Measly Middle Ages (Horrible Histories) by Terry Deary

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Measly Middle Ages (Horrible Histories) by Terry Deary

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Category: Children's Non-Fiction
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Margaret Young
Reviewed by Margaret Young
Summary: Deary brings history to life with his usual wicked wit and enough disgusting bits to get the most reluctant of readers involved in the story.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 232 Date: February 2013
Publisher: Scholastic
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-1407135762

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The Horrible Histories series is a favourite with both schools and Home Educators, but Terry Deary never intended his books to be used in education. He originally set out to write a joke book, based on a historical subject, but freed from the constraints of school - he discovered what so many of us have also found - history really is fun. Instead of a joke book with a bit of history, Deary ended up with a history book - with quite a lot of jokes. But these books were never intended as educational texts, they were written to entertain, and his Horrible Histories - Measly Middle Ages does just that, it entertains both children and adults. It is difficult to read any of Deary's books without learning something, but learning is incidental - the fun comes first.

The Measly Middle Ages begins in 1066 with the invasion of the Nutty Norman Knights and ends in 1492 when Christopher Columbus discovered America and the age of exploration begins. There is a very useful timeline at the front which takes a slightly more serious tone than the rest of the book - but only just. The rest of the book is written in Deary's unique anti-establishment style with plenty of gruesome facts, jokes and of course urine and excrement.

This book is recommended for ages 9 -12, but I feel it suits a much larger age group form ages 7- to adult. My sons really enjoyed the more disgusting facts, such as washing clothes in aged pee and the thought of bare bums sticking out over the Thames dropping wee surprises for boats passing underneath. They also had a laugh at lying monarchs and gullible leaders of peasant uprisings, cruel though it may be, and some of the cartoon illustrations. In all honesty they did not enjoy the book as much as the DVD, which is almost all crude jokes, but they did have fun reading this, and that is the real point of this series to keep reading fun. I'm sure my oldest son will remember some of the history involved, and I think children learn far more when they are having fun, but for the most part this book is a collection of short funny stories, which just happen to involve history. My sons do like the fact that the stories are true though. It is the fact that people really did these things that makes it funny.

I can't imagine that I would have ever picked a Horrible Histories book if I did not have children, but there is actually quite a lot in this book to interest adults as well. While the role of the average woman in the Middle Ages was far from marvelous, Deary has written about some women who went completely against the norms of the time, becoming pirates, warriors, and skilled negotiators. I have to admit I enjoyed this as much as the children. Some of the other subjects covered include: The Norman invasion, peasants revolts, the black death, medieval medicine, The Angevins, The Lancastrians, food (best not read at tea time), religion, and the lives of women and children. I especially like Deary's joking about Magna Carta, which will make the meaning of this charter very clear and easy to remember.

There are some parts of this book that cast schools, teachers and most especially school dinners in a negative light. While some parents have objected to this, the children find it further cause for amusement, and one does have to remember that Deary has go at all forms of establishment. He also compares the churches of the times to robbers - but his comments are all very true. This series is intended only for those with a sense of humour, and having corresponded with the author myself, I am quite certain that he really doesn't care if he offends those without much humour.

This book does not require any previous knowledge of history. It is written is such a way that a child who has never heard of the Middle Ages can enjoy this every bit as much as an adult with a serious interest in history. And as an adult with a passion for history, I found the book entertaining and amusing, but I also found that I learned a few facts as well. If you believe history was really meant to be a fun and entertaining subject, I would highly recommend this book, regardless of age.

If this book appeals then you might also enjoy Put Out The Light by Terry Deary and The Comic Strip History of the World by Sally Kindberg and Tracey Turner

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Buy Measly Middle Ages (Horrible Histories) by Terry Deary at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Measly Middle Ages (Horrible Histories) by Terry Deary at


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