Book Reviews of Earthshapers, The.

1. "A moving and sensitive piece of fiction which is historically and culturally accurate. The book is set between the Hopewellian and Mississippian cultures portraying their lifestyle based on the extensive archaeological research of the area. The main character, Yellow Moon, wends her way through the day-to-day activities of these ancient peoples, showing them as a people rather than just flint chips, pottery shards, and pollen from the flotation tanks. The Earthshapers is a book that once read, will not gather dust, but be read again before passing along to a friend." (The Eagle, April 1985)

2. "An archeologically authentic novel about an ancient native North American culture called Mound Builders. The name derives from the thousands of earth mounds they raised, primarily as burial sites, throughout the eastern and midwestern United States. Mound excavations have revealed a wealth of information about Mound Builders: they were a peaceful, highly religious people who conducted a wide trade in items such as copper from Lake Superior and seashells from the Atlantic and Gulf coasts. Karen Speerstra's novel is written for high-school level readers in an attempt to develop young adults' interest in and understanding of prehistoric cultures." (National Parks, Sept.-Oct. 1981)

3. Speerstra, in The Earthshapers, employs a literary approach to construct the everyday life of the first Americans. The text was reviewed by experts from the Midwest Archaeological Center of the National Park Service who verified its authentic depiction of Indian life. The book's central character is a young Indian woman named Yellow Moon. Through her eyes, the reader learns of the vanishing Mound Builder culture, the details of daily life, the great tribal festivals, and the reasons behind the gigantic mounds they left behind that puzzled later Americans like Thomas Jefferson.

"The book is copiously illustrated with sketches superbly drawn by George Armstrong. These views of the people in their everyday pursuits were created with strict attention to fact as interpreted by contemporary anthropologists. Speerstra has published a number of children's books, and works in radio broadcasting. She and her family make their home near the Effigy Mounds National Monument in Wisconsin." (Outdoor Highlights, Illinois Dept. of Conservation, vol. 8, no. 16, June 9, 1980)

4. "This is a beautiful story of the early Mound Builders which will be of interest to anyone who has ever wondered about those mysterious mounds in Central Park. This is the story of the Hopewellian Mounds which are spread throughout the Mississipppi basin and into western New York. Two sites in this area are mentioned--the Grave Creek Mound in West Virginia which rises 70 feet with a 300-foot diameter and the Serpent Mound in Ohio which winds and curls for almost a quarter mile.

"The Hopewellian culture was a peaceful one. In these mounds of 'the ancient ones', scientists find little or no evidence of weapons of war or of death from fighting but their study reveals a history of wide trade throughout the region, with routes of copper from Lake Superior, obsidian from the Rockies, grizzly bear claws from the Great Plains and western mountains, mica from the Appalachians, and sea shells from the Atlantic and Gulf coasts. These people produced exquisite works of art, in addition to their earth works, crafting glazed pottery, copper tools, and copper-and-gold inlaid jewelry with delicate designs and figures. They were united by religion and the many tribes worked together harmoniously.

"In the story told here of the Mound Builder culture, the author depicts the time and culture of the peaceful Hopewell through the person of young Yellow Moon, an Indian maid of 12. It describes the family--young brother, Brown Otter; older brother, Darting Hawk; their father, Bear Who Whispers; and mother, Singing Star; grandmothers, Juniper and Calling Crane; grandfather, Star Gazer; uncle Flint Eyes, and uncle Raccoon and many aunts and cousins. Yellow Moon's year is divided into 12 moons--Cold Moon, Snow Moon, Moon of Returning, Clover Moon, Moon of Flowers, Hot Moon, Moon of the Deer, Moon of the Berries, Feasting Moon, Traveling Moon, Moon of the Long Sleep, and Hunting Moon. As the story begins, it is the time of Moon of Returning and the family is traveling from their winter rock shelter home to their summer habitat close to the Great River (the Mississippi). The setting for both is probably Iowa and the year is around 900 A.D.

"The Earthshapers follows the details of daily life in the group--how they gathered their herbs for medicine and seeds and plants for food, how they hunted, cooked, fashioned clothing, made baskets, blankets, pottery and ornaments, how they raised their mounds, of their periodic great tribal gatherings, and other interesting details. The author has done considerable and careful research on the subject." (Thelma Kiser, Ashland Daily Independent (Kentucky), Nov. 23, 1980)