We haven’t written a list of fantastic books for the longest time, but Playing by the Book’s theme for this month was Ancient Civilisations… I thought we could find se7en + 1 great books and move along… but I was totally wrong… When I asked my kids for their favourite books about Ancient Civilizations – they started hauling our books, piles and piles of books… I had to stop, long before we had drained our resources. I could do a whole separate post on mythology, different civilisations, not to mention Pompeii!!!
So here is a collection to inspire and get you started, but it by no means complete. For instance, there is no Asterix and Obelisk, which really define life in Roman Times and I didn’t include one of my favourite Adult Series, because adults also enjoy books about Ancient times, Colleen MacCullough’s Masters of Rome Series. The Series begins with The First Man in Rome, you have to read a while to get into them, definitely not dippers, you want all the details!!! I read and read and read through these fat, fantastic and gripping historical tales!!!
Se7en + 1 Bazillion Books About Ancient Times.
- Usborne Books: This book inspired me as a child, one of my all time favourite books… and it has inspired each of my children as well. It is a book where the reader travels back in time and becomes a “fly-on-the-wall.”
In fact Usborne books are a mine of information regarding the Ancients… and any number of their books are inspiring. Firstly browse around, you won’t be disappointed… they have handbooks and travel diaries that are fantastic, for visiting the ancient times. When you click on a book you have an opportunity, there is a button, to click on the Quicklinks… go there, they are fantastic and inspiring… so much to see and do and follow, I have spent days wandering through quicklinks, just wandering around.
- The Journey Through Time Series by Roberta Angeletti: is a fun way for young readers to explore the ancient world. A modern day child is transported back in time to an ancient site… they have a little adventure and then return to their own time. A little artefact always returns home with them so they know that their journey through time was “real.” Sweet, beautifully illustrated, and a great tour of an ancient site. The last couple of pages of the book are dedicated to facts about the ancient site and about the time period that the reader was transported too.
- You Wouldn’t Want to be… Series: Is a series of almost endless books covering different periods and people in history. They are amusing, picture books packed with incredible facts. Alll my kids enjoy them and they are particular helpful for beginner readers… who like books packed with snippets of information.
- Marcia Williams: Writes very distinctive, fabulous comic book retellings of Ancient Myths and Legends… she has rewritten heaps of books for younger readers, all in a very detailed and distinctive, comic strip format – bringing books that were previously thought of as too difficult for younger readers to read… straight into their hands and hearts.
- The Diary Series of Books by Richard Platt: Are books that you feel compelled to read. The details and the illustrations really do take you back in time.
- The History News: Is an interesting series, written in the format of a Newspaper of the day. The authors have paid careful attention to detail… and every word that you read pertains to the era. Even in ancient times there were advertisements for togas and lamps and so on. The books contain a lot of information, presented in bite size newspaper columns. The authors have managed to take “boring history facts” and present them in such an interesting way that you must read on… You can learn a lot from a newspaper: articles, sport, recipes, entertainment.
- The Orchard Story Book Collections: These are well worth seeking out. I have to say I am a big fan of Geraldine McCaughrean, she is a prolific writer and we have read a number of her “rewritten for children” classics and they have stood us in good stead for conquering books that would otherwise have been a bit tricky for us. These Orchard Collections have great stories and illustrations and make great reads.
- Good Reads for Chapter Book Readers:
And the Se7en + 1th book ideas: chapter books…
- Cleopatra by Diane Stanley: While this looks like a picture book, with beautiful illustrations on each page… there is a lot to read, more than a beginner reader. Diane Stanley is well known for her beautiful books, written about historical fiction and Cleopatra is one more in a list of great reads by her. I love how Diane Stanley’s artwork compliments her writing and how easily you are transported back in time and into the world of Cleopatra.
- Theras and His Town by Caroline Dale Snedeker: My dad read this book to me when I was a child and I loved it. It was no surprise that my children loved this book too… I remember that the summer I read this book I became obsessed with living like a Spartan and trying to sleep nights on the bare cold floor… never could!!! It is the story of a young Athenian boy, who is captured and taken to Sparta… where he is placed in training with the other Spartan boys. It is a far cry from the “easy” life he has been used to and he has to make a huge effort to become “one of the enemy.” If you are looking for a book that represents life in ancient Greece and clearly shows the contrast between Athens and Sparta, and it is a great read, then this is the one.
- Detectives in Togas and Mystery of the Roman Ransom by Henry Winterfeld: These books are fun mysteries, we have read them aloud family read alouds… and my kids thoroughly loved them – endless cries of more, more, more… A group of boys from school, in Roman Times… a mystery to solve and lots of funny boyish pranks. The only trouble with these books is that there aren’t more in the series…
- Archimedes and the Door of Science: This is a fun one, a surprising science book, history book and hands-on experiment book all tossed onto one!!! My boys who love to pursue a project really enjoyed doing the easy projects that they found woven through the story. They won’t forget Archimedes and his scientific legacy after reading this book.
- Mara, Daughter of the Nile by Eloise Jarvis McGraw: Mara is a slave in the time of Hatshepsut in Ancient Egypt. She longs for freedom and becomes a spy… the book is packed with adventure, a beautiful heroine… everything you could want in a good read!!!
- Talk about living history!!!Hittite Warrior by Joanne Williamson, is set in the Biblical times around the time of the judges and Uriah’s home is invaded by the Greeks, he finds refuge among the Hittites… Life during this era certainly wasn’t easy and this book is a real journey back in time. God King: A Story in the Days of King Hezekiah (Living History Library) by the same author, takes the readers further back in time, to Ancient Egypt. A young prince is suddenly made king and the book revolves around the political intrigue and scheming… a great read about an era about which not a lot has been written.
- Olivia Coolidge retells the story of The Trojan War… she brings the legend to life… Greek heroes and gods become real as they play their characters within the book.
- You can not go wrong with Rosemary Sutcliffe, her historical novels are just incredible, books that you can not put down and books that you won’t forget in a hurry either. This story, The Eagle of the Ninth, is set in the second century A.D., in Roman Britain. Marcus Aquila’s father went missing with four thousand other Romans, when their legion vanished into the mists of Northern Britain… he sets out to solve the mystery and bring back the standard, “The Eagle of the Ninth”… and adventures through many trials and dangers.
- The Bronze Bow by Elizabeth George Speare has a way with words and her books will touch your heart. This is the story of a young man, who has sworn to avenge the death of his father… and in his fury decides to take on the Romans. It takes place in the time of Jesus and describes life in a small village, with a very strong Roman presence.
- In The Ides of April, Mary Ray writes from the perspective of a slave living in Ancient Rome, and she does it very well. It was not a very glamorous life at all, and this book presents details and aspects of Roman life from a side we don’t often see. It is a murder mystery, it is compelling and my kids thoroughly enjoyed it. Beyond the Desert Gate is the sequel to the Ides of April and is set in Roman Palestine… life is complicated, difficult and treacherous. This is a serious book, and describes life in very difficult times through the eyes of the characters. Another compelling read from Mary Ray.
That’s us… happy reading, feel free to add suggestions in the comments… we are off to pack a pile of books back on the shelves!!!