Awful Egyptians (Horrible Histories) by Terry Deary

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Awful Egyptians (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: Brilliant jokes and stories, but enough history that almost anyone can learn something. Gruesome, rude and disgusting, this book will entertain as much as it educates.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 232 Date: February 2013
Publisher: Scholastic
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-1407135755

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Facts, facts and nothing but the facts - if this is your idea of a history book - stop right here. Terry Deary's Horrible Histories do contain facts, in a well laid out easy to follow manner. But Terry Deary did not intend to write the Horrible History as history books, but rather as joke books. They may have ended up with far more history than he originally intended, but they remain a collection of amusing stories and jokes, rather than a collection of dry facts. Deary never intended his books to be used to teach history - in fact the mere mention of this really sets him off. He set out to write books that children wanted to read, books that are both engaging and entertaining, and whether he intended it as such or not - he has created a series which truly engages boys long before this concept became popular. Very few children pick up a book because they want to learn about history. Children pick up Deary's books because he speaks directly to them, not in the language of authority and the adult world, but in a as co-conspirator. They read his books because they are fun, but because he makes history both entertaining and relevant to them, they actually do learn this as well. What's more, they remember it unlike the facts they might memorise for a history quiz.

Awful Egyptians is one of our favourite books in this series. Almost all children find ancient Egypt fascinating. This contains plenty of material on the pyramids and the making of Mummys, as well as explaining why Egyptians preserved their dead in this way. The facts on the pyramids were more limited - and consisted largely of debunking a few well known theories. Exactly how were the pyramids built? Deary doesn't know either, but at least he makes no pretences. Other sections mention different Pharaohs, Egyptian Gods, the army and tomb robbing. The section on work also includes education and Egyptian school teachers are held up to ridicule along with their modern equivalent. There is also a wonderful story told in comic strip illustrations which is similar in many ways to the Trojan Horse.

The favourite chapter by far for both of my children however was the section on Egyptian medicine. This was truly disgusting with plenty of emphasis on poo and the most revolting cure for a toothache imaginable. But in addition to all the disgusting bits, Deary describes some treatments which do work and explains exactly why. My favourite however, was the chapter on King Tut, which has considerable detail on curses as well. I liked this chapter because it doesn't just tell children the facts - it encourages them to look at them objectively and use their critical thinking skills.

The book is written as combination of narrative, illustration and mini quizzes. At times I thought there were perhaps a few too many quizzes, but I have to admit, the children had fun with a few. Despite this fact, I really enjoyed this book. I do enjoy history and read a fair amount, but I always learn something new from Deary's books. One of the best things about this book is it completely accessible to a young child with no prior knowledge of history at all, but can still educate as well as entertain an adult with a serious interest in history. Even if you already know the facts, Deary may just encourage you to look at them in a new way.

I will caution that this book includes a fair amount of death, and of course some extremely gruesome bits. I do not recommend this for sensitive children. There are also some parts which might offend religious adults - especially one section where Deary claims the bible is wrong. This book is not recommended for sensitive adults either. I don't agree with Deary on everything, but I have to give him this - he writes books children want to read. In fact my son had barely finished this one before we going online to order another.

If this bok appeals then we can also recommend Measly Middle Ages also by Terry Deary and The Comic Strip History of the World by Sally Kindberg and Tracey Turner.

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Buy Awful Egyptians (Horrible Histories) by Terry Deary at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Awful Egyptians (Horrible Histories) by Terry Deary at


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