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Celtic History Book Reviews for Children

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.




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





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





Boudica and Her Barmy Army (Dead Famous)



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 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

Added: 22/12/05 Updated: 31/08/07







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