Children's Book ReviewsThe Internet Writing Journal, September 1999 Page Three of Three
Aztecs: The Fall of the Aztec Capital (DK Discoveries) by Richard Platt, Illustrated by Peter DennisDK Publishing, May 1999.
Hardcover, 48 pages
Reading Level: Ages 9-12
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Aztecs, The Fall of the Aztec Capital, begins with the cataclysmic events which resulted when the Europeans encountered the already advanced civilization in place in Central America. Like all Dorling Kindersley books in the Discoveries series, it contains an enormous amount of information accompanied by detailed drawings and photographs of great clarity. The format of the book is to give many pictures organized as to subject, period in history or some other point of reference. Underneath or adjacent to the illustration will be a caption explaining all aspects of the picture. Eyewitness quotations give the added understanding that only a primary source can bestow.
The first chapters introduce us to the characters and their points of view. The vital question of who the Aztecs actually were is considered next. The stage for these two groups to play out their destiny is described in great detail. Tenochtitlan, the city on the lake, we find was larger than Seville. The effect on the Spaniards of this orderly and peaceful city was substantial.
Aztecs begins with the clash of cultures of the Spaniards and the Aztecs and thus immediately plunges us into the battles caused by misunderstanding on the part of the native culture and the unfortunate qualities of greed and love of conquest that the Spaniards personified. As they had throughout their history, the European viewed cultures with less technology as clearly ignorant. This arrogant attitude colored everything that the newcomers did from then on.
The Conquest of Mexico was certain to follow, and the panorama of this mighty conflict is shown in meticulous detail by two fold out pages. In a tragic sequence we see the Spaniards' discovery of Monteczuma's room full of golden treasure. From this event the pages chronicle the misunderstandings, the mistakes and the events that led up to the defeat of the Spaniards. These events are followed by the siege that the Spaniards waged against Tenochtitlan which then resulted in the final defeat of the Aztecs. This entire rendering of the conflict will answer so many questions and leave the reader with a detailed understanding of what really happened.
The second part of Aztecs educates the reader as to the Aztec way of life. Now the reader can begin to appreciate all aspects of Aztec culture and be able to view museum examples with more understanding. One can find out how these ingenious people actually fed their population by farming on top of a lake. The explanation of why and how the Aztecs came to practice human sacrifice will illuminate us, but will fail to convert us. An explanation of Aztec writing and counting gives an excellent overview of symbols that previously may have been hard to understand.
Aztecs is not only a great book for juveniles, but it can also be a quick study for an adult who has heretofore not taken the time to understand those puzzling figures from pre-Columbian times. Most students of upper elementary age will be studying Central America in the fifth or sixth grades. This book will be an invaluable help for an assigned project on the subject, and it will fascinate any nearby adult who happens to sneak a look into it.
--Sarah Reaves White
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