Old, the front page

4th September 1998 at 01:00
The Stone Age News. By Fiona MacDonald.

The Viking News. By Rachel Wright. Walker Books Pounds 10.99 each

Stone Age Sentinel. By Fergus Fleming and Paul Dowswell. Usborne Publishing Pounds 4.50.

The Stone Age News and The Viking News are new additions to the excellent (if pricey) History News series. They offer the content you would find in traditional information books, written in an "on-the-spot reporter" style, with the text directed at teaching nine to 13-year-olds.

The Stone Age Sentinel deals with similar issues to The Stone Age News, but its text is much more lively. Why did Homo sapiens replace Neanderthal man? The News gives three theories and an "Editor's note" while the Sentinel interviews "beetle-browed" Neanderthal Grr Ngg who explains: "Hom sap can say things like 'Hello gorgeous, how about a date?' All we can do is grunt a bit and make vivid hand signals."

Anachronisms run amok in the Sentinel. Asia is reported as offering a nice climate, plenty of food and "the opportunity to become Chinese and invent practically everything before anyone else". By contrast Europe is a cultural desert: "no croissants, no fancy pasta shapes, no cute little cities, no castles and no scandal-prone royal families." And that is the worry, as well as the delight - will pupils know when the jokes end and the truth begins?

John D Clare

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