50 Things You Should Know About the Vikings by Philip Parker
|50 Things You Should Know About the Vikings by Philip Parker|
|Category: Children's Non-Fiction|
|Reviewer: John Lloyd|
|Summary: One more numerically-challenged entry to this series, and one more destined for many a school library shelf.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 80||Date: September 2017|
|Publisher: QED Publishing|
|External links: Author's website|
The Vikings have got a lot to own up to. A huge DNA study in 2014 was the first thing that proved to the Orkney residents that they had Viking blood in their veins – they had been insisting it was that of the Irish. The Vikings it was that forced our English king's army to march from London to Yorkshire to kill off one invasion, only to spend the next fortnight schlepping back to Hastings to try and fend off another – and the Normans had the same Norse origin as the first lot, hence the name. There is a Thames Valley village just outside Henley – ie pretty damned far from the coast – that has a Viking longship on its signpost. Yes, they got to a lot of places, from Greenland to Kiev, from Murmansk to Turkey and the Med, and their misaligned history is well worth visiting – particularly on these pages.
In that little box-out down right on your screen I have said this is numerically-challenged, and I stand by that – there are way more than fifty facts here. It's a very bitty book, but get in the swing of reading its different sections and bit-bots of detail and you can get the full story very well. The 50 comes from the number of subjects it's been divided into, although you also get chapter heading pages numbering in those 50. Every subject has at least one box-out with further information, and each of the 50 also has a sidebar with another detail, ranging from the bizarre names of the time to the bizarre names of modern day (did Nick Grimshaw of BBC Radio One know what his name means?!). Like I say, much more than fifty things to learn.
As this is a book designed for the young to learn from, I have to take the rough with the smooth when it comes to style – yes, several layouts are awkward to read as you don't know which paragraph follows which, and what order you should attack the subject in. It is a superlative volume when it comes to the pictorial side, though, from museum artefacts to modern replicas of this, that and the other – and suitably clear maps and other diagrams when called for.
I think the script is very good as well – if anything it can go a little too far, in the post-Viking development of the Scandinavian countries, as they unified under one national ruler and founded their own legal systems. This is possibly A-Level stuff, when the book is palatable for primary school pupils. It certainly taught me a lot, and confirmed much I did know – that they had a civilised culture the histories told by their defeated combatants could never attest to, that they reached down to Ukraine and had soldiers in every corner of Europe, but that they never had horned helmets. It's a crying shame that there was not room for subject number 51, as the Vikings invaded every corner of Britain and Ireland – but not Wales, which only gets one single, solitary mention, and the student should want to know why. But such minor nit-picks are bludgeoned to one side by the force of this book, which packs a heft despite its sound-bite structure, and looks lovely while at it. Much like a female Viking settler, perhaps.
I must thank the publishers for my review copy.
For a similar audience age-wise, Viking Longship by Mick Manning and Brita Granstrom looks at the times with an edutainment bent. The adult take on the history is The Northmen’s Fury: A History of the Viking World by Philip Parker – the same author as this junior version.
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You can read more book reviews or buy 50 Things You Should Know About the Vikings by Philip Parker at Amazon.com.
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