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5 Fantastic Children's History Books - Our Recommendations for World Book Day 2024

At Imagining History we love reading about, perhaps a little unsurprisingly, history. We read all sorts of history books, covering many eras of the past. Some of these books are written for children, some for grown-ups. Some are delightfully short, some are imposingly long. But all of them offer an illuminating glimpse of the past.


So, what better way to celebrate the latest annual instalment of the fantastic World Book Day than to recommend to you, dear reader, five brilliant history books for children? Our selection covers a range of topics. Some of these books are fiction, others non-fiction. Some are whimsical, some precise. Some are played for laughs, others to thrill. But one thing that unites them is that they are all superbly superb!



By Tom Palmer

Era Covered: World War 2

Recommended Reading Age: 9 years and up


Tom Palmer’s latest, ‘Resist’, plays out the dramatic tale of a young girl set on doing everything she can to undermine the German war effort. It’s an involving and tense narrative, made all the more intriguing by the fact it’s based on the true story of the iconic actress Audrey Hepburn.


Tom Palmer has captured the sensation of a nation’s oppression in stark relief, and while this is a book aimed at a younger audience it still presents the fear, starvation, and moment-to-moment danger of the Nazi occupation with searing clarity.


You can’t help but read of Edda’s exploits without your heart attempting to somersault its way out of your chest. It’s moving, engaging, and utterly absorbing.


Tom Palmer on Audrey Hepburn:

“I think the most fascinating thing about AH was that she spent her later years going to places where hundreds of thousands of children were suffering because of war and famine and that she visited those places to encourage the media to pay more attention to children's suffering. No doubt motivated by the fact that she knew what it was like to be close to starvation and under the constant threat of bombs falling on her home.”




 



By Louie Stowell

Era Covered: Viking Myths

Recommended Reading Age: 8 years and up


As far as we know, there isn’t an award specifically for worlds-funniest-children’s-book, but, if there was, Louie Stowell’s hilarious series of books on the hilarious misadventures of Loki would likely win it! Banished to live on Earth as a "normal" schoolboy, Loki must contend with life as a mortal. That means dealing with tedious teachers, belligerent bullies, and having a thunder god as a brother.


Like ‘The Diaries of Adrian Mole’ but with far more mythological madness,

Loki: A Bad God’s Guide to Doing Good is genuinely laugh-out-loud funny. It also wows with its attention to detail, Louie’s deep understanding of the Viking Myths ensures that each page sparkles with knowledge for children to glean.


Louie Stowell on what makes Loki so cool:

“I love that there's an entire myth that's just Loki insulting people (the poem Lokasenna from the Poetic Edda).

Here’s a little family friendly snippet of one such insult:

“Be silent, Tyr! for between two men

Friendship thou ne’er couldst fashion;

Fain would I tell how Fenrir once

Thy right hand rent from thee.”




 


 

By Tony Bradman

Eras Covered: Anglo-Saxons, Battle of Hastings

Recommended Reading Age: 9 years and up


Tony Bradman has the enviable knack of writing page-turning adventures that children love; the stories he tells are thrilling action-packed romps. The thing is, teachers love his books too, as each is exactingly researched, ensuring that children learn loads about history whilst their eyeballs feast on the pulse-pounding spectacle within.


Anglo-Saxon Boy is one such example. A stupendous entry point for children learning about the Anglo-Saxons and the Normans, Anglo-Saxon Boy intriguingly follows the escapades of the son of Harold Godwinson; young Magnus. With an epic quest culminating in the Battle of Hastings, Magnus’ adventure is not one to be missed.


Tony Bradman's top fact on the Anglo-Saxons:

"The early Anglo-Saxon settlers seem to have buried their great warriors and kings in mounds surrounded by weapons and treasure. One of my favourite places is Sutton Hoo in Suffolk, where a great man was buried in a ship and a mound raised over it. You can see the amazing finds that were made after the mound was opened by archaeologists in the summer of 1939, just before the beginning of the Second World War - a great shield and a fabulous helmet among them, as well as jewelled armour and weapons."


 

 


 



By Sufia Ahmed

Eras Covered: World War 2

Recommended Reading Age: 8 years and up


'My Story: Noor-un-Nissa Inayat Khan' tells the incredible story of British-Indian World War Two heroine, Noor-un-Nissa Inayat Khan. Noor was a secret agent, chosen by Winston Churchill to sneak back into France and report on the Nazis' activities to British Command.


Many things astound about Sufia Ahmed’s tale. The first is the immaculate and accurate attention to historical detail, without the pages ever getting bogged down with so much information that the story suffers and slows.


The second is that 'My Story: Noor-un-Nissa Inayat Khan' brings to the attention of the reader an incredible and inspirational person whom they may not previously have heard about. The third is that, good grief is this one page-turning spy-filled thrill-ride of a book! Best make sure you have a comfy seat before you start reading, as this terrific tale won’t let you go until the final page is turned.

 

Sufia Ahmed’s fascinating fact about Noor-un-nissa Inayat Khan:

Did you know that Churchill’s Spy Noor-un-nissa Inayat Khan was a published children's author? She loved stories, reading them, writing them, and sharing them.




 

 



By Dominic Sandbrook

Eras Covered: Ancient Egypt and Rome

Recommended Reading Age: 10 and up


Every single one of Dominic Sandbrook’s Adventures in Time books is brilliant. But if we really had to choose a favourite, then it would be his retelling of the astounding life and times of Queen Cleopatra. 'Cleopatra, Queen of the Nile' follows the life of Egypt’s final Pharaoh, from her childhood, through her ascension to the throne, her dealings with the Romans, and , ultimately, her death. Sandbrook has taken Cleopatra’s life and skillfully moulded it into a gripping plot with pacey storytelling.


It would be easy with what we know of Cleopatra from the Romans to paint her as a villain (as so many often do). Instead, Sandbrook’s Cleopatra is a well-rounded, inspirational figure with strengths, flaws, and true-to-life motivations – this book is a well-deserved fist-bump to this heroic female.


Dominic Sandbrook’s top Cleopatra fact:

“Cleopatra is said to have poured herself the most expensive drink in all history. Why? She took one of her pearl earrings, dropped it into her wine glass, waited for it to dissolve and then drank the lot. Or did she? You’ll have to read the book to find out…”



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