Solve the ancient mysteries

4th September 1998 at 01:00
Mystery History series. Viking Longboat. Medieval Castle. Pharoah's Tomb. Roman Colosseum. Pirate Galleon. The Trojan Horse. AladdinWatts Pounds 8.99 each

Where's Wally meets national curriculum history was my first reaction to this series. I was hit by a blaze of colour, action, activities, puzzles, characters and challenges. All these elements combine in the Mystery History series to pull the young reader into interesting historical stories in a truly interactive way.

The first spread explains the topic and gives instructions on how to move through the book. These have to be followed carefully and some younger readers might find this daunting. Once this is accomplished, however, the spreads are well laid out and informative.

The main picture and text are surrounded by questions and answers, puzzles, "true or false", and "hidden history" (spot the anachronisms).

One enjoyable device used throughout the series is theinvitation to pupils to "hunt" the traitor, spy or thief. By answering questions on thetext correctly, the reader gradually gathers clues as to the suspect's identity. I enjoyed seeing all of them lined up at the end of the book in "identity parade" style.

This series is a refreshing attempt to interest readers in history in a lively and challenging way. Although the main text is for more confident readers, the games, puzzles and good humour will involve pupils of all abilities.

One or two minor criticisms: the maps at the front of the book are too small, and some of the artwork is of variable quality.

Also, a "further information" section would have been welcome so that all those hooked "mystery historians" would be able to carry on researching.

Peter Hicks

Peter Hicks teaches history and archeology at a south London comprehensive

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