Jane O’Connor. 2002. 48p. illus. Viking, $17.99 (9780670035120). 931. Gr. 4–7.
O’Connor offers enlightening information about the discovery of the terra cotta warriors built to guard the tomb of the first emperor of China and describes how hundreds of craftsmen from across the country created the warriors, each with a unique expression on his face. Well-chosen photographs from various sources convey the scope of the creation.
Angela Leeper is the director of the Curriculum Materials Center at the University of Richmond (VA).
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