Tony Robinson's Weird World of Wonders - World War II by Tony Robinson

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Tony Robinson's Weird World of Wonders - World War II by Tony Robinson

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Category: Children's Non-Fiction
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Margaret Young
Reviewed by Margaret Young
Summary: Children's history book on WW2, combining education and entertainment, but leaning slightly more to the more serious aspects of history.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 160 Date: March 2013
Publisher: Macmillan Children's Books
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-1447227687

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Tony Robinson's Weird World of Wonders is an informative, easy to read book for children covering WW2. I would describe it as something of a cross between a school text book and Terry Deary's Horrible Histories series - as much as I am certain Mr Deary would shudder at the thought of any of his books being crossed with a text book. This isn't quite facts, facts and nothing but the facts, it does break things up with humour, but I would describe this as book meant to teach history, unlike Deary's books which I would describe as books which make reading fun, and just happen to inform children on history as well.

This book is a good starting point for children with little or no knowledge of WW2, but can still be both informative and entertaining to a child who has read several previous books on the subject. My overall opinion of this book is quite good. In a very short period of time, a child can develop a very real grasp of the main events of the war. The book gives brief mention to the first world war, and Hitler's role in. I did feel the book made light of the reparations payments forced on Germany, and in an attempt at humour seems to make light of the very real suffering of the German people. I prefer a book that shows both sides. I was taught as a child to always look at things from both sides, and I wish this book did a little bit more of that. I've no sympathy at all for Nazis, but my grandfather, a highly decorated WW2 veteran taught me respect and sympathy for the common people on both sides of any conflict. I have to admit, I really prefer Terry Deary's books in this regard as he is willing to have a dig at anyone and everyone. But don't get me wrong, this is a minor complaint, which would be common to many, if not most children's books on this subject and perhaps something others would take less notice of.

As an adult who grew up on stories of the WW2 and thus developed a considerable interest, I can not honestly say I learned anything new from this book. But my son, who has read a few books on the subject learned a number of things. He was most interested in the invention of radar as a by product of the quest for a Nazi Death Ray weapon. He enjoyed the information on the Battle Of Britain as well, although this was a subject area he was very familiar with. I home educate my sons, and as a book for school, my son really enjoyed this suggesting a 4 star rating. He did not however enjoy it enough to choose this as something to read for pleasure only, as he does with the Horrible Histories books. He enjoyed some of the jokes, but others fell flat and he rolled his eyes a couple of times at the author's attempts to use childish words such as ginormous. I did feel that he tried a bit too hard to relate to children at their own level though, and in some ways, this can come across as condescending. It just did not seem to come naturally, and there were a couple of places where I felt this took from the flow of the story - but not enough to seriously detract from our enjoyment of the book as a whole.

I found the illustrations in this book a bit of a mixed bag. Many are photos from this time period, and it isn't really fair to complain that they are not quite as clear and sharp as those taken with digital cameras today. The rough paper this is printed on also takes something from the resolution, so the pictures do not have the same quality as a a book with glossy pages would have, but overall they are good and the selection is exceptionally good, giving the reader a real sense of Zeitgeist of the era. A few of the cartoons are very, very good. My son especially liked the cartoons of a rhinoceros charging through Europe to illustrate the Nazi advance. He also thought a cartoon of food literally running out was very funny. A few were very quickly and crudely drawn. but I would class most of them as good.

This book does cover the Holocaust. This is a controversial subject for parents of very young children. I do believe school children do need to know this, we all need to remember what happened, the question is at what age should a child learn about the Holocaust? I would not be happy for my 8 year old son to hear all the horrific details just yet. I have read several respected Jewish leaders recommend that children not be taught about the Holocaust before age 8 and many recommend later. I decided to allow my son to read this because he has picked up bits and pieces from other books and war films and asked questions already. The section on the Holocaust is only 3 pages. There are no graphic pictures, but there is a photo of soldiers holding Jewish families at gunpoint and the fear on the young boy at the front of the picture's face is very evident. The fact that millions of people including children were murdered with poison gas was mentioned. My son has asked why - and I haven't any good answers for him. There is also a short section on the nuclear bomb. Again there are no photographs of the effects, only of a mushroom cloud, and the details are not overly graphic, but could still frighten some children. I won't put any age recommendations on this book. I feel that each child is different, and their exposure to information on this topic varies widely so this is a matter for parents to decide, but I feel the reading level of this book is ages 8+ so most children reading this will be able to cope with the limited information provided.

I have listed a few complaints about the book, but overall, I did like the book, as did my son. I would certainly consider another book in this series as part of our home education curriculum and would consider this very useful to supplement a child's history lessons in school or provide material for a report or school project. Although I would not buy this book for an adult, I did enjoy reading it and especially liked browsing through the photos and the information on life on the home home front. This is a book that will be added to our collection and I have no doubts will be read again at some point, and most likely will be read again several times.

If these books appeal then you might also like to try another book by Tony Robinson - Tony Robinson's Weird World of Wonders: Egyptians or,for more on World War II, Put Out The Light by Terry Deary.

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