Monday, October 7, 2013

Nonfiction Monday: Apache History and Culture, by Helen Dwyer and D.L. Birchfield

It is getting to be about that time when teachers start assigning reports/projects concerning Native Americans. I have been pleased to see the trend moving towards assigning individual nations and recognizing that they are all different, rather than the all-Indians-wear-feathers-in-their-hair-and-live-in-tipis lessons I had in school. Because they are all so different, however, it can be hard to find a series that does justice to each one.

So far, I have been happy with the quality and integrity of this series from Gareth Stevens:

Apache History and Culture

I usually jump right to the Apache edition of any series, because that is the nation I am most familiar with. I have not a speck of Native American ancestry myself, but I live close to the Mescalero reservation, have many friends there, and most importantly, C. is Mescalero - so, I take it a bit personally when people mess things up!

There are several different groups of Apaches, and most books make mention of each. This is the first, however, that I have seen make mention of the mescal plant, which is where the Mescalero name comes from. Automatic bonus points! It also mentions the Inn of the Mountain Gods, an important part of the Mescalero economy, although not by name.

In fact, each edition does a reasonably good job of bringing forth current issues, artists, etc., although they are still weighted towards the historical culture of each nation. One complaint I have, which seems to be true in other editions, is that even photographs of the people today tend to show them in ceremonial dress.

Reading level seems to be around 7th grade, but text is broken up nicely with sidebars and boxes, as well as some beautiful pictures. There are more details of each nation's history than I have seen elsewhere, but I didn't find it too 'wordy'. The Apache edition also included a traditional story, which I know I would have appreciated when I was teaching.

Based on what I have seen so far, I would highly recommend this series for upper elementary/middle school/high school libraries, especially if you can only afford one such set for your collection and are looking for something that can fit multiple needs.

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