Visiting the Past series

2nd June 2000 at 01:00
VISITING THE PAST SERIES:Carisbrooke Castle. The Acropolis. Auschwitz. Hadrian's Wall. By Jane Shuter. Pompeii and Herculaneum. By John and Elizabeth Seely. Valley of the Kings. By Rob Alcraft. Heinemann Library. pound;9.99 each.

This is a very impressive package for upper juniors or lower secondary pupils - I would recommend all six titles for any school library.

The illustrations are excellent. Mostly photographic and specially commissioned, they give a perspective on the chosen sites that is often both original and revealing. The reading of the ruins of Carisbrooke Castle is greatly enhanced by the photographs. Little touches, such as the positioning of a man by a wall to confirm the statement that "the walls were still too high for attackers to get up easily", ensure that maximum use is made of them.

"From the Acropolis, people could see the countryside all around," says the text in Acrpolis. The photographs then show us the view. The volume on Auschwitz uses photographs to help us read the historical site in a factual and analytical way. That said, anyone not emotionally stirred by the evidence - the personal belongings of the dead inmates, faded and thrown together - must have a heart of stone.

The books are crafted according to the correct formula - each has a contents list, index, and glossary - and there is little design innovation as each book is effectively a series of double-page spreads. But everything is done with consummate competence - a plan or map with a timeline completes the nuts and bolts of the series.

As for the writing, it is direct and uncomplicated, and one can clearly hear the author's voice. One of the reasons why the series should have appeal across a wide age-range is that the authors do not talk down to their readers.

Paul Noble

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