Tuesday, October 14, 2008

One Shelf at a Time - Shelf 6

The left hand side of the next shelf has a rather random selection of workbooks, textbooks and oddments that don't belong anywhere else - Key Stage 3 science and maths, thinking skills, and Dinah Zike's Big Book of Books are there among other miscellaneous stuff. The rest of the shelf, like the three below it, hold my collection of children's history books. The narrative history books in particularly are now quite shamelessly my collection. I am under no illusions that my unhistorically minded children will ever read them (unless Little Cherub turns out quite different to her sisters), but I love old books that tell history as a story and have managed to find a number of gems over the years.

The history section of this shelf contains about a dozen DK Eyewitness books, DK's 20th Century Day by Day (large!), and some historical literature - Norse Myths by Kevin Crossley-Holland, a collection of Robin Hood stories, Gilgamesh the King and The Canterbury Tales, both retold by Geraldine MacCaughrean. There are also two five volume series covering British history at different levels:

Oxford Junior History by Roy Burrell (vols. 1 to 3) and Peter and Mary Speed (vols. 4 & 5) is out of print but quite easy to find used. Meant for ages 7 to 11, the volumes increase in difficulty, with the last having significantly longer text and smaller print than the first. There are plenty of pictures, but the text is lively enough to stand alone. The books have less of a narrative story than H.E.Marshall's Our Island Story, but they make a good introduction to British history.

The Young Oxford History of Britain and Ireland is more suitable for older children (age 10 and up), and is in my opinion the best up-to-date introduction to British history available for children. In fact, it would make a pretty good and readable introduction for adults. It is still in print, as both a single volume, or broken up into five smaller books - this is the version I have, bought as a cheap package from The Book People. Each of the five sections is written by an expert in the period, meeting Charlotte Mason's criteria that children should read books written by authors who love their subject and can bring it alive. Children's history books tend to lag behind modern scholarship, but this one doesn't - or at least, it didn't when it was first published ten or so years ago.

My third book choice for this shelf is something a little different:

Mathematics Encyclopedia by Leslie Foster. I love books like this which make maths interesting. It begins with sections on the history of counting and number systems and goes on to cover topics ranging from the sieve of Eratosthenes and the Moebius strip to base systems ("How does an octopus count?") and golden rectangles. I think this book would be a wonderful resource to use for putting together Waldorf style "main lessons". Unfortunately it is out of print.

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