Right Here On This Spot
Publication Date: September 1999
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Right here on this spot, where today Grandpa drives a tractor in his cabbage field, Indians in ancient times lit their campfires, chipped stone into tools, and then moved on. The moon rose and set over the field, season followed season, trees grew into a forest, and settlers came from across the ocean to clear the land again and make a new home. And one day, years later, a Union soldier crossing that field lost a button . . . Grandpa was digging a ditch when he found that button. Deeper in the ditch he discovered an arrowhead and the bones of a strange beast . . . In graceful words and striking pictures, Sharon Hart Addy and John Clapp chronicle the changes the centuries bring to one field and offer young readers a vivid slice of history.
"A simple poetic text and quiet watercolor-and-pencil landscapes introduce children to archaeology by focusing on the passing of time in one field---from prehistory to the present---and the different people who lived there, what they did, and how we know about them from the things they left behind. Where Grandpa drives a tractor in his cabbage field in Wisconsin, Paleo-Indians of the Ice Age chipped stones into tools and hunted mastodon. Time passed, the glaciers melted, and new Indian people came, Illinois and Potawatomi. Over and over the seasons changed. Then settlers came and cut trees to build a cabin. A Civil War soldier walked the field and lost a button there. The combination of what stays the same and the particulars of what changes will fascinate kids and get them thinking about the "hidden history" of where they live." Booklist, ALA
This impressive picture book shares a history of the land and its people with a grandfather on a tractor drive through his cabbage field. The items that turn up are a chipped stone tool from the time of the mastodon, a lost arrowhead from centuries later, and a Civil War button. The brief main text is lyrical and thoughtful, while the author concludes with a note describing how Paleo-Indians came to the shores of Lake Michigan during the Ice Age; how the Illinois and Potawatomi Indians came after the glaciers melted; and how trappers, frontiersmen, and homesteaders came still later to build the farms and houses still in existence in Wisconsin and Michigan. Soft gray pencil drawings and double-page watercolors amplify the text; Clapp is especially adept at capturing the sweep of sky and the brown earth of the farm in broad bands of color, maximizing the impact of the medium. An appealing introduction to archaeology, and to the concept of continuity through the passing of time.
"In this lyrical homage to humankind's relationship to the land, "this spot" is the farm belonging to the narrator's grandfather, and as Grandpa digs a ditch, he discovers clues to its past. The story of the land begins with the Paleo-Indians of the Ice Age: "Indians in ancient times/ lit a campfire/ on a glacial beach." In Addy's (A Visit with Great-Grandma) stately text, spare language evokes the changes of seasons and of centuries, and sets the stage for the artifacts Grandpa uncovers: a mastodon bone, old Indian arrowheads and a button from a Civil War uniform. Clapp, who exhibited his talent for realistic landscapes with mystical qualities in The Stone Fey, here juxtaposes a realistic painting of Grandpa driving his tractor over the fields with a haunting portrait of the Indians, their faces aglow by firelight, sitting under a full moon. This illustration provides a graceful transition to the next spread of a luminous moon that "rose and set,/ over and over,/ Season followed season." Together, the text and art smoothly convey the passage of time in this specific area near the southwestern tip of Lake Michigan and chronicle it's progression from glacial beach to Civil War battleground to what is now patchwork farmland. Readers never see the child narrator, though the grandfather and grandmother have cameo appearances; the effect of these predominantly unpopulated landscapes creates a feeling of reverence for the book's real main character----the land itself." Publishers Weekly