Thursday, September 13, 2012

Little Britches and 1491

First,  Little Britches.   It was a good story, but I've heard about it so much beforehand as such a great book to teach values, that I think it ruined the book for me. Every time the father said anything, I was thinking, "Oh, and here comes the lesson I'm supposed to learn."  Also, the father had no faults whatsoever, and all in all it seemed too rose-colored.  I realize that the author probably idolized his father and with the father passing away while he was young, he might never had realized any faults or short-comings in his father.  And I think for a younger reader, and for this type of book, it isn't necessary to have a more critical approach.  However for me, it came across as too sentimental.

As for 1491, it was interesting, but seemed disjointed at times, giving it a kind of pointless feel by the end. (I mean the ending just kind of happens with no sum up or conclusion or anything, just talking about what he had been talking about in that particular chapter.) The political correctness was kind of grating at times too--I thought the author did a good job being fair and balanced in his views, but it was so obvious the effort he took to be politically correct, that it was annoying. Another thing was that many of the theories are still being debated and so the author would present both views and then just move on, (okay, I know that's not really his fault but it still made the book seem rather unconnected). But the author never gives his opinion, and I find that rather boring writing.  

I did enjoy learning about the cultures and archaeology. So fascinating! I wish I had read this book closer to the time I read Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies by Jared Diamond, because they seem to conflict in many areas concerning the Americas.  For instance, Guns, Germs, and Steel argued that the Americas didn't progress as rapidly because it didn't have enough grain crops to domesticate and that corn was inconsequential till recent hybrids and development, while 1491 had a whole chapter on corn and its importance.  1491 and GGS even differed on the location of pre-Columbian corn usage.  (Okay, I'm making these books sound extremely dull. They're really not.) 

My favorite parts of the book dealt with Squanto--yes, of pilgrim fame.  His history is fascinating!  If nothing else, you should check out this book and read the chapter about him and John Smith.  And yes, they knew each other.  The politics that Squanto was trying to put into play by helping the pilgrims--wow.  Who knew?  

Other things I would have found engrossing except I read about them before in other books, like Guns, Germs, and Steel and The Lost City of Z.   So if you've never read those, this book would be even better.  But seriously, read the Squanto chapter.

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