________________ CM . . . . Volume XV Number 15 . . . . March 20, 2009

cover Knights. (Horrible Histories Handbooks).

Terry Deary. Illustrated by Martin Brown.
Toronto, ON: Scholastic, 2009.
94 pp., pbk., $7.99.
ISBN 978-0-545-99320-3.

Subject Headings:
Knights and knighthood-Juvenile literature.
Middle Ages-Juvenile literature.

Grades 4-7 / Ages 9-12.

Review by Daphne Hamilton-Nagorsen.

*** /4


Of course the knight fights had to have rules too, and the French came up with these in the 1100s. They were called "tournaments."

These early tournaments were like little battles as known as "mêlées."

Knights would split up into two teams with their lords as team captains. There could be 200 knights on each team.

The field of play would be several square miles and include fields, rivers and woods.

Mêlées took war and turned it into a game. The aim was to capture an opposing knight and hold him to ransom. There were no referees or judges at first but there were "safe areas" where a battered knight would be allowed to escape and rest.

What do you imagine the rules were?

Knights is a "Horrible Histories Handbook," which gives a humorous overview of the history of knights "in blood-curdling colour." The primary geographic focus of Knights, as with all the "Horrible Histories" books, is on England. Deary also includes a very brief timeline of knight history, a look at knight weapons, brief biographies of some prominent knights and a few details about castles, including castle toilets. The emphasis on knights in England keeps the amount of information manageable for the size of the book as well as allowing for plenty of humour throughout.

     Because Knights is intended as recreational reading, any information should be double-checked before being used for homework. In addition, the short page length and plentiful cartoons limit the coverage to a surface overview rather than an in-depth look at knights. However, since the primary purpose of the "Horrible Histories" books is to make history fun and appealing, Deary succeeds well at this with Knights.

     Although Knights, like the other "Horrible Histories," is billed as having "all the nasty bits," Deary keeps everything very age appropriate and humorous. Deary is able to concisely present a wide range of information while shifting from topic to topic, going through the rules of knighthood to the Crusade to female knights.

     Knights contains many colour illustrations by Martin Brown, which are primarily part of the text rather than an embellishment of the text. The illustrations add a lot to the book, allowing some information to be covered rapidly, while also helping to make the information more understandable. This is especially apparent in such topics as knight weapons where the illustrations of the weapons will help readers keep the different weapons straight. The illustrations also add to the humorous tone of the book and make Knights appealing to a wider audience.

     There is an index at the end of Knights which is serious enough to make it useful while still including plenty of humour, such as entries for curses, posh people and toilets. Overall, Knights provides a fun take on a topic that has been covered in many different ways. The information is well presented and easily absorbed, with the humour making Knights appealing to a wide group of readers.


Daphne Hamilton-Nagorsen is a graduate of the School of Library, Archival and Information Studies at the University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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