3 out of 4 stars
Share This Review
It’s Friday night. You’ve just plopped down into a lawn chair to gaze at the lake off the back of your house and sip your favorite drink while you wait for dinner to be ready. This is exactly how Matt was planning to spend this rare night off from his two jobs.
However, history had other plans. When Matt is bitten by a black fly, he slips into unconsciousness. Upon waking, he’s aware something is very different, but it’s not until a man dressed in Native American garb enters Matt’s wigwam that he figures out what. Wandering outside, Matt’s greeted with the familiar water scene from his backyard, but aside from this and the clothes he’s wearing, nothing else is the same. He’s been transported back in time. How did he get here? More importantly, how will he get home, and what will befall him in the meantime?
The Wigwams in My Backyard by Rick Will is a fascinating glimpse into what life was like for Native Americans in the northeast United States. Will is an archaeologist, and his expertise shows. All aspects of this tribal community are described in brilliant detail. From the exact processes of making tools to a sweat lodge ceremony, this book offers so much interesting information.
Matt is an excellent lens through which to observe this slice of history. He has a little information from school, which Will uses to explain things to the reader. At the same time, the daily lives of the Native Americans add to Matt’s knowledge base and give him a new perspective on just how much effort went into everything these people did. I really felt like I was along for this ride. Watching history unfold on such a personal level was amazing. History books talk about the overall sense of a culture or event. With this book, Will has created a personal experience I won’t soon forget.
As much as I enjoyed this, there were some moments of disconnect. If Matt’s exact age was given, I must have missed it, but he has to be at least sixteen. However, for most of the book, I thought of him as around fourteen. Whenever a reference to him being in high school or having a girlfriend would come up, it would pull me out of the story while I recalled how old Matt was. A lot of his thought processes also don’t feel quite sixteen. For me, the story would have flowed better if Matt were a bit younger. There were also many scenes with a lot of description. For a story like this, that isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but some paragraphs within those scenes were full of measurements or other minute details. I felt bogged down with those types of things. Similarly, the story came to a stand-still at points. When Matt first realized he was in the past, there were pages dedicated to him giving names to everyone he saw in the camp and then explaining why he assigned each name. This kind of thing slowed things way down and made me anxious to get back into the fascinating story.
I did notice a handful of errors, mostly missing words. For this, the places of confusion, and the slow spots, I rate The Wigwams in My Backyard 3 out of 4 stars. The amazing amount of information and the wonderful glimpse of real-life activity brings my rating up from 2. I recommend this book to middle-school-aged readers who love history. Adults wanting a wealth of information packed into narrative form might also enjoy this. I will caution those with weak stomachs to go into this prepared. There is a pretty detailed description of a deer being gutted. I wouldn’t suggest skipping the entire book, but just be aware. Otherwise, I encourage everyone to give this a try. There’s a lot to learn.
The Wigwams in My Backyard
View: on Bookshelves | on Amazon
Like desantismt_17's review? Post a comment saying so!