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The Horse and the Plains Indians: A Powerful Partnership Hardcover – July 10, 2012
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This book traces The evolution of American Indians from the era of using dogs as pack animals for thousands of years before the Spanish invasion when Hernando Cortes brought over the first horses in 1519. Before that the native Americans even hunted their staple, buffalo on foot, which was a dangerous way of securing meat, the skin/fur for blankets, and tools from the bones and horns, and using every single part of the body of the buffalo for something. The Buffalo were their traveling supermarkets. Once the horse arrived. The Spanish banned the natives from use of horses, but soon through observance the Indians learned how to ride and began stealing the horses. In 1680 the Indians revolted and drove the Spaniards from New Mexico. Soon horses were migrating north farther and before long they were available to almost all of the Indians in America. Once the Indians became expert, they proved to be amazingly gifted as mounted hunters and warriors, shooting buffalo and enemies with bow and arrows and later rifles from horseback. That is as far as I can tell you about the content, enough, I think for you to determine if it is a good buy for children of the designated age group.
The book is packed with the adventurous lives of the plains Indians, and the amazing bond between they and their horses. The book is well illustrated with photo's and artwork and there are about 95 pages of art, photos and text. It is especially written for ages 9-12/grades 4-6, and traces American native history beginning mostly just before the era of the horse to to modern times. There are eight chapters which go from living in the literal dog days right on through to the Indians and their horses of today. It is good reading for the age group intended and children will love the photos from the beginning of the era of the first photographers out west, to the ancient Indian art, to modern paintings. I think children, especially those with any interest in western history will love this book. Since I was provided with an Uncorrected Proof provided by Amazon and the publishers, (a review copy), only the front and back covers are in color and the many interior photos and paintings are in black and white. However, judging by the quality of the front cover photo, the book, when in production will have fine color prints of most of the art and photography along with some of the old black and white photos. Altogether, I liked the book and its pace for the age and grade bracket selected as the target readership.
I give the book 5 stars on the Star system used here on Amazon.
I'll give you some examples of what I mean: (complaints fall in no particular order)
I found the narrative to be jumbled. Historical chapters are followed by chapters on culture-and-gear, which in turn are then followed by more history, and then more chapters on culture-and-gear.
This shifting back and forth can be successfully done, of course, but the narrative connecting the material has to be stronger. In a book meant for middle graders I would have expected more obvious writing to the effect that this is just what we learned, and now this is how that ties in to what we are now going to learn.
A sample transition would be the last sentence of chapter 4 and the first sentence of Chapter 5. "Some horse masks have eyeholes surrounded by lightening zigzags or other symbols of power and protection" to "Before horses arrived Indians fought on foot."
-- LACK OF CLARITY
The first chapter is about dogs. You would think that in a book about horses that there would be an explanation for why there are 9 pages dedicated to Native Americans and dogs, but you won't find one in this chapter.
The prologue makes the appropriate connection, but in my experience, most children don't read prologues nor dedications. (So if you are going to use this book make sure you give your young students a heads-up to read the prologue.)
Nez Perce, Blackfeet, Objibwa, Cheyanne, Arapho, Kootenai, Mandan, Sioux.... This book mentions many tribes, multiple states, and various rivers and mountains, and yet no maps. No way for readers to place the tribes in a real eco-system, and no map to help anyone understand where the Rio Grande is, nor where the Mandan might actually have lived.
Beginning on page 17 the book discusses 'horse stories'. One particular story caught my attention. It was about how Indians tried to feed horses meat. Wow, I thought, this is fascinating. But how do we know this? Did this tale come to us as oral history? Was it written down at some point by a white settler, or an anthropologist? Well, we'll never know as there is no source given. (I don't expect footnotes necessarily in a middle school book, but I think it shortchanges the student to not even give a hint -- 'we learned this from oral history passed down from parent to child' -- as to how historians know these things.)
This book actually fills an important void in the material that is available on plains Indians and horses. It provides a lot of good information and it's worth working into a curriculum at school or homeschool. But it's seriously flawed in my opinion. It could have been better organized and the material could have been presented in a clearer fashion. As it is the young reader is going to have to work to get the most out of this material.
Acclerated Reading Level: 7.7 (2 pts)
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