Friday, March 10, 2006

History for Children

Amanda Vickery takes a look at history for children in today's Guardian. In particular, Vickery analyzes three recent publications: 1) Horrible Histories: Dublin (Terry Deary, illustrated by Martin Brown); 2) Our Island Story (H.E. Marshall); and 3) A Little History of the World (E.H. Gombrich, translated by Caroline Mustill) . Our Island Story and A Little History of the World are reissued classics, the first published in 1905 and the second in 1935.

I must admit I really enjoy the Horrible Histories and wonder if we have U.S. equivalents. They are irreverent, funny, and Deary leaves "'the nasty bits'" in.

Vickery finds Our Island Story insular and remarks, "To recommend Our Island Story as a textbook for nine- to 12-year-olds is like relying on Mel Gibson for the history of Scotland." A funny comparison. Gombrich fares better and Vickery quotes from his elegant conclusion: "We are all carried along by its force, each a tiny, evanescent bubble of foam, lifted momentarily on the crest of a wave, only to vanish for ever. 'But we must make use of that moment. It is worth the effort.'" Agreed.