Friday, December 4, 2009

Number 8 of 13

I remember few school assignments from primary grades (except those lovingly retained by my mother), but I do recall a 5th grade state report that I had to complete -- which included a five-day itinerary around Iowa seeing sites of historical and cultural interest. I might have been interested in the Iowa equivalent of A Primary Source History of the Colony of South Carolina when I was doing my research (although I don't think I would have wanted the audio version). But if you aren't a grade school child needing to do a report on South Carolina, the above title -- by Heather Hasan -- is only mildly interesting.

The most fun fact in here is about some 16th century French Huguenots who attempted to build a colony on present-day Parris Island. The men weren't particularly skilled at meeting their basic needs and soon began to starve -- even with help from the Native Americans living nearby. They jerry-built a ship to sail back across the Atlantic. Halfway across they ran out of food (again!). After eating their leather shoes and other supplies they decided to kill one member of their party and eat him. By the time they were rescued off the coast of England, "they had lost their minds." Now that's American history!

After a sop to the original residents, the book becomes a simple recitation of what Europeans arrived and what happened next. It focuses mostly on Colonial and Revolutionary times, but fast forwards to the Civil War.

I'm sure this audiobook was published as an alternative learning tool -- listening while having the book in your hand is no doubt helpful for some young researchers. But listening to it straight through -- without illustrations -- is really just a bore. The names and events just blend together (since the only thing I can remember is the cannibalism). The reader is Eileen Stevens and she gives this a straightforward no-frills narration. She has a habit of pausing before she says the name of a non-English person or place that is kind of odd to listen to, but otherwise she just produces the words.

I've complained here about listening to the recitation of timelines, glossaries and other backmatter (and I wouldn't want to listen to it here), but as a nonfiction book -- a book that states it's from primary sources -- the absence of these sources is noteworthy. The Table of Contents here indicates that there is quite a bit of material not included in the audiobook. If that's the case, this really needs to be a print/audio combination. Although, like the Huguenots aboard that ship in 1563, I would have gone mad sitting with the book in my lap following along.

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