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Who doesn't like a nice comic, eh? There's something so accessible about the lovely picture and text combos, and facts are far from dull when they come via speech bubbles, don't you think? Taking full advantage of this fact, Sally Kindberg and Tracey Turner have, for some time, been creating factual books for children which pass on their insight and Important Information through the medium of comics. Now for the first time, you can collect 3 of their titles in one simple volume. Combining the previous released "History of the World" and "History of Space" with the "Greatest Greek Myths".
The books aren't abridged, or combined in any way, they're just stuck one after another. We start with the world history, taking us from woolly mammoths to the (latest) Iraq war, via revolutions, plagues and every other cool thing the past had to offer. In Space we start in the past which says probably a Big Bang...but there could be other explanations. We name names, quote speeches and end up, to quote Buzz (Lightyear not Aldrin), looking at infinity and beyond. And, then it's time for a break from reality and a look at some good old fashioned myths and legends including Troy (of both Helen and Horse fame), Midas and she of snake haired notoriety, Medusa.
You might not expect it from a comic book, but each title has a good contents section so you can skip to the thing you need to know about if you're using this as a revision for school rather than a thorough read through. They're more surface level than in depth facts but they give a good overview (and you try condensing a few billion years of history into a manageable 80 pages). For example, it mentions the Vietnam war without giving any details of when it started or how long it lasted, or what it was all about, but from the sequential order of the book you can figure out it was post-WW2 and pre-Gulf, and for greater detail you could always look for a book dedicated more specifically to the subject.
The useful facts are of course combined with some delightful illustrations with not a bad level of detail. The colour scheme is basic, but it works. Each book has a limited pallet, so red, white and black for the History of the World, a delightful sky blue with white and black for Space, and finally a return to red (blood red, no doubt) for the Greek Myths. The recognizable comic strip style is there, but they don't look too babyish, and considering you can have 9 or more 'events' on any one page, they make a good job of packing a lot in to each little comic square.
This is a gem of a book: something that children will want to read, and parents will want them to read. It is fun and light and has lots of child-friendly sound-effects (biff, ow, hiss) but it is subtly educating in an osmosis sort of way - you learn things without thinking you've been studying, you spend a morning lapping it up without feeling you've been deprived of a bit of play time. It's also not too big and bulky - impressive since it contains three separate books, but ideal for smaller hands who aren't quite up to the Encyclopaedia Britannica sized tomes at bedtime. At the same time, it's sturdily bound which is excellent for a quasi-reference book that you can read as one but also use to look up certain things time and again.
If you already own any of the contents it's probably not worth getting this one because it is just a reprint of the 3 titles which are available separately, but if the series is new to you, this bumper volume means that whatever fact or figure or piece of information you need, you'll have it at your fingertips. Handy and fun, so two very enthusiastic thumbs up.
This review first appeared on www.thebookbag.co.uk where you can also find individual reviews of 2 of the books in this set.
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