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When I was at school I did not have the faintest interest in History lessons, mainly due to the teacher not making the lessons exciting or informative. As I have matured I have developed a keen interest in all things historical and dreaded the thought that my children would find the subject boring if they too had a disinterested teacher. However, all of my children seem to find the subject fascinating, and devour books avidly when they contain anything historical.
We discovered the Horrible History books some years ago when my eldest son was about five. They offer an offbeat look at periods through History, with stories told in an amusing and entertaining way, which appeals to children.
Horrible Histories have now developed a magazine collection, which is published every two weeks, costing £1.99. As soon as it was advertised on the TV, we placed an order at the newsagent, and now collect our copy each fortnight. The magazines are based on the Horrible History books, written by Terry Deary, and are illustrated by Martin Brown.
The magazines tell stories of different ages through history, each week focussing on a different time period and gives them snappy titles, such as “The Groovy Greeks”, “Horrible Henry”, “Mummy Mania”, “The Measly Middle Ages”, and so forth. These titles appeal to children, and encourage them to take an interest in History, without even knowing they are doing so.
The magazines are produced on thick paper and contain approximately 23-25 pages per issue. The quality of the paper is most beneficial, as it is ideal for children who will read them not just once, but who will also refer to them during their education.
The front cover of each magazine depicts a cartoon picture of a scene pertaining to the history period featured in that issue, and is always of a comical nature, featuring speech bubbles with funny quotes.
Each magazine is aimed at a different time in history and has different sections.
TERRIBLE TIMES *************
The “Terrible Times” section features a story in comic strip style, and tells the reader about a historical figure from the era in question. The story is a three page spread and always contains a title that will make the children laugh, for instance in the “Angry Aztecs” issue, this section is entitled “Cactus if you can”.
WHO’S WHO? ***********
”Who’s Who?” is another three page spread and in each issue focuses on a particular person from the historical era featured in that magazine. Origins of names are explained, and there are normally a couple of cartoons featured in the section. The “Horrible Happenings” section relates a custom of the era, which today would be deemed strange, such as when Hernan Cortes met with the Aztecs. The Aztec steward cut himself with a dagger, and offered the Spaniards his blood on straws. The Spanish were disgusted, but as this was a custom of the Aztecs, there was no reason for them to feel this way. Stories such as this appeal greatly to my children, and is one of the reasons that these magazines are so well thumbed.
FRONT PAGE NEWS ****************
This page, as suggested by its title, is set out as though from a newspaper of the time. For example, in the edition featuring The Aztecs, one of the articles advertises the sale of gold nose, ear and lip plugs in the local market. The advertisement advises Aztecs that if they are common, they will not be allowed to purchase gold, and if they are seen wearing any, the offence is punishable by death.
PETRIFYING PLACES ****************
This section deals with landmarks of the time, e.g. Tower of London and covers two pages. A large picture with some very funny scenes is captioned and labelled detailing the place in question. There is also a written section detailing places of the time, and the Tower where Henry VIII beheaded many people has always been of great interest to my children.
LIFE AND STRIFE **************
The section is devoted to the day to day life of the period and also delves into the reasons behind “Rotten Rules” and “Loony Laws” of the times. The section also has articles on games that the people in this era would have played, as well as how children were treated. My children have read some of the stories here, wide eyed, as they have learned of the awful lives of children throughout History.
AWESOME ACTIVITIES ******************
No magazine is complete without a puzzle section, and “Horrible Histories” provides two pages in each issue. However, although the puzzles feature matching puzzles, quizzes, and crosswords relating to articles in that particular magazine, there are also some fun ideas, such as how to do some Aztec maths, using the dots and dashes from the Aztec Age. All answers are at the bottom of the page, but we always cover these up so there can be no cheating.
FREE GIFTS *********
Horrible Histories of course contains free gifts with some of the issues. In an early issue, we received an attractive tin, which holds the Wild and Wicked Card collection, included in the price of the magazine. The cards are index sized and partitions are supplied with the tin, which divide the cards into segments, such as “Rotten Rulers”, “Death and Disaster” and Kooky & Spooky”. Each card contains some handy facts about different historical figures, and provide an interesting referencing tool for the child, as well as having a small quiz on the back of each card.
A display case was issued with the second publication of the magazine, which had to be assembled into an upright box type folder. A wonderful idea, as the magazines are then kept together, and not left lying at different places all over the house.
There is also a hard-backed timeline folder to collect which is set into sections, Sinister 16th Century, Scandalous 17th Century, Measly Middle Ages, Terrible 20th Century etc. The folder sets out important dates in History, and comical cartoon pictures accompany some of the listings.
My children both love the magazine and it has been far more helpful than any reference book with their history homework. It is interesting, and is written in such an amusing way, that it will keep children and adults enthralled for hours.
We shall definitely keep these for the grandchildren. If you have not seen the magazines in your newsagent, go and place an order. Your children will thank you for it.
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