Attention grabbing reads

21st February 2003 at 00:00
Lively books for primary pupils...

Teachers' fees and status were low...only a minority of children learned to read and write." Not modern England, but Ancient Greece.

Focusing on primary sources, the comprehensively illustrated People in the Past series (key stages 2 and 3) highlights our debt to Greek civilisation, and is full of enjoyable insights. For instance, women were reputedly more emotional and prone to wild behaviour than men ("Medea! Where are the kids?") and only barbarians drank beer - Greeks were proud wine drinkers.

None more so than Socrates, one of the Famous Ancient Greeks, who could drink and think his contemporaries under the table. The worksheets are of the "do further research" or "decorate this photocopy of an urn" variety.

Gods and Goddesses is divinely illustrated and omniscient in detail, relating myth and belief to everyday life, while An Ancient Greek Temple is packed with minutely detailed illustrations and facts in a layout that has boy appeal.

Imagine "Rough Guide" meets "Horrible History" for a flavour of Adventures in Ancient Greece. In lively comic strip style, the Binkerton children are transported back in time where, among other revelations, they see that the original Olympic athletes competed naked. No getting off PE by "forgetting" your kit, then.

"Pour in more urine!" Not the cry from a disgruntled waiter to the chef, but a slave preparing new cloth, from Look Inside a Roman Villa. The present tense opening to each chapter adds immediacy to this fun and informative book.

For a one-volume whistle-stop tour of world history from cave dwellers to the fall of Rome, try the richly illustrated Kingfisher Book of the Ancient World, taking in all the major civilisations along the way, including those of India and Africa.

Gold: a Treasure Hunt Through Time follows a nugget from the earth's origins to modern day New York, in a lyrical, concise and compelling narrative.

Finally, did you know the wages of the surviving crew were calculated and paid only up to the minute the Titanic sank? This sort of "factoid" coupled with picture book format and humour will ensure that the Danger Zone series should appeal to reluctant readers.

Kevin Harcombe is headteacher of Redlands Primary School, Fareham, Hants

PEOPLE IN THE PAST SERIES. Ancient Greek Children. By Richard Tames. ANCIENT GREEK HOMES, WOMEN, JOBS, WAR AND WEAPONS. By Haydn Middleton. Heinemann, pound;11.50 each or pound;54.63 for five

FAMOUS ANCIENT GREEKS: learning from the lives of key thinkers. By Joy A Palmer. Questions Publishing, pound;15.99


A ROMAN VILLA. By Richard Dargie. Hodder Wayland, pound;4.99 each

GODS AND GODDESSES IN THE DAILY LIFE OF...SERIES VIKINGS. By Jen Green. ANCIENT GREEKS. By Fiona Macdonald. ANCIENT EGYPTIANS. By Henrietta McCall. ANCIENT ROMANS. By Peter Hicks. Wayland, pound;5.99 each

PINPOINTS: an Ancient Greek temple. By John Malam and Mark Bergin. Hodder, pound;5.99

THE KINGFISHER BOOK OF THE ANCIENT WORLD. By Hazel Mary Martell. Kingfisher, pound;16.99

GOOD TIMES TRAVEL AGENCY SERIES. Adventures in Ancient Greece. By Linda Bailey and Bill Slavin. A amp; C Black, pound;9.99

GOLD: a Treasure Hunt Through Time. By Stephen Biesty and Meredith Hooper. Hodder, pound;14.99

DANGER ZONE SERIES. Avoid Becoming an Aztec Sacrifice! By Fiona MacDonald and David Antram. Avoid Sailing on the Titanic. By David Stewart and David Antram. Bookhouse, pound;5.99 each

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