Monday, July 22, 2013

Non-Fiction Monday: If Stones Could Speak; unlocking the secrets of Stonehenge

by Marc Aronson with the generous cooperation of Mike Parker Pearson and the Riverside Project. National Geographic, March, 2010. 9781426305993. (Purchased)

I just love it when the order of the universe is challenged; when someone says, "Who says?" It's hard to upset the apple cart. At best, no one listens, at worst, you're imprisoned, branded a heretic and worse. In the case of Stonehenge and Mike Parker Pearson, the stakes were not quite so high, but he did go up against the theories of a couple of giants of archaeology with the help of a one-named retired archaeologist from Madagascar and a dedicated team of researchers. In cogent accessible language, Marc Aronson provides an overview of Stonehenge, a short biography of Pearson, and an in-depth description of the series of digs he and his team on The Riverside Project performed. As can be expected with any Nat. Geo. publication, plenty of full-color photographs, artist's renderings, and maps enhance the excitement. 

An Encyclopedia of Stonehenge, complete with timelines of the project, mini-biographies of archaeologists associated with Stonehenge and books and websites for further study round out this volume, which is a welcome addition to middle school libraries. 

I was reminded of this older title during a visit to my local Barnes and Noble a little over a week ago. I had actually gone there in search of Courage Has No Color by Tanya Lee Stone. That book was not available, but I decided to browse the rather paltry non-fiction section anyway. I came across this and thought that I had ordered it for my school library. (One argument for upgrading to a smartphone - the ability to check these things in the store.) I decided to chance that I had, once I thumbed through it. The sixth grade social studies teacher includes a study of Stonehenge in his course of study. That, plus anything by Aronson is an automatic purchase by me for my library. 

I was a bit appalled by the non-fiction section of the store. Lots and lots of junk non-fiction and no Sibert winners. It was a sad state. I want to return when I have more time to really browse the section, but I was disappointed, which reaffirms my opinion that school and children's public librarians are so essential to getting quality non-fiction into the hands of young readers. 

I love how Aronson not only brought archaeology to life for young readers, but encouraged "outside the box" thinking, which is really so important to discovery and advancement of any science. This book reminded me of David Macauley's Motel of the Mysteries. It's not so much that Aktinson, et al got it all wrong, or Pearson made it all right, but that we are constantly adding to our knowledge and understanding. 

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