Archaeology: Cool Women Who Dig (Review)
Updated: Nov 21
Author: Anita Yasuda
Illustrator: Lena Chandhok
Publisher: Nomad Press, 2017
Interest Level: Ages 9 and up
Reading Level: Ages 9-12; Guided Reading Level T; Lexile 970L
Retail: $9.95, paperback
Summary: This book is part of a larger series called Girls In Science. It is a 106-page chapter book with information about the history of women in archaeology and spotlights on three current-day female archaeologists: how they discovered archaeology, and how they built their careers. QR codes and internet links allow further exploration.
This book contains a lot of information about women in archaeology, much of which I am embarrassed to admit was new to me. The language is straightforward, and the color illustrations add interest. The book appears to be well-researched, and is up to date on current methods and research topics. The cover font is playful.
If it sounds like I'm damning this book with faint praise, you are paying attention. I am generally reluctant to read and review books that are part of a template-based series. Such books are usually written by non-subject matter experts, and they tend to be superficial and dull. This particular series, Girls in Science seems aimed at librarians and guidance counselors looking to fill holes in their collection, quality be darned.
I chose to read and review this book because it is one of the few books in print that comes up when one searches for archaeology books for children. The good news is that there is some interesting content in here. I enjoyed reading about some of the women who contributed to the field of archaeology over the last few centuries. The information given is generally correct. One of the people profiled is a woman of color (brava!), and there is a strong focus on North American research.
Unfortunately, the good content is hobbled by bad presentation. This is a boiler plate non-fiction book, complete with a "How to Use this Book" section in the front. The introductory chapter confusingly states that there are three women profiled in the book, when clearly there are quite a few more mentioned throughout. The text is broken up by small case studies and perky discussion questions that are intended to get kids thinking but instead feel like chores. I had no desire to visit the external web links. I shudder to imagine a student being required to do the "Ask and Answer" section at the end, a feature that effectively squashes any inspiration a reader might feel up to that point.
I have nothing against the amazing women (NOT girls) who are featured in this book. They are very accomplished in their field, and came from different backgrounds. The paths they chose were tailored to their strengths. I am certain that there are number of young women who would find their stories motivating and relatable. However, I'm concerned that the examples given contain almost no mention of male colleagues. It feels as if the book is an overcompensation for male-centered books about science. These women do not work in a vacuum. Most positions of power in this field are held by men, and there is a very real old boys' network that female archaeologists must live with.
As someone who has navigated the field of archaeology, I noticed a few oversimplifications, but given the target audience and the mission to inspire, I don't feel it necessary to nit pick here (you're welcome). But, I can't close this review without one final comment: Results may vary.