Monday, November 24, 2014

Nonfiction Monday: Secrets of the Sky Caves by Sandra Athans

This book is a sort of Scientists in the Field for younger readers (and from a different publisher).

This book is about several archaeological expeditions to Mustang, in Nepal, and the investigations into the caves there. The book introduces historical and cultural information about Nepal and the history of the area under investigation, then details several expeditions that first photographed and then excavated the caves and what they found there.

Sidebars and sections detail historical information, legends, religious and cultural facts, and archaeological information. The book is filled with photographs of the mummies, cave paintings, and other artifacts discovered. Back matter includes a Who's Who of people involved in the expedition, a timeline, source notes, glossary, bibliography, and further information. There is also an index.

I just couldn't get into it. I finally forced myself to read it because it had to be returned to the library, but I just couldn't get interested. Part of the reason was I felt...uncomfortable with the whole expedition. Only on the third expedition is anyone even remotely local involved in the actual investigation. There are only brief mentions of interactions with the local people and all the experts are from overseas, except one archaeologist in the third expedition. One of the things I like about the Scientists in the Field series is that they give almost equal face time to local interactions, even if the local people aren't "experts" in the field, they talk about their knowledge and how they contribute to the investigation. I didn't see that here. Another reason I had trouble getting into this was it felt like a lot of information crammed into a small space. I think it would have been more interesting if it had focused on just one expedition instead of trying to pack the entire history of Nepal and an series of investigations spanning two decades into a 60 page book.

Verdict: I just couldn't get into this and I have a hard time thinking of any kids who will appreciate it. For a bigger collection, or if you have archeology fans or a Nepalese population, it would probably be useful.

ISBN: 9781467700160; Published 2014 by Milbrook/Lerner; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

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