What Do We Know about Plains Indians? ¦ What Do We Know about Prehistoric People?
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The cover of this issue is a design incorporating illustrations from four books illustrated by the subject of our Authorgraph, Ian Beck. The top left illustration is from Five Little Ducks (Orchard), the top right from Poppy and Pip's Picnic (to be published Autumn '97 by HarperCollins), the bottom left from The Owl and the Pussy-cat (Transworld) and the bottom right from Home Before Dark (to be published September '97 by Scholastic). Ian Beck's Picture Book (Hippo) is reviewed in this issue.
Beck talks to BfK's interviewer, Julia Eccleshare, also in this issue. His distinctive decorative style with its sensitive pen line and cross hatching has a nostalgic but sometimes also a surreal quality - he describes it as 'a look that is floating, strong and wistful all at the same time'.
Thanks to Orchard, HarperCollins, Transworld and Scholastic for their help in producing this composite cover.
What Do We Know about Plains Indians?
What Do We Know about Prehistoric People?
This series offers a large format, double page spread presentation of topic paragraphs around a mix of colour photographs, maps and illustrations. It is history from the viewpoint of a curious, practical junior school child who might very well ask, 'What did they eat?' and, 'Did they live in houses?'
The limited scope of What Do We Know about Plains Indians? helps to make it successful. Taylor is well informed and enthusiastic. He organises his material well, moving from food, clothes and shelter to the complexities of religion, trade and warfare. He sticks to his chosen period, 1820-1880, and sets it in the context of larger change. He uses an array of photographs of paintings and artefacts which are scrupulously dated and attributed. The glossary unerringly picks up unfamiliar terms from the text and his explanations are full of the details that fascinate children. He even takes the trouble to reassure his readers when it is necessary; the boy with the wild stare in the family group has probably just been startled by the photographer's flash. Taylor plainly cares about his subject and his audience.
Corbishley, however, has been given an impossible task in What Do We Know about Prehistoric People? - to provide an overview of diversity and development among prehistoric people from the Ice ages to the present day. This begs much larger questions than this format or age group can cope with - something which the author should have realised. How useful is a definition of prehistoric that includes the Ancient Celts and modern Aborigines? Where does archaeology or history end and anthropology begin? The fractured layout only compounds the confusion in the text, and few clear points emerge from a bewildering mass of disparate cultural examples, Even the index fails to make the necessary connections. Here the simplest questions become impossible to answer.