Books We Read: Aztecs, Tainos and Anabaptists, O My!


After delving into the Age of Exploration, we spent some time last week looking at the Aztecs, Mayas, Incas, Tainos… and the Anabaptists.   In middle school, I spent three years in an enclosed class with a teacher who really, really loved the Aztec and Mayan cultures.  We spent a lot of time talking about them.  On our honeymoon, Ed and I visited Chitzen Itza and Tulum – two Mayan sites.  So, this was a little like a trip down memory lane for me.  There were lots of topics of conversation, for sure! 

This week, we’re studying a little more of the Renaissance and Reformation, including Menno Simons, Martin Luther and the Covenanters. Look for that post next week!  (Again, this isn’t a comprehensive list of our resources… just some of the extra reading we enjoyed.)

Aztecs, Catriona Clarke (Non-Fiction, Grades 1-3, Usborne)

This was a colorful little easy-reader about the Aztecs.  My children were quite impressed with their knowledge after reading it!  Interspersed with the illustrations are photographs of actual Aztec artifacts.  Be aware that human sacrifice is discussed, including the fact that at one event 10,000 people were killed in just 4 days.  The last two pages address the invasion of “Spanish soldiers” and the end of the Aztec era.

If You Were There: Aztec Times, Antony Mason (Non-Fiction, Grades 3-4)

This was a nice overview of the Aztec culture.  There was a little information about the surrounding Meso-American peoples as well.  The Spanish were addressed (again in 2 pages).  These two books won’t complete your study of Aztec history, but they might help your children understand the culture a little better.  Mason’s book includes a timeline for the Aztec, and a corresponding timeline for the rest of the world.  There is also a fold-out board game which allows your children to pit Montezuma II against Hernan Cortes.

Nicolaus Copernicus:  The Earth is a Planet, Dennis Brindell Fradin (Biography, Grades 1-3)

An interesting story of Copernicus’ life, this is colorful and engaging.  Fradin highlights not only Copernicus’ life story, but interesting details as well.  For instance, Copernicus spent 30 years writing Concerning the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres.  He had the manuscript published just before his death.  Copernicus fought illness, hoping to see a printed copy of his book.  He died within hours of receiving the first book.  This is certainly a good way to introduce your children to a formidable scientific mind (and a physician and clergyman to boot!). 

Morning Girl, Michael Dorris (Historical Fiction, Grades 3-5)

The language in this book is beautiful.  Told from the alternating viewpoints of a brother and sister, this is the story of the Taino before the arrival of Columbus and his men.  Dorris draws the entire book from a passage in Columbus’ captain’s log.  His depiction of Morning Girl’s family is loving, kind and engaging.  This is a quick read, and winner of the Scott O’Dell historical fiction award.

The Secret Church, Louise A. Vernon (Historical Fiction, Grades 4-6)

In The Secret Church, three young people come face to face with the persecution of the “Anabaptists”, a name give to the Brethren by the Catholic Church.  The main character wrestles with his feelings about baptism, the Church, and his understanding of God’s love.  This is a fascinating story about a group of people who felt that, biblically, baptism should be undertaken by those old enough to commit their lives to Christ.  In fact, they were willing to die for their conviction (the early Anabaptists – who converted by force – are not mentioned).  Vernon has written a series of historical fiction set during the Reformation.  I find it compelling that she covers many different viewpoints in her books, and always asks more questions than she answers. 

What did your family read last week?

~Danika Cooley

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