Lady J gets the chop - read all about it!

22nd December 2000 at 00:00
WHO's WHO IN BRITISH HISTORY. WHO'S WHO IN SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY. By Bob Fowke. Hodder Children's Books pound;5.99 each.

These are very friendly biographical dictionaries. Easy to read and to find your way around, they are also easy to handle and will fit into any schoolbag or bedroom bookshelf. The writing is chattily familiar in a tabloid style, with the merit of accessibility even if it favours the sensational.

Lady Jane was only 17 when "she had her head chopped off", Pitt died during a speech against "Britain's toffee-nosed behaviour towards her American colonists", and so on.Inevitably, when the writer simplifies judgments about people, he falls into the error of distortion and half-truth. However, these books have no great pretensions to academic perfection, even if a little more academic rigour would not have gone amiss.

But if we forget about rigour and enjoy the fun then these books work really well. I liked the concise, humorous and frequently alliterative summaries given in the headings - Samuel Crompton was the "inventor who could spin a yarn". You get the idea.

Paul Noble is head of St Andrew's primary school, Blunsdon, Wiltshire

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