Reviews for Who Was First? : Discovering the Americas

Booklist Reviews 2007 October #1
*Starred Review* This well-designed, clearly written book looks at various ideas about the discovery of the Americas, including the famous voyages of Columbus in 1492, the claims that fifteenth-century Chinese explorer Zheng He may have sailed to the Americas, and the now-documented settlement of Vikings in Newfoundland around the year 1000. Next, the discussion turns to Native Americans, from ancient civilizations to the diverse societies that were here shortly before European contact. Freedman describes the long-accepted theory of the earliest inhabitants of North America crossing from Siberia over an ice bridge across the Bering Strait, dismissing it as "almost certainly wrong" in the light of more recent archaeological evidence. Beyond the very readable presentation of facts and theories, the book's main accomplishment is in showing that history is not a static body of knowledge, but an evolving process of logically interpreted evidence continually questioned, disputed, and revised in the light of new discoveries and theories put forth by "obsessed amateurs" as well as professional historians. Back matter includes chapter notes identifying the sources of quotes as well as a short discussion, chapter by chapter, of books, articles, and Web sites used in researching the book. The illustrations, many in color, include many excellent maps as well as reproductions of period drawings, paintings, engravings, and photos of people, artifacts, and sites. A well-researched, intelligent account of America's "discovery." Copyright 2007 Booklist Reviews.

Horn Book Guide Reviews 2008 Spring
Freedman demonstrates how North and South America have been discovered and settled over and over since the Stone Age. In lively, graceful prose, he invites readers to ponder serious historical questions. Straightforward explanations of various historical theories include evidence for and against their validity. The book's design adds to its appeal, with plenty of color, ample white space, and carefully chosen illustrations. Bib., ind. Copyright 2008 Horn Book Guide Reviews.

Horn Book Magazine Reviews 2008 #1
"The Americas have always been lands of immigrants," Freedman argues in an attractive volume that demonstrates how these connected continents have been discovered and settled over and over since the Stone Age. In lively, graceful prose, the author invites young readers to ponder a serious historical question, first making Columbus's familiar story suspenseful and then introducing earlier players: Chinese sailors, Viking explorers, Native American civilizations, and prehistoric settlers. His straightforward explanations of various historical theories ("Did China Discover America?") include descriptions of the proponents and evidence for and against. The book's design adds to its appeal, with plenty of color, ample white space, and carefully chosen illustrations ranging from photographs of ancient ruins to a twenty-first-century ship model built from historical records. Captions for the illustrations include identification of their original date; maps accompany each chapter; and the end matter includes source notes for quoted materials, a selected bibliography, acknowledgments, picture credits, and an index. Lauded for his exemplary informational books for young readers, Freedman has done it again, providing a well-organized, lucid, and engaging explanation of an important subject for middle-grade and middle-school readers. Copyright 2008 Horn Book Magazine Reviews.

Kirkus Reviews 2007 September #2
The Americas have been "discovered" over and over again since the prehistoric past. Not only was Columbus not the first explorer to discover America, he was one of the last, and this presentation of the Americas as lands of immigrants from Stone Age hunters to European explorers is a testament to Freedman's ability to make big subjects accessible to young readers. Drawing on research by scholars and "obsessed amateurs," he tells of Columbus, Zheng He and the giant Chinese treasure ships, Leif Eriksson and the Vikings and the Aztecs, Incas, Mayas and other civilizations of the Americas. The prose is clear and packed with interesting details, and the color photographs, full-page maps and reproductions of engravings, lithographs and drawings add to the lively presentation. The chapter notes and bibliography are solid, emphasizing how new and fresh some discoveries are. This engaging work presents history as a story still being written; maybe the reader will be the next to find an ancient stone tool that "will be a hand reaching out of the past and taking ours." (index) (Nonfiction. 9-14) Copyright Kirkus 2007 Kirkus/BPI Communications. All rights reserved.

School Library Journal Reviews 2007 November

Gr 5-9 --With characteristic polish, documentation, and readability, Freedman examines the evidence for determining who first discovered the Americas. Despite traditional historical emphasis on European discoveries, "tens of millions" of Native Americans were living here when these renowned explorers arrived. The author devotes separate chapters to Columbus's New World voyages, Chinese treasure-ship expeditions under Admiral Zheng He, and the "New World" wanderings of Leif Eriksson and the Vikings. But, with well-established Native American civilizations already in America, the bigger question is where they came from and when. Theories of Stone Age migration, DNA links to other cultures, and the location of carbon-dated artifacts provide clues but no definitive proof about the mysterious origins of the first Americans. This focused, investigative presentation will enhance collections that typically feature individual explorer biographies or descriptions of specific ancient Native American civilizations. Freedman conveys the allure of history and research through anecdotes, archaeological evidence, maps and illustrations, different points of view, and unanswered questions. His "Chapter Notes" and annotated "Selected Bibliography" are informative models of style and technique for young researchers. Students will discover fascinating information as well as a fine example of the research process in this thought-provoking work.--Gerry Larson, Durham School of the Arts, NC

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VOYA Reviews 2007 December
Could African seamen or giant treasure ships from China have possibly reached the American shores long before the era of Columbus? In this engrossing book, Newbery Award-winning author Freedman presents evidence that some parts of the Americas were well-populated thousands of years ago with extremely cultured groups of people such as the Mayas and the Incas, who in many ways were more scientifically and technologically advanced than the Europeans who came later. There are signs that Vikings landed in New England shortly after they settled in Greenland around 985. Even more intriguing, recent DNA and linguistics studies conclude that there were most likely several migrations from Siberia and northeast Asia to the Americas twenty to thirty thousand years ago. Some sites in South Carolina and Brazil suggest that migrants might have settled in these areas as many as fifty thousand years ago Freedman provides an intriguing, fresh, and compelling view of traditional American history, taking readers beyond the familiar story of Columbus as the "discoverer of America" and presenting new theories and possibilities about who might have come to the Americas first and why. In addition, he examines Columbus's explorations in more depth, revealing some of the interesting political forces behind those voyages. Freedman's research is very thorough and his writing style is clear, concise, and easy to follow. Almost every page includes an interesting photograph or map to complement the text. He also provides a helpful bibliography for each chapter.-Dotsy Harland Index. Photos. Maps. Biblio. Source Notes. 5Q 2P M J Copyright 2007 Voya Reviews.