Book Review: The Ancient American World by William Fash & Mary Lyons. Written as part of The World in Ancient Times Series by Oxford University Press

A History Book About Latin America I Actually L-O-V-E

Dear Homeschool Parents,

How about that! It’s a book about archaeology written by an actual archaeologist! Do I sound sarcastic? Because I am completely 10000% sincere when I say, “The Ancient American World by William Fash & Mary Lyons is an excellent book.” Written for the middle school level, Oxford University Press paired up one subject-matter expert with a children’s writer for a series of books called The World in Ancient Times. Not only is there this particular book about the Americas, but there are other books in the series about Rome, Greece, China, South Asian, Egypt, the Near East, etc. While I can’t speak to the scholarship of the other books, I can say, with an honest heart, that Fash and Lyons have written a book that is not only accurate but also engaging. 

Here’s the breakdown: 

  • This book is old, copyright 2005. And yet, it’s still more accurate than ALL homeschool books on Latin America. Yup, I said what I said. ALL. This is because William Fash is (or rather was because he’s retired) an archaeologist. Homeschool companies don’t hire archaeologists to write their history books or fact-check their information. At least, they don’t appear to do so for anything related to Latin America. Otherwise, why would so many of them still use “Mayan” as an adjective? 
  • Because this book was written before the discovery of the footprints of White Sands, NM and other archaeological finds that pre-date the Bering Strait theory, I would just be sure to discuss this with your children. 
  • This book has 21 chapters, all anywhere from 6-10 pages each. It is easy to schedule reading through this text in a school year. I do have a chapter-by-chapter schedule in my Parent Resource Guide, which corresponds to a timeline entry. 
  • This book has both photographs and illustrations which are respectful, accurate, and do NOT “exotify” its subject. It is so upsetting to me to incessantly see the Indigenous of the Americas depicted in ways that make them appear primitive and emphasize their “otherness.” There are also helpful maps throughout the book. 
  • This book is out of print. But I found my copy for $8-ish on Thriftbooks. So, if you're trying to add some Latin America to your ancient history curricula, I think the $8-ish for this book and my Parent Resource Guide (which I often put on sale for $8) would be enough to give you, homeschool parents, more knowledge than most homeschool history curriculum writers. Not convinced? Trust me, just read my Cringe Posts and you’ll see what’s out there.  
  • Is this book a “living book?” It is to me. IDK if Charlotte Mason homeschoolers would agree with me because it’s organized much like a shorter version of a  textbook. But, if I can call any book which nurtures an interest and sparks curiosity a “living book,” then this is it. For me, at least.
  • What to do if you have elementary age homeschoolers? The Ancient American World is definitely written at a middle to high school level. However, I do think you could read chunks of the information presented to upper elementary students out loud for discussion. If you have the timeline cards in my Parent Resource Guide, you could read that information with your kiddos and skim through chapters of this book too, reading just a few age-appropriate paragraphs. I would not recommend handing this book off to a 4th grader to read independently. If you want to wait unless you have middle schoolers to use this book, I totally support that decision too. There is another book, by Charles Mann called Before Columbus: The Americas Before 1492 which might be a good alternative for the elementary-age child. I will do a breakdown of that book in another post.

Parents, I have read so many children’s books about Latin America. In a world where books are being written by AI, publishers are going cheap with the writers they hire, I implore you to take careful consideration when choosing books about Latin America, particularly before 1492. There is so much bad history to unlearn and so much history, yet to discover, that I strongly feel we need to equip our children with books that are accurate and respectful of the dignity of the human person. This book can help with that. Check out my FB and Instagram for more pics inside this book. 🧡

With a hopeful heart,


P.S. If anyone knows anyone at Oxford University Press, can you ask them to put out a new edition of this book?!?!? Please. 

P.P.S. I’m going to have a discount code for my Parent Resource Guide in February. Be on the lookout. 

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