Celtic History Books For Children

History Book Reviews

The following Celtic History Books are suitable for Primary School aged children. You can view Celtic History Books by category on our Amazon UK Astore. 

Celts (Usborne Beginners) by Leonie Pratt

This is a very refreshing book aimed at the younger reader up to about 7 years old. The Celts is beautifully produced by Usbourne and English Heritage. I recommend the hard back version as it will get plenty of use.

What undoubtedly makes this book appeal to the younger reader is the accompaniment of excellent cartoon style pictures. These really capture the colourful nature of Celtic life and warfare and make it accessible to young minds. The illustrations kept the attention of my four year old son and he asked lots of questions about them which led to us reading the text. It is packed with simple statements, about the Celts, which a beginner needs to know.

The format is simple and uncluttered and the photographs which are included are well chosen and more obvious because they only appear on every other page.

I think that this is the sort of book which will turn a younger child onto history. This is the most popular book sold on this website and it is my son's favourite too!

History book review: Nigel Cross 16/11/07

Boudicca (Famous People, Famous Lives) by Emma Fischel

This book provides a good introduction for younger children (K.S.2) learning about Boudicca and her tribes revolt against the Romans. It is one of the best selling books on our website.

The text is at the right level for children up to about eight years old. The information presented in the book is enough to tell the basic story. It's told in the style of a story and the author puts words in the mouths of Boudicca, her subjects and the Romans. The Roman writer Tacitus told the story in a similar style. This does add drama to the story but as these speeches are in quotation marks please explain to children reading this book that we don't really know what she actually said.

There are appropriate illustrations on every page. These are in the style of the front cover but they are all line drawings with no colour. Each page has the equivalent of a paragraph of text and the book has 48 pages.

History book review: Nigel Cross 12/11/07

The Captive Celt (Roman Tales) by Terry Deary

The story of the British resistance leader Caratacus is one of the most interesting stories relating to ancient Britain and the Romans. It is good to see Caratacus getting some exposure as he has been a bit neglected in recent times as one of the great British heroes. The central plot of this historically based story is the interaction of a fictitious Celtic boy called Deri and the historical figure, Caratacus. The story is well constructed by Terry Deary but the most engaging and exiting parts of the story are when it is closest to the events described by Tacitus who was the historian who recorded this story for posterity.

There are shades of Horrible Histories when the druids deeds are described with some gruesome detail but the humour is kept well under control and does not distract from the story. Yes, there are funny elements in this book but the overriding focus of the book is telling an engaging and exiting story. The chapters are short and the book is aimed at children building reading confidence.

History book review: 22/04/08

Celts (Britain Through the Ages)By Hazel Mary Martel

The Celts focuses on Celtic life in Iron Age Britain. However, it does stress the connectedness of the Celts here with Celtic Europe and include a map of the Celtic tribes of Europe. It also has a simple time line of the Celts in Britain.

The book is divided into themes through which Hazel Mary Martel informs her young readers about most of the things which they need to know in order to gain a solid understanding of this great culture. The themes include: Everyday Life, Arts and Crafts, Trade and Transport, Religion, Attack and Defence, The Roman Conquest & Roman Britain. It also includes Myths and Legends and Celtic Survival.

The illustrations and photographs support the text well.

I am quite a fan of Hazel Mary Martel's work as it is historically accurate and her narrative is clear. Most pages also include fact boxes of interesting information or origins of Celtic and Roman words which have survived in some form. The quotations from classical sources also stand out.

History book review: 22/04/08

Cuda of the Celts (Yellow Go Bananas) By Susan Ashe

From the title and look of this book I was half expecting it to be historically inaccurate. However, as it sells quite well on this site I thought that I had better try it out. I was surprised that the story was well worked to include lots of information about the interaction of the Celts and the Romans in Britain; the initial conflict and later assimilation of their cultures.

This fictional story centres on a Celtic girl called Cuda and her interaction with a Roman boy called Marcus. It is the time of Boudicca's Revolt and Cuda's tribe sack Camulodunum. Marcus' family are killed when the town is sacked. The way that this is dealt with in the book is interesting. Cuda asks her father whether children were killed by the Celts and her father says that he would never kill a child. But then we learn from Marcus that his sister and mother are both killed by the Celts and it is obvious that they will kill Marcus too, if they catch him.

It has a Hollywood ending and Cuda ends up living in luxury with the Romans. Again, this makes for an interesting discussion.

The short fact and activity sections at the back of the book are of limited value.

History book review: 28/07/08

Boudica Brilliant Brits by Richard Brassey

This is the most engaging book on Boudica for children studying at Key Stage 2. The painted cartoon style drawings are witty and they paint a vivid story which will stay with the reader. The look of terror on Boudica's face as her army is routed is one example. Whilst there is artistic licence in the illustrations the text accurately informs the children about what is currently understood about Boudica and the rebellion against Rome. It also explores some popular misconceptions about Boudica including the misspelling of her name as Boadicea. This is attributed to the writing style of a medieval monk and it was thereafter mistranscribed. The focus of the book is the telling of the story of the revolt through the cartoon illustrations and the text which is succinct but engaging.

My five year old son liked the simple map of Britain at the time of the revolt. The illustration of Boudica based on Dio's description of her is also very useful. If you want a history book or just a story book to engage children (6-8 years) then I recommend this one.

History book review by Nigel Cross 25/02/08

The Celts (See Through History) by Hazel Martel

"The Celts" is a well-produced book which covers a wide selection of topics which include daily life, transport and warfare. Hazel Martel succeeds in telling the story of the Celts in an engaging and informative way. The book focuses on Celtic life during the period before the rise of Rome when the Celts "dominated much of Europe". It includes reference to their great battles with their powerful enemies and their defiant fight against their Roman Conquerors.

The book is full of children friendly illustrations and an interesting selection of photographs from Musuems across Europe. It also includes four see-through scenes which illustrate both the inside and exterior of buildings and an ancient tomb.

Hazel Mary Martell studied history and worked as a children's librarian before becoming a full-time writer.

Nigel Cross

History book review by Nigel Cross: 22/12/05 Updated: 31/08/07

The Celts (British Museum Activity Books) by Mike Corbishley

This activity book produced by the British Museum is a must for teachers, home educators and children interested in the Celts. My young children were delighted at the first sight of this book as it full of scenes of Celtic life which can be coloured in. These pages can be photocopied for educational use.

The first activity is related to a map of Celtic lands which as you can see in our own interactive map was very extensive area. Children are asked to unscramble the names of the modern countries and to fit them onto the corresponding area of the map. This provides a good introduction to the topic of the Celts.

In the section on Celtic Warriors you can make your own horned helmet. It was the Celts and not the Vikings who wore these!

I like the activity on Druids. The children are asked to draw a Druid which is a good one because no one really knows what they looked like. You might want to look at my own article on Druids to help with this. This does at least give a Roman description of them.


Favorite Celtic Fairy Tales (Children's Thrift Classics) by Joseph Jacobs

This book includes some of my favourite childhood fairy tales such as: The Children of Lir, The Shepard of Myddfai and Bedd Gelert.

The Children of Lir is a sad Irish tale of four children who are cursed by their stepmother (and aunt) who is jealous of them. Her grandfather was a Druid and she is a witch who curses the children; turning them into swans who will roam Ireland for 900 years. When the prophesy is fulfilled they return to human form but are ancient and shortly die but not before being baptised by a cleric. This is a typical example of how ancient Celtic tales were integrated into the new Christian beliefs of the Dark Ages.

The story of the Shepard of Myddfai gives us another interesting glimpse into the ancient beliefs of the past. This one is set in Carmarthenshire in Wales. The shepard visits the lake where he is enchanted by the lady of the lake. He gives her offerings and wins her hand in marriage...

The book has large text and is suitable for children to read from the age of about seven.

History book review: 3/11/08

The Celts (Horrible Histories)by Terry Deary

Terry Deary wastes no time in letting his readers know that the "Cut-Throat Celts" is designed to inform them of the interesting bits of history including the gory detail which their teacher might leave out. Historic Celtic customs such as Druidic sacrifice (as depicted on the front cover of this Horrible Histories title) provides plenty of scope to provide such facts. Humour is the vehicle which allows Deary to present this potentially blood curdling information to children in an unoffensive way. It was this humorous series of children’s history books which really broke the mould and led to many imitators.

In fact this is a very informative history book which offers the opportunity for children to get more historically accurate detail than they might otherwise get from many other children’s history books. For example, Deary quotes from the classical sources where much of the darker material about the Celts is derived from and he acknowledges its bias.

There are 127 pages full of interesting history, witty commentary and black and white humorous cartoons (drawn by Martin Brown). It brings the Celts and their interaction with the Classical World to life through the following chapters which are quite broad in their scope: Timeline, Getting to know the Cut-Throat Celts, Lousy Legends, Batty Beliefs, Weird War, Woe for women, Crazy Celt life, Crime and punishment and Weird words. I would recommend this book to independent readers who are Primary School age and perhaps younger teenagers.

History book review: 14/06/09


Boudica and Her Barmy Army (Dead Famous) by Valerie Wilding

This Dead Famous title relates the history of Boudica and the events of her time using humour to appeal to the older child. The use of humour allows even gruesome subjects to be dealt with in an unoffensive way. As humour is used extensively it is necessary to know when what is being said is 'tongue in cheek' and what is factual. There is a great deal of artistic licence including the inclusion of gossip magazine type write-ups of Boudica's wedding etc. It is however explained early on in the piece that the Celts did not write things down. By taking these liberties Valerie Wilding keeps the whole publication lively and appealing to the older child. It is anything but dull. The black and white cartoon illustrations add to the humour and I think that the book would be memorable. I could imagine a couple of kids sharing the jokes which they read in this book and being thoroughly entertained. It's definately not a text book but at the same time it is a league above Asterix in terms of being educational.

History book review: 18/10/08

The Bebob Ballad of Boudicca (History Song Sheets) by Suzy Davies

The Bebob Ballad of Boudicca song sheet is produced on card which covers three A4 sheets with musical score and accompanying lyrics. On the reverse side the lyrics are shown alone as a simple song sheet consist of 25 lines. 7 lines of which are a repetition of this stanza:
'Buh-buh-buh buh Boudicca, Buh-buh-buh buh Boudicca'.

There are two verses of uninformative story line. Perhaps it was an attempt to keep things simple for the young children who might be singing it. Or perhaps Suzy Davies didn't know much about Boudicca. That may be harsh but there are not many facts in the story and therefore to get the name of the Emperor of the time wrong really stands out. Two sections of singers chant for either Boudicca of the Iceni or Claudius for the Roman side. Whilst Claudius was the emperor at the time of the invasion he was dead by 54 AD and Boudicca's revolt was in 61AD when the Emperor of the time was Nero.

The TES (Times Educational Supplement) is quoted on the front cover with these words: "Reinforce history by singing about it". However, the lyrics are amateurish and rather than reinforcing history it promotes inaccuracy and confusion. In it's Amazon listing it is called a 'fact filled song book' but it really is not filled with facts.

Within the lyrics one group of singers has to sing "What are the Romans? Rubbish!". In my opinion those words sum up the quality of the historical research and presentation rather well.

This is a shame because the idea of the publication is good. The CD which comes with the publication also does it's job. The bebop music is actually quite good and catchy and I am sure that kids would love performing this piece. The CD has 12 tracks starting with the full performance and a well sung version of the song and then it is broken into sections for the children to learn and practice.

In addition to the information supplied in the publication there are online teaching notes and sheets for the tuned and un tuned percussion parts:

If I had to teach using this resource then I think that I would, in conjunction with the children, try to produce some better lyrics to go with the music.

The reviews in Amazonhistory books image provide an alternative viewpoint.

Step Into The Celtic World by Fiona MacDonald

This book covers popular themes relating to the history and culture of the ancient Celts. It is a book which will appeal to children and it is well illustrated with photographs of Celtic objects and depictions of Celtic people. The book includes examples from all over the Celtic Empire which helps to demonstrate the common cultural aspects which defined the Celtic people.

Many of the topics covered in the book are accompanied by interesting craft projects which are perhaps the best feature of this book. The book provides instructions to make various Celtic items which include: torcs, shields, helmets, a model of a roundhouse and a copy of the Gundestrap Cauldron.

The text provides a good introduction to the various themes and is, on the whole, well explained but a few times I found the text confused and occasionally inaccurate. For example “The first people to fight against the Celts were also the most formidable - the well-trained, well-equipped soldiers of the Roman Empire”. Lets just say that the Celts were fighting long before they came into contact with the Romans and in the early engagements with Rome they actually sacked Rome itself! The weakest point of the book was the timeline which was full of bold statements about Celtic power and its demise which I found inaccurate.

This book is worth purchasing for the craft ideas and photographs.

Nigel Cross 11/03/05

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