________________ CM . . . . Volume XIV Number 9 . . . .December 21, 2007


Measly Middle Ages. (Horrible Histories).

Terry Deary. Illustrated by Martin Brown.
Toronto, ON: Scholastic Canada, 2007.
140 pp., pbk., $6.99.
ISBN 978-0-545-99784-3.

Subject Headings:
Middle Ages-Juvenile literature.
Civilization, Medieval-Juvenile literature.

Grades 4-9 / Ages 9-14.

Review by Val Ken Lem.

**½ /4



Monasteries collected religious articles. They attracted visitors and were often said to perform miracles. Relics like a tooth of St. Apollonia the patron saint of toothache could cure your tortured tootsie-peg. (Her teeth had been knocked out by the Romans before they burned her.) Hundreds of monasteries had a tooth from her mouth. Big mouth? No, simply another miracle, the monks explained. Henry VI of England collected a ton of them.


Deary and Brown's series, "Horrible Histories," was first published in the UK in the 1990s. The volumes present a compendium of curious historical facts packaged in a humorous, if rather oddball fashion, imbued with a very British sense of wit with ample plays-on-words, references to school dinners, and in Measly Middle Ages, liberal use of the pejorative adjective measly. Brown's entertaining illustrations appear on almost every page and often take the form of a cartoon cell, or a sample text, such as a recipe or list of rules presented in a calligraphic style.

     Measly Middle Ages focuses upon historical events and everyday life in Great Britain in the period 1066-1492, with some examples from France, Italy and other parts of Europe. Information is grouped into 11 chapters with headings such as Nasty Normans, Foul food, Woeful women, and Rotten religion. The simple text incorporates lists, quizzes, excerpts from poems or other printed works, and imagined letters.

      Together, these tidbits provide a fair amount of information and succeed in conveying a sense of the challenges of life in the Middle Ages. However, the work is most valuable as a fun recreational read rather than a resource for research projects. The index is heavily weighted toward personal names and is far from complete, lacking such basic entries as women, children or childhood. A timeline curiously includes almost a page of entries dating from 410 to 1017, a period called the Early Middle Ages or Dark Ages; yet this period is not developed further in the book. The book does not include a bibliography or suggestions for further reading.

Recommended with reservations.

Val Ken Lem is a catalogue librarian and the liaison for History, English and Caribbean Studies at Ryerson University in Toronto, ON.

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

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