Monday, January 11, 2010

Nonfiction Monday

So, the Cybils shortlists are out, which includes the shortlist for Middle Grade and Young Adult Nonfiction, which I was privileged to help put together. While there are many nominated titles that I haven't reviewed yet (and they are coming) there was only 1 from the short-list that I hadn't actually reviewed yet.

Written in Bone: Buried Lives of Jamestown and Colonial Maryland Sally M. Walker

So, I was sick over the holidays and spent a lot of time on the couch watching TV, where I became addicted to Bones. But even better? When they were doing all their medical mumbo-jumbo (the bones haven't fused yet, so this was obviously a younger person who...) I knew what they were talking about, just because of this book.

Yes, I'm a little partial to it because, for me, it's local history (and I learned SO MUCH that I didn't already know!)

Walker follows around a team of forensic anthropologists as they look at up colonial remains and try to discover who these people were, how they lived, and how they died.

There is one major missing factor in this, and it's one the author addresses up front-- the information is only about the colonists (both European and African.) There is nothing on the lives of the Native Americans who were already living here. This is because of cultural and religious concerns of several Native American tribes about the handling of remains. As Walker says in the introduction, "This choice [to not include Native Americans] is meant not to diminish the importance of Native Americans in the history of the Chesapeake region, but rather to respect the desire of their descendants to see their remains treated in a manner that respects cultural customs."

But, what it does cover is how scientists excavate remains and what different clues tell us. When Walker talks about how you can tell if it's a child or adult by fusing of the bones, she gives the readers pictures so we can see what fused and unfused bones look like. There's a picture of a female and male skull, which arrows pointing out the differences.

We learn about the science of forensic anthropology, as well colonial history-- burial customs, work customs, diet, and all sorts of other things.

Parts of it are not for the squemish, but it's a great book for your science kids and your history kids. I kept telling Dan what I was learning and showing him the pictures. A fantastic book in a year of fantastic nonfiction for younger readers.

Round up is over at Whispers of Dawn!

Book Provided by... the publisher, for Cybils consideration

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Paige Y. said...

Great review -- this book is on my to-read pile. It will go really well with our 8th grade social studies classes. By the way, I love Bones and look forward to seeing the connections between it and this book.

Kimbra Kasch said...

Not so sure about Written in Bone but I definitely enjoyed The Lovely Bones and I love history

Dreamybee said...

I love forensic stuff! This sounds like it would be a fun way to sneak a little history into my diet.

Abby said...

I really found this one interesting, too! And I'll tell you that while I liked this one, I LOVED Sally Walker's Secrets of a Civil War Submarine. So if you haven't read that one, I'd recommend checking it out!

Caroline said...

This book sounds great! I need to read more non-fiction and more middle great stuff, so this seems like a perfect fit.

Jan von Harz said...

Enjoyed your review. While I primarily read fiction since in my teaching I concentrate on elements of fiction, I do really like history, so I will have to check this out. Thanks