Tag Archives: history

Lonely Planet Kids Paris City Trails by Helen Greathead

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pariscoverLonely Planet Kids Paris City Trails by Helen Greathead, paperback non-fiction, 102 pages, published by Lonely Planet Publications in 2016.

This book caught my eye on the “New Books” table at my local library. I thought it would be good for my nine year old as she is learning French and this looked like an interesting cultural book to complement her learning. I started flicking through some of the pages and found myself immersed in the streets of Paris discovering museums, bridges, cafés and even cemeteries!

The book contains nineteen themed trails through Paris. Each trail has a number of stops with some information about each location. Some of the locations are well-known, such as the Eiffel Tower and Notre Dame Cathedral, while others are somewhat obscure, but all were fascinating. These trails had every possible interest covered, from food journeys, sport, and art to romance, history and magic.

The layout and content are superbly presented, with short bursts of texts, interspersed with plenty of photos and coloured illustrations throughout. There are also fact boxes and extra tidbits around the main text. I really liked the illustrations, which included the two kiddy guides, Marco and Amelia. You can spot this pair participating in various activities along the trails. All of the illustrations were bright, colourful and clear; some were quite funny too.

I’ve never wanted to go to Paris as badly as I do right now! I would love to follow these trails and experience all of the incredible sights, sounds, smells and tastes I’ve discovered in Paris City Trails. It may be aimed at children, but I thoroughly enjoyed it. I highly recommend it for anyone planning to travel to Paris with children (and anyone just dreaming of it!)

Paris City Trails is suitable for middle primary school students and up. There are currently two other titles available in the Lonely Planet Kids series; London City Trails and New York City Trails. I plan to read them as well and hopefully there will be more titles available in the future. I’d really like to see some for other major European cities.

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Time Sailors of Pizzolungo by Scott Abrams and Adam Blockton

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Time Sailors - imageTime Sailors of Pizzolungo by Scott Abrams and Adam Blockton, e-book, 257 pages, published in 2015.

Guillermo comes home on the last day of the school year to find a strange package. He opens it, and inside is an exquisite model sailing ship. Along with his sister, Piccola, and their friends they take the ship down to the water. It is no ordinary ship, however, and soon the kids are heading out to the open sea atop a massive and splendid sailing ship, and right into a raging storm. Before they know it, they are facing pirates who are determined to wrest control of the glorious Grande Infante, meeting famous mariners such as Christopher Columbus, and diving for treasure off the Canary Islands.

A grand adventure on the high seas and across time! A magic ship, time travel, pirates, treasure, sea battles, a variety of historical figures and a pet pig called Romeo make this a very entertaining read. A wonderful combination of adventure, action, geography and history will engage readers of all ages.

I love the idea of a group of sixth graders taking on pirates and crewing such a massive ship. All of the kids had unique characteristics, and I liked them all. I was amused by Luca’s insistence on avoiding the water, Tony’s attachment to his ipad, Enzo’s overly large chin and Mario’s focus on food, but I was drawn to Guillermo’s determination and Piccola’s intelligence. I’m not sure an eleven year old would know that much Latin though! As the story progressed, I felt like I got to know the small crew of the Grande Infante, and I was able to tag along for the ride.

I’m not very familiar with sailing, and even though nautical and sailing terms are used within the story, that didn’t matter because everything was well described. The detail provided clear images of the ship, crew and surrounds. That also applied to the uncouth pirates, which I could almost smell as they tried to board the Grande Infante! I think washing was very under-rated in those days!

Time Sailors of Pizzolungo is most suitable for middle to upper primary school students, but it is really an adventure open for everyone to enjoy. It was lots of fun, and I do hope that there might be another adventure for the Time Sailors of Pizzolungo soon!

 

*I received this book as a digital copy from the author, who asked me for an honest review of this book. I did not receive any other remuneration, and the review is composed entirely of my own opinions.

Making It Home by Suzanne Roche

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IMG_6056Making It Home by Suzanne Roche, paperback novel, 179 pages, published in 2015.

Peri was an only child until her Dad remarried, then she became a big sister to Henry and Max. All three of them spend their afternoons in the antique store owned by Peri’s father and grandfather. Whilst exploring the stockroom, Max finds a set of old keys and takes them to show Henry, placing them on top of an antiques encyclopeadia. Peri tries to stop him, but it’s too late, and they are all transported back to Ellis Island when the first immigrants were processed through there prior to entering New York city. Now Peri, Henry and Max have to find a way home, and help some people along the way.

Making it Home is a time slip novel for upper primary and lower high school students. It is a bit different to the average time slip story though, in that it contains more detailed historical information, along with archival resources, such as photographs from the relevant time periods. It is fiction based in historical fact. There are also activities and recipes at the back of the book to allow the reader to get hands-on while learning history. It was a very interesting and educational read.

The story jumps through several times, all around the end of the nineteenth century in New York City, mostly looking at the immigrant population and their situations. It was very detailed, and I felt like I learnt a lot about this era whilst reading the book. The time jumps were often unexpected, and sometimes a little hard to follow, but the content was interesting enough to overlook this.

For a book that’s gone to print, there were quite a few text errors, such as repeated words or words out of order. These should have been picked up and corrected during the editing process. They didn’t affect the storyline, but I found them a little distracting. Something that did really bother me about the story, was how did Peri, Henry and Max get through the Ellis Island check point? They would not have been on a ship manifest anywhere, so they would have been detained by the authorities, yet they seem to walk through to New York without being checked. A minor issue, I guess, but still, it niggled me. Also, when the children meet up with Geraldo for the second time, they have not aged, yet Geraldo doesn’t seem to think this is odd, despite a number of years having passed by then.

I liked the children, they were written quite realistically for their ages and situation. I think Henry is my favourite. He’s so indignant at being demoted to middle child, irritated by Peri’s older sister bossiness, incredulous about being in the past, and just really wants to go home more than anything. Being the youngest, Max was rather carefree, and just happy to be having an adventure. Peri was a big reader, and knew quite a lot about New York City, the immigrants, and tenements, which helped them. She felt responsible for their situation, and wanted to find the solution to returning home, but became very involved in helping the people they met in the past.

Making It Home is the first book in the new Time to Time series, following Peri, Henry and Max on their adventures through time, and making history fun. I wonder where in time they will find themselves next?

Dangerous Reflections by Shay West

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Dangerous Reflections CoverDangerous Reflections by Shay West, e-book, 212 pages, first published in 2011, this edition published by Booktrope in 2014.

Alexis and her mum have been forced to move into her aunt’s guesthouse after her father left them penniless. Now Alex has to begin her freshman year of high school at a new school. Being new, her obsession with history and her old clothes already make her a target for bullies, but she also quickly manages to make an enemy of one of the most popular girls, Catelyn. To complicate her life even further, when Alex looks into the mirror, her reflection shifts to that of another. She finds herself traveling through the mirror into the past to prevent an evil time traveler from changing some important events.

This novel combines fantasy elements with the contemporary struggles of a high school student. For a lot of the story we are faced with Alex’s everyday issues, such as making new friends, having a crush, coping with how she feels about her dad leaving, school, all the things that consume the average teenager. Then Alex gets to travel through the mirror, becoming someone from the past and living as them as they avert a disaster that would alter the course of history.

I enjoyed the dips into history, they were well written and exciting. The time travel sections felt realistic and plausible, though perhaps not entirely historically accurate. I don’t know that Hernan Cortes had an older sister for instance. I’m also curious as to what happened to the people whose body Alex borrowed during these times. Since Alex’s body was cold and still during each trip, they probably didn’t take up residence there, so what happened to them? And what happened upon their return, would they remember what had happened in their absence? These trivial curiosities don’t affect the quality of the story, I’m just naturally inquisitive and like to think outside of the story.

Overall I liked Alex and her friends. However, Alex was a rather whiny and ungrateful character at times. Angry at her mum for selling all their stuff, and moving them to Grand Junction away from her friends, Alex shows little to no understanding of how hard it must be for her mother. Alex wants the right clothes, the latest fashion items and technology, and blames her mother for their lack of funds, which is quite unfair. Alex does grow through the story, and begins to understand her mother’s position a little better by the end. The trips through the mirror help her to mature and become more empathetic to those around her, but she is still a rather egotistical teenager, making her a pretty realistic character! I think teens will be able to relate to her, and to her friends.  Why she would moon over that idiot Beau is beyond me though, he was obviously a self-absorbed prat!

An engaging read, Dangerous Reflections is suitable for upper primary school and high school students. This is the first book in The Adventures of Alexis Davenport trilogy, which is followed by Twisted Reflections and Desperate Reflections.

 

*I received this book as a digital copy from the author, who asked me for an honest review of this book. I did not receive any other remuneration, and the review is composed entirely of my own opinions.

Horrible Histories: Horribly Hilarious Joke Book by Terry Deary

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IMG_5394Horrible Histories: Horribly Hilarious Joke Book by Terry Deary and illustrated by Martin Brown and Philip Reeve, paperback, 86 pages, published by Scholastic Ltd in 2009.

This is a collection of historical jokes, just right for middle to upper primary school students. The book is divided into sections based on the popular Horrible Histories books, such as jokes from the Groovy Greeks or the Incredible Incas. Many of the jokes were rather cringe-worthy and perfect for “Dad Jokes”, so I laughed a lot, and so did my kids. There are plenty of black and white illustrations to make you laugh too! It is a rather short book with only a few jokes on each page, so it was a quick read, but one that I thoroughly enjoyed. We quite like this sort of humour in our house!

The Multiverse of Max Tovey by Alastair Swinnerton

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TMoMTThe Multiverse of Max Tovey by Alastair Swinnerton, e-book, 220 pages, published by European Geeks Publishing in 2015.

Fourteen year old Max Tovey has some issues. He has been experiencing a terrifying recurrent dream, hallucinations of the distant past, and now his parents are taking him to Ham Hill to run his dying grandfather’s inn. Life is about to get even more complicated for Max though, as he learns that he is a Time Traveller, and that the dream isn’t a dream at all, but a memory. Now it is up to Max to travel through time, searching for the Montacute Cross that will seal the demonic world, and right the past and future of his own time path.

The Multiverse of Max Tovey is the first book in the Hamdun Chronicles, a new series for young adults. Max Tovey is just fourteen, but the fate of the world rests upon his shoulders, placed there by his grandfather and by the Ancient Monarchs of the Nine Hills. He must face his insecurities and anxieties to succeed, keeping his wits and battling demons, soldiers and villains.

Adventure, fantasy, mythology, and history combine in this exciting and gripping novel. It is very well written, rich in descriptive and emotive language, engaging the reader and pulling them through time with Max. While the story is incredibly complex, as Max jumps about through time and various time paths, it was never confusing. It reminded me a bit of Dr. Who, just with less aliens and more demons. You can learn some British history and mythology too. Max takes us back to first century Britain, to battles with Romans, Celts, Saxons and even Vikings. He experiences life in an alternate reality, when the past has changed to create a new possible future. He even ventures into the Otherworld, an old Celtic myth, where he meets a range of creatures, including faeries and giants, and humans living their second life. I am glad that I wasn’t reading this book aloud, as my pronunciation of Welsh and Old Celtic names and words is rather woeful, but it did add authenticity to the story.

Due to the time travelling, we actually get to meet a few different versions of some of the characters, including Max’s parents. We only get the one Max though, who I came to like immensely. He really grows as a character throughout the story, and we get to see his weaknesses and his strengths, as well as his doubts and his resolve. Max is no ordinary teenager, even before he discovers he is a Time Traveller. He is shy and awkward, and so very lonely, but moving to Ham Hill and discovering the family secrets really opens up a new world for him. His friend, Myvi, is a lovely girl too, quite encouraging and compassionate. She complemented Max wonderfully, and it was nice that they were friends without any complications of a romantic relationship. All of the characters were well developed and described, even the evil ones, and there were a couple of quite dislikable characters!

Suitable for upper primary school students and upwards, it is also a fantastic read for adults. I loved this book, and I’m very excited that there is more to come in this series.

 

*I received this book as a digital copy from the author, who asked me for an honest review of this book. I did not receive any other remuneration, and the review is composed entirely of my own opinions.

My Royal Story: Marie Antionette by Kathryn Lasky

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IMG_4172My Royal Story: Marie Antionette by Kathryn Lasky, historical fiction, 221 pages, first published by Scholastic Inc. in 2000, this edition published by Scholastic Ltd. in 2010.

Maria Antonia Josepha Johanna is the youngest daughter of the Empress and Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, and she is destined to become Marie Antionette, Queen of France. It is 1769, and the child Antonia is only thirteen, but she is soon expected to marry the dauphin of France, Louis Auguste, who will ascend the throne once his grandfather passes. Antonia must learn many things as she leaves her childhood and her home in Austria to evolve into Marie Antionette of France.

This diary style historical fiction is based on the teenage years of Marie Antionette, who ruled France with her husband, Louis XVI, in the late 1700s. It is a very interesting story told in first person diary entries beginning when Antonia is just thirteen. It explores her world as an Archduchess, and her transformation from child into adult, wife and future leader of France. So much is expected of her at such a young age. Her mother believes that her successful marriage to the dauphin of France will secure peace in Europe, and as such, Antonia has much responsibility and power resting upon her young shoulders. The extravagance of court and palace life is almost unimaginable, as is the strict etiquette and sheltered lifestyle these rulers lead. They are so far removed from those that they rule over, it is no wonder that revolution came to France.

An engaging story well executed, My Royal Story: Marie Antionette, is suitable for upper primary school students and older. This is a great way to introduce some history into your child’s life. By telling the story from Marie Antionette’s perspective as a teenager, it helps the young reader to identify and empathise with her. There were also some historical notes and family trees at the end of the story, explaining a little bit about the time period and what happened to Marie Antionette, Louis Auguste and their children. Using the story to spark interest in this part of history can be a springboard for exploring the life and death of Marie Antionette and the changes that descended upon France and Europe in the late eighteenth century more thoroughly.

My Royal Story: Marie Antionette is only one title in the My Royal Story series, and I am interested in reading more of these titles. History can be very dry, but I was pleased to find a book that makes discovering history fun and compels one to investigate the historical period and figures further.

The Treasure Box by Margaret Wild and Freya Blackwood

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IMG_1398The Treasure Box by Margaret Wild and illustrated by Freya Blackwood, hardback picture book, published by Penguin Group (Australia) in 2013.

Peter and his father are forced to flee their home during the war. They take with them a book in a small iron box. This book is special to Peter’s father, and is the last remaining book after the local library was bombed. The road to safety is long , cold and arduous. When Peter’s father dies, he struggles on, taking the box with him, but when he can go no further, he buries the box beneath a tree. Peter escapes with his life, but he never forgets the iron box holding the treasured book.

The Treasure Box is a poignant story of war, death and loss. Peter loses everything he has ever known, yet he never forgets his father, his home or the treasured book. Some things are more important than gold, silver and rubies. Peter’s book is about his people, the people that were persecuted and forced from their homes, it is an important part of their history. When everything is lost, we still have our history and our memories. The Treasure Box reminds us of the importance of the written word and of history, which can help shape the future for the better.

The illustrations in The Treasure Box were perfectly matched to the story, creating just the right tone as the story progresses. Using subtle shadowing made some of the pictures appear to rise from the page, or created a looking-through-a-window effect. I also liked that some of the pages had parts made up of ripped texts, as if they had been made from the bombed library books.

This is a thought-provoking read for both young and old, and I found it incredibly sad. My preschooler and second grader were shocked when Peter’s father died, and the refugees buried him by the side of the road. They have never been exposed to war or its consequences, and this book was a real eye-opener. They asked a lot of questions, many of which I could not answer. They wanted to know why anyone would go to war, why they would force people to leave their homes, why they would bomb innocent people, why they would kill children, and how can we stop war. I wish I knew the answers and the solutions, and I wish no one had to endure the atrocities of war. The Treasure Box gave us a sorrowfully beautiful, age appropriate and heartfelt opening to discuss this very complicated and saddening topic.

 

Horrible Histories: Terrible Trenches by Terry Deary and Martin Brown

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IMG_0831Horrible Histories: Terrible Trenches by Terry Deary and illustrated by Martin Brown, paperback non-fiction, 93 pages, this edition published by Scholastic Australia in 2014.

This book is packed full of facts about living through the First World War, presented in an interesting and engaging fashion. The illustrations are illuminating, and often amusing, while educating young minds as to the life soldiers faced in the trenches. The book was divided into two sections, covering both sides of the war. The first section is about the British soldiers, and the second about the German soldiers. It was nice to have both sides presented without the bias often seen in other history texts.

This was a very appealing non-fiction title suitable for primary age school children. History can often be presented in a bland and boring way to children, but this Horrible Histories book is certainly neither of those. Lots of black and white illustrations and comic scenes entertain and educate, as well as lightening the subject matter, and dispersing the text, making it easier for younger kids to read.

I enjoyed reading this book and learning from it. Reading about the different weapons, the uniforms, food and slang used in the trenches was very interesting and enlightening. My second-grader is also enjoying this book. We will definitely be looking for more Horrible Histories titles to read soon!