The Mystery of the Ancient Maya Essay - Critical Context

Charles Gallenkamp

Critical Context

Carolyn Meyer has published dozens of fiction and nonfiction books for young adults, as well as several books for a middle-school audience. She is a hands-on author who relishes the learning experience that is involved in the writing process. In order to enhance her skills at character development, she may study kung fu, go camping and kayaking, and research quicksand, wildflowers, plastic surgery, and opera—all for one novel. One of her series, Hotline, demanded knowledge of suicide hotline operators, and so she became a volunteer for a year. Meyer enjoys doing her homework.

Although Meyer has written many crafts and how-to books, she is no stranger to descriptive writing about cultures and peoples. In the United States, she studied crafts and craftspeople for People Who Make Things: How American Craftsmen Live and Work (1975); immersed herself in the Amish community for Amish People: Plain Living in a Complex World (1976); and presented a viable point of view in Eskimos: Growing Up in a Changing Culture (1977). Meyer has also analyzed other cultures and other times; she traveled to Africa to explore the southern part of the continent and wrote Voices of South Africa: Growing Up in a Troubled Land (1986). She repeated this successful formula for books about the Irish and Japanese cultures.

Consequently, it was not a huge step for Meyer to team with Charles Gallenkamp for their corroborative study of the Maya. Gallenkamp, a scholar, archaeologist, and compiler, organized a traveling exhibit of Mayan artifacts called “Maya: Treasures of an Ancient Civilization.”