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~*~ Horrible Histories ~*~
* Horrible Christmas by Terry Deary *
The Horrible Histories series of books were first published in 1993, with the aim of teaching children history by keeping them engaged by their love of all things unpleasant and gory. Deary's books are all amusing first and foremost, and hopefully just by the act of reading, a little of the information will sink in, and this indeed is his whole aim.
With the recognisable tagline 'History with the nasty bits left in', Horrible Christmas covers such things as: how making a Christmas pudding used to be a crime,quizzes to do, plays to act out, and all the festive facts you ever wanted to know but didn't think to ask. This book is updated yearly, and I am reviewing the 2011 version.
* Christmas Carols *
This section is filled with facts, and is stuffed as full as a Christmas turkey.
Good King Wenceslas - Good King Wenceslas was not in fact a king, but a duke, and wasn't famous for collecting firewood for the old people. This was just a story made up in the 1800's, to fit an old tune from the 1300's. Apparently in AD 929, the 22 year old Wenceslas was spreading Christianity throughout Bohemia, his mum and brother didn't like it, and so they chopped poor old Wenceslas to pieces on the doorstep of a church. These are the facts that stick in your mind aren't they?
Hark The Herald Angels Sing - There were no Angels around when Jesus was born. The reporters wrote in Greek of 'angelos' being there. Angelos is not Greek for angels, it means messenger!
We Three Kings of Orient Are...- They were not kings, just wise men, and there were probably not even three. The Bible says, 'Jesus was born in the town of Bethlehem, in Judea, during the time when Herod was king. Soon afterwards 'some men' who studied the stars came from the east....'
This isn't written like a story, or indeed like a list of facts. Among the facts are lovely illustrations, and little fun bits such as jokes, and an alternative version of Good King Wenceslas. It goes like this, Good King Senseless last looked out, On the feast of Stephen; A snowball gave his ear a clout. He cried, 'I will get even'. My daughter thinks these little touches really funny, and while she is reading, you can hear her tittering away to herself. It's lovely when a book can produce an effect like that.
* Christmas History *
In this section there is a timeline from 6 years BC until 1914 and World War One. The most interesting fact (for me) is this section is that most historians favour the fact that Jesus was actually born in 6AD. This is because the Romans did a census every 14 years, so Jesus could only have been born 20BC, 6BC or AD8.
This section has been most helpful in teaching my daughter that while Christmas is indeed traditional, we haven't always celebrated Christmas in this country. Christmas comes and goes, but hopefully the Christmas spirit remains. The most heart warming Christmas fact is when the English and German soldiers met in No Man's Land on Christmas day and had a game of footie. There's hope for the world yet.
There are some quizzes in this book, they aren't there to test how much you have learnt; they are simply there for fun. Questions such as: Put them end to end, and they'd go almost four times around the world. What would? A. Christmas wrapping paper, B. Toilet paper used on Christmas Day, C. Old men pretending to be Father Christmas in shops. The answer is A of course, although I did wonder if it was B. :o)
* Festive Food *
There are sections about food and what was eaten on this special occasion. Did you think that the now popular three bird roast was a new invention? Queen Victoria came up with the suggestion according to this book, and while other rich folk ate steaks from deer, the servants got to eat 'Umble pie'. This was made from chopped beef, oysters, bacon, rabbit, dried fruit and pastry. Yum this sounds delicious - not. It just sounds like leftovers made into a pie, to me.
* Santa Secrets *
For those of us with little ones who still 'believe'. There are several pages covering the story of St Nicholas, and how he felt pity on a father with three daughters. They were very poor, so he gave them some gold. That was the beginning of Christmas how we now know it. It also explains that Santa's visit wasn't always the excting thing it is today, and how the Dutch Santa (Sinter Klaas) had a friend called Black Peter, who carried a whip with him so he could whip the kids who'd been naughty. There isn't anything in this section that would confirm that Santa isn't 'real', which was my primary concern. My daughter who is eight, still believes, and so I had the lovely job of reading this book before passing it on. Oh the hardship.
* My Thoughts *
This book is a total mine of information about Christmas, some fun, and some a bit gross and distasteful. The whole book is a great learning tool, and makes a refreshing change from learning about periods of history, such as Romans, Aztecs and Victorians which cover a span of years; as this book is specific to the Christmas period through the ages.
Deary has a wonderful talent of immersing the reader in the period of time he is writing about. Usually his books don't include dates, as we usually know the Romans and Victorians etc are from such a such year, to so and so year. As the period of time is so specific year upon year, he has obviously had to add dates to this book. I do think this is a great learning aid, as it helps the reader to visualise better.
This is a fun book that my daughter has really enjoyed this Christmas period; and so have all the adults in our home. This is a funny book that grabs you and won't let you put it down until it's been read from cover to cover. Recommended by both my daughter and me - it's great fun.
* Other Information *
Availble from WHS for £7.09
Available today Amazon at a whopping £48.10 (at that price don't bother).
Thank you for reading my review, which may also be posted on other sites, under the same username.