So You Think You’ve Got it Bad: A Kid’s Life in the Aztec Age

So You Think You’ve Got it Bad: A Kid’s Life in the Aztec Age
Chae Strathie and Marisa Morea
Nosy Crow

This the latest in an excellent fun history series written by the award winning Chae Strathie and developed in consultations with British Museum experts, reveals what it was really like to be a child in the Aztec age..
Covering the topics one’s come to expect of the series – clothing and hairstyles, education, diet, the home, family life, health and medicine as well as some you might not, such as human sacrifice (it could happen just for being a member of a losing team), this truly is horrible history made highly visual.

Imagine – or preferably don’t unless you want to puke – being fed maggots, tadpoles, lizards and the like, or a cake made with blue green algae containing masses of water fly eggs – gross! It wasn’t all revolting though; there were occasional tomatoes and beans. This vegan reviewer would surely have gone hungry much of the time.

Can you contemplate being stretched by the neck in a special ceremony every four years – a very strange way to demonstrate parental love but it happened; and then being likened to jade, a precious gem stone: talk about mixed messages.

As for schooling, modern youngsters might love the idea of not starting school until you’re in your teens, but it happened to Aztec children, who were home schooled up until then – sounds familiar! As does the dual system of one kind of school for the rich, another for the poorer families.

When I taught KS2 classes, children were always especially fascinated by the Aztecs and I have no doubt if I’d had this book there would have been a queue of eager readers waiting to get their hands on it. Marisa Morea brings all the gory details to life in her wealth of illustrations that illuminate the text.

So You Think You’ve Got it Bad? A kid’s life in Ancient Rome

So You Think You’ve Got It Bad? A kid’s life in Ancient Rome
Chae Strathie and Marisa Morea
Nosy Crow

Imagine having your pet parrot or fish ending up in the cooking pot, or being sold as a slave to cook for richer neighbours.

How would you feel if you had a headache and the remedy was finding an elephant to touch your head with its trunk and hoping it sneezed a trunkful of snot right at you?

Or worse perhaps, if you were a boy you’d have to go to school every single day of the week (except holidays) and anyone who made more than the occasional mistake in class, would be held down by a couple of slaves while the teacher beat you with a leather whip: scary or what?

Alarm bells ringing I suspect, but this is just a small glimpse of what life was like for children in Ancient Rome that is provided in this fascinating book. There’s a section on clothing, hairstyles and make-up – supposing your mum used bear fat to make her hair grow, or pigeon poop to lighten it?

Other sections include food, family life, the home, gods, fun and games – yes there were some,

gladiators and emperors. And there’s a final glossary and index.

High on entertainment for sure, but also high on information of the accessible sort, this book published in association with the British Museum and with an abundance of amusing illustrations by Marisa Morea, is definitely one for primary school classes and individuals interested in ancient times.

So You Think You’ve Got It Bad? A Kid’s Life in Ancient Greece

So You Think You’ve Got It Bad? A Kid’s Life in Ancient Greece
Chae Strathie and Marisa Morea
Nosy Crow

Chae Strathie knows just how to make history interesting and fun for children as he demonstrates in his latest So You Think You’ve Got It Bad title published in collaboration with The British Museum.

The first topic (of ten) Clothes and Hairstyles contains some tasty or perhaps rather yucky, snippets of information such as the fact that one source of purple clothes dye was insect larva (maggots to most of us); though actually, yellow was a favourite with girls.

Suppose you were a boy in Ancient Greece; you’d wear merely a short tunic; yes it was probably pretty warm much of the time but even so a sudden gust of wind, especially in winter, would probably expose your nether regions. Brrrr!
Moreover, young men training in the gymnasium or participating in a sporting event did so in the altogether and it was considered absolutely normal so to do.

Young girls fared slightly better; they too wore only a single garment – an ankle length dress called a peplos but at least it was belted.

Zips or buttons hadn’t been invented although people used brooches, pins, cord or belts as fasteners.

Girls had a pretty grim time of it back then and female babies were often left to die on account of the dowry system, which meant that it could cost parents a fortune when a girl married, something that could happen as young as thirteen and to a complete stranger.

Girls fared badly too when it came to education: boys went to school when they were seven but girls –rich ones only – were home educated, the focus being how to run a home.

Inequality was everywhere with slaves making up around a third of the population of Athens.

Talking of education, tablets were used for note taking in lessons – no not the electronic kind; these were made of wax-covered wood on which you wrote with a stick-like stylus.  Sticks were employed for another reason too – for beating those boys who didn’t learn quickly enough in class. Yeouch!

Pets were popular with families with snakes, goats, swans, ducks and geese numbering among the favourites along with dogs (the very favourite). Try taking geese out for a walk!

Oh my goodness! Even the homes of the very richest were without a loo. Imagine having to poo in a pot every single day. No thanks. There’s even a depiction on a painted vase of a small boy sitting having a dump on a tall potty-like object that apparently doubled as a high chair. Hygienic it surely wasn’t.

The largest room in a typical Greek house was devoted to partying – men only again. Female readers are probably fuming by this time.

Health and medicine introduces physician Hippocrates, often called the founder of modern medicine but before he came along much of ancient Greek medicine relied on magical prayers and charms.

Diet, myths and legends, ancient gods and fun and games complete the thematic sections.

The layout of almost every spread differs with information presented in paragraphs of text, in speech bubbles, via diagrams, and through Marisa Morea’s amusing illustrations, which make the book even more engaging.

Readers will surely finish reading this with a big smile and almost without noticing will have gained insights into an important ancient civilisation as well as a greater appreciation of their own lives today.

The Colours of History / So You Think Yo’ve Got It Bad? A Kid’s Life in Ancient Egypt

The Colours of History
Clive Gifford and Marc-Etienne Peintre
QED

There have been several books on the theme of colour recently: now here is one that takes a historical approach with the subtitle ‘How Colours Shaped the World’.

After an introduction to the world of colour, there are five main sections: Yellows (which includes orange), Reds, taking in ‘Mummy Brown’), Purples, Blues, Greens and then a spread on ‘Colours that made their mark’ that looks at
kohl black, graphite, lime and lead wash.

Over twenty colours – divided into shades – are explored with each different shade being allocated a double spread that includes an arresting illustration by Marc-Etienne Peintre, related historical facts, associated symbolism and often, a relevant quote. There is also an introductory paragraph for each colour group supplying connotative meanings.

Did you know that the predominant colour of the prehistoric Lascaux Cave paintings was yellow ochre,

or that saffron comes from a particular crocus species grown mainly in Spain and Iran?
Or that cochineal, still used in some lipsticks, is actually a tiny insect that when crushed, yields a scarlet colour due to the carminic acid it carries to protect itself from predatory ants?

One of my favourite blues, ultramarine, is made by grinding one of my favourite semi-precious gemstones lapis lazuli – a fact I knew, but I was intrigued to learn that the artist Vermeer’s heavy use of the colour in his paintings left him heavily in debt when he died.

This inviting and rewarding book will be of particular interest to those with a liking for art or history and is well worth adding to a primary school library.

So You Think You’ve Got It Bad? A Kid’s life in Ancient Egypt
Chae Strathie and Marisa Morea
Nosy Crow

Guaranteed to bring on giggles galore is this look at ancient history Egyptian style published in collaboration with the British Museum. It presents history like you’ve never seen or even imagined it before – from the children’s viewpoint.

A variety of topics is covered – clothing and hairstyles, family life, the home, work – parents introduced the idea of work to their offspring at an early age.

There are sections on education – formal school outside the home was mostly only for boys and rich ones at that, and  diet – raw cabbage was a popular starter and pigeons were often served (along with geese, ducks and oxen if you were well off)

and even children drank beer back in those days.

Medicine and health – apparently the mother of a sick child might eat a mouse and then put its bones in a bag and dangle it around the child’s neck to effect a cure; protection and gods, and fun and games are also explored. Popular pastimes for the young included swimming, boating and games by the river, although, you had to keep a watch out for hungry crocs or hippos. Ball games were often played too, though not football, and the balls were made from papyrus or leather stuffed with straw.

Humorously illustrated with a multitude of labels and speech bubbles, and packed with fascinating facts, yes it’s light-hearted, but children will absorb a lot of information from this unashamedly zany book.