Wednesday, 5 November 2014

History and Mystery - our top ten Non-Fiction history books to celebrate National Non Fiction Month

Join us and celebrate National Non-Fiction November!

It's National Non-Fiction November and we've been asked by the awesome Zoe over at PlayingByTheBook if we'd like to take part - and what better day to do so than a day steeped in historical meaning, the 5th of November! Charlotte is a huge history nut, and so am I, so we thought we'd share with you some of our favourite non-fiction / history books (though notably there seems to be a HUGE gap in the market for bonfire-night-based books). 

Charlotte has chosen 5 and I've chosen 5, so ladies first...

Charlotte's favourite non-fiction / history books!

"Lift the Flap" books aren't just for babies, and Usborne's fantastic "See Inside" range is a range we return to again and again. Piquing a child's curiosity by allowing them to explore various historical scenes, with the slow-reveal of uncovering hidden elements on the page really feeds their imaginations and provides more engagement with the subject matter.

In this awesome book from Rob Lloyd Jones and David Hancock, we can explore everything from egyptian pyramids, grand houses and even tombs! We love the astonishing attention to detail here, and the cheeky humour in places too!

Excellent presentation and fascinating subject matter marks out this potted history of how children lived in Victorian Times. Home life and school life are examined, and Charlotte was fascinated by how rapid change during Queen Victoria's reign gave children the chance to gain an education and find their way in the world without being thrown into work at an early age. 

With colour illustrations and great photographs from the era, Charlotte often hunts out books about the Victorian era as one of her favourite periods of history. 

When we visited the Museum of London, we found out a great deal about the Plague of 1665 and the Great Fire of London in 1666. Afterwards we spent a lot of time looking at lots of different books on the subject and this fantastic Franklin Watts book from the "Ways into History" range stood out as one of the better books on the subject. Packed with illustrations and paintings from the time, with documentary accounts from famous figures who lived through both the Plague and the Great Fire (including, of course, Samuel Pepys), this is a really fantastic resource for children who are interested in the great fire, or perhaps are studying the period at school. Though it looks deceptively 'dry' it's fascinating and absorbing. 

Some might argue that "Horrible Histories" has a lot to answer for, and that 'dumbing down' history by making it gross or funny isn't really the right approach to build tomorrow's budding historians. We disagree entirely - and if there's one sure fire way to engage children with non-fiction subjects, it's by tickling their ribs as well as their frontal lobes!

The Salariya range of children's titles is utterly fantastic, in particular the "You Wouldn't Want to Be" series which digs out tons of fascinating facts, and splices them with humorous illustrations throughout. We particularly loved "You wouldn't want to be an Egyptian Mummy" and "You wouldn't want to be married to King Henry VIII" as two of the best in the range. 

We love love LOVE this book! Marcia Williams' history books are always full of exquisite little details and nuggets of information - and we love her crazy margin characters that usually pepper her books. 

Inventions and inventors are fascinating to kids, who often dream up their own crazy gadgets and contraptions - dreaming of becoming the next Edison or Watt. A great book to let your children tuck themselves away with, storing up tons of groovy facts to share with you later on. 

And now, five from me!

I can't resist Usborne's books in general, but I truly madly deeply love their art series including this absolute corker, "The Usborne Introduction to Modern Art" which delves into the oft misunderstood world of innovative and amazing art. 

The book is sumptuously illustrated (as you'd probably have guessed) and examines some of the most famous works, the processes involved in producing them, and the astonishing artists who truly broke the mould with their paintings, sculptures and installations. 

One we've gone back to again and again!

This is a bit of a cheat for our non-fiction section as it's a finely tuned balanced of fiction and non-fiction. Taking place in a mysterious museum, it's a book that urges you to choose your own path through an adventure involving observation skills and numeracy by getting children to solve various puzzles along the way. 

It's a fascinating approach to the age-old problem of improving children's engagement with subjects like maths and history, and one that has huge potential for really immersing kids in a bit of surreptitious learning through enjoyment and 'play'.

A story so amazing that you'd almost question whether it's fiction or non-fiction, but given respect and due homage here in John Hendrix's account of the Christmas Truce of 1914, happening in the early days of World War 1. A touching story of hope and love, unfolding in one of the most devastating conflicts the world has ever seen. Utterly gorgeously illustrated, and using real-life accounts to set the scene, this is a very special book and one of the best books on the subject we've seen in this centenary year of the outbreak of the first world war.

More fantastic art history here, with an innovative approach to introducing children to the world of art. "My Very First Sticker Art Gallery" looks at some of the most famous artworks throughout various art movements and artistic eras, stretching way way back in time and coming bang up to date with the present day. 

Younger children will (of course) enjoy sticking down over 260 stickers to fill in the gaps in the book's 'gallery' layouts, and older children will love reading some of the fascinating facts and figures surrounding these great works of art. A brilliant idea, and a brilliant book!

This is truly something really special! A historical account of the cross-polar journey of Sir Ernest Henry Shackleton and his team, written and illustrated by William Grill in a luxuriously glorious book from Flying Eye. 

Starting right from the origins of the Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition, and showing the sheer effort involved in gathering together explorers and resources for the mission itself, it's a truly amazing slice of history wrapped in one of the most attractive children's books we've ever seen. 

Everyone we've shown it to or shared it with has gone out and bought their own copy, testament to just how fantastic this book is and what a great treatment of the expedition William has managed to produce. 

We hope you've enjoyed our round-up of history books! Please do stop by the It's National Non-Fiction November Website for more brilliant book ideas, and once again many thanks to Zoe for including us in the blog tour!