Sunday, November 25, 2007

Who Was First?

Freedman, Russell. 2007. Who Was First? Discovering the Americas.

Few authors are more respected in the field of nonfiction than Russell Freedman. He's the best of the best. His books are readable (aka accessible) and thoroughly researched and documented. He is perhaps best known for his biographies, but he's written many other types of nonfiction as well.

Who Was First is his newest book. The topic is an interesting one. Who discovered America "first"? When was it "discovered"? Is there any way to know when the first people arrived and settled in the Americas? While there are a few things that are documented--Columbus being one of the established facts--many things are speculations or hypotheses. Freedman starts with Columbus and works backwards. He is looking for evidence of the 'first' discovery. We are certain that Columbus was not it. Obviously. The various Native American tribes of both continents and islands are proof that others were there first. But his quest is a global one. It examines the sailing and exploration history of many countries--many peoples. Including the Vikings and the Chinese.

While a lot of this is guess work, the book never fails to fascinate. Freedman clearly distinguishes between fact and speculation. When it comes to speculations, he explains both the theory and the theorists. The historians and archaeologists are sometimes as intriguing as their theories.

Overall, I enjoyed this one because of the fact that there are so many unknowns. I think sometimes things are presented in history class are presented in such a way that they seem absolute and unquestionable. I think it is difficult to teach the concept of Columbus in general. There are too many complexities involved. Columbus certainly wasn't the "first" to discover America. And he wasn't even the first European to discover America. And his arrival and the introduction of Spanish explorers to native shores is naturally complex. Their treatment of the natives as savages is hard to sugarcoat. There's no polite way to excuse their behavior--slavery, disease, war--all side effects of Columbus' "discovery." But this book goes beyond Columbus. I think it is nice for kids to be exposed to this side of history--the unknowns, the conjectures. To learn to think of history as a mystery waiting to be solved instead of a bunch of boring facts to be memorized.

This book is appropriate for middle readers on up.


Post a Comment

I'm always happy to hear from you! To help fight spam, comment moderation has been set up for posts older than two days. Feel free to ask me questions or ask for recommendations!

Review Policy

I am interested in reviewing books and audio books. This blog focuses on books written for middle grade on up (essentially 10 to a 110). I review middle grade fiction and young adult fiction (aka tween and teen).

I also review adult books.

I read in a variety of genres including realistic fiction, historical fiction, mystery, romance, science fiction, fantasy, literary fiction, and chick lit. (I've read one western to date.)

I read a few poetry books, a few short story collections, a few graphic novels, a few nonfiction books.

I am especially fond of:

  • Regency romances (including Austen prequels/sequels)
  • Historical fiction set in the Tudor dynasty
  • Historical fiction and nonfiction set during World War II
  • Jewish fiction/nonfiction
  • dystopias
  • apocalyptic fiction
  • science fiction (especially if it involves time travel and alternate realities)
  • fantasy
  • multicultural books and international books

I am not a fan of:

  • sports books
  • horse books
  • dog books if the dog dies (same goes with most pets actually except maybe fish)
  • westerns (if it's a pioneer story with women and children, then maybe)
  • extremely violent books with blood, blood, and more blood

I am more interested in strong characters, well-written, fleshed-out, human characters. Plot is secondary to me in a way. I have to care about the characters in order to care about the plot. That being said, compelling storytelling is something that I love. I love to become absorbed in what I'm reading.

If you're interested in sending me a review copy of your book, I'm happy to hear from you. Email me at laney_po AT yahoo DOT com.

You should know several things before you contact me:

1) I do not guarantee a review of your book. I am just agreeing to consider it for review.
2) I give all books at least fifty pages.
3) I am not promising anyone (author or publisher) a positive review in exchange for a review copy. That's not how I work.
4) In all of my reviews I strive for honesty. My reviews are my opinions--so yes, they are subjective--you should know my blog will feature both negative and positive reviews.
5) I do not guarantee that I will get to your book immediately. I've got so many books I'm trying to read and review, I can't promise to get to any one book in a given time frame.
6) Emailing me every other week to see if I've read your book won't help me get to it any faster. Though if you want to email me to check and see if it arrived safely, then that's fine!

Authors, publishers. I am interested in interviewing authors and participating in blog tours. (All I ask is that I receive a review copy of the author's latest book beforehand so the interview will be productive. If the book is part of a series, I'd like to review the whole series.) Contact me if you're interested.

Unique Visitors and Google PR Rank

Free PageRank Checker

My Blog List

(Old) Challenge Participants

Becky's Hosting These Challenges

100 Books Project: Fill in the Gaps

Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

  © Blogger template Newspaper III by 2008

Back to TOP